Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lachner - String Quartet No. 1 In B Minor

In 1823 Franz Lachner won a music competition and was appointed organist in a Vienna church. It was then that he met Franz Schubert. The two became good friends:
"We two, Schubert and I, spent most of our time together sketching new compositions. We were the closest of friends, mornings performing for each other and discussing in depth every imaginable topic with the greatest of candor."
Lachner outlived his friend by 52 years, but Schubert remained a strong influence on him as a composer. Lachner resigned his position as organist in Vienna in 1834  and moved to Munich where he held the position of Conductor of the Royal Bavarian Orchestra as well as the professorship of composition at the Royal Conservatory.

Franz Schubert
Lachner's early string quartets were known by Mendelssohn and Schumann, who gave them high praises.The String Quartet No. 1 was written in the late 1830's and published in 1843. It is in 4 movements:

I. Allegro moderato -  The quartet opens with a melancholy theme. Lachner uses the same theme throughout the movement, but he adds a lyrical quality to it and uses counterpoint to enhance it. This variant of the first theme serves as the contrasting second theme of the movement. After the opening is repeated, the development section has the theme go through key changes and counterpoint is again used to expand the theme. Tension is built towards the end of the development by the violin playing a fragment of the theme over a chugging accompaniment. The recapitulation presents the two versions of the theme, this time with the variant leading to a short coda where the cello and violin alternate with statements until the final chords are heard and the movement slowly dies away.

II. Adagio quasi andante -  This movement begins with the violins and violas playing while the cello is silent. The main theme is traded between violin and viola in an extended section that leads to the music growing lighter in mood as it shifts into the major mode. The main theme returns as does the trading between violin and viola. The major mode brightness is repeated. The movement winds down with a short repeat of the main theme and ends in the major mode.

III. Scherzo - Allegro assai - The cello plays in a stead pulse as the scherzo begins. The music drives its way forward. The middle trio section is a major mode dance. The scherzo repeats and ends with two short, biting phrases.

IV. Finale: Allegro agitato - The urgent main theme is played by the violin, with outbursts by all four instruments. The next theme retains the urgency but changes in mood. The main theme repeats, followed by the second theme. A short development section is followed by a recapitulation of the two themes. A short coda brings this short sonata form finale to a close with two short chords.

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