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Franz LACHNER (1803-1890)
Requiem in F minor Op.146 (1856) [59.15]
Marina Ulewicz (soprano)
Ruby Hughes (soprano)
Roxana Constantinescu (alto)
Colin Balzer (tenor)
Gerhard Werlitz (tenor)
Günther Papendell (bass)
Kammersolisten Augsburg/Hermann Meyer
rec. Church of St Georg, Augsburg, 25-27 March 2006. DDD
CARUS 83.178 [59.15]



That great writer and analyst of music Sir Donald Francis Tovey once commented wryly of fugues that, ‘when the voices come in, the audience goes out’. Despite a fair number of them in this rather effective and beautiful Requiem the audience should remain in their seats. Franz Lachner’s life spanned almost all but the last decade of the 19th century. He was one of three influential brothers, Franz, Ignaz and Vincenz, scattered around Germany in posts at various Courts. The young graduand Kapellmeister Hans Richter was examined in Vienna by Lachner as the external examiner, who gave him a glowing recommendation to send him on his career path. However just a couple of years later Richter - by now Wagner’s amanuensis while Lachner was a staunch anti-Wagnerian - tested him again in an audition at the Munich Court Opera (Lachner was the city’s music director) by making him accompany a production rehearsal of Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor but playing the piano from a full score, not a vocal score. He came through with flying colours and earned the grudging admission from Lachner that Richter ‘is a Wagnerian who also knew other music’.
 
Lachner studied in Vienna, where he absorbed the Classical style inherited from the Baroque and its complex counterpoint, hence the presence of several in his only Requiem. It was written in 1856 to mark the centenary of Mozart’s birth, and there are a few derivative moments here and there; the dotted rhythms in the Confutatis and the energetic Dies irae the most obvious. Lachner knew both Beethoven and Schubert and died when Brahms and Bruckner were at their peak, so thanks to his longevity he took a part in the development of Romanticism in its fullest sense both as conductor and composer. After Vienna he moved to Mannheim then Munich where he worked for thirty years until King Ludwig’s pro-Wagner antics drove him to apply for his pension in 1868. The Requiem was well received, though a further gap of fifteen years occurred before it was revived in 1871. The fourteen movements are equally divided between chorus and soloists; it has few fast moments, and indeed suffers somewhat from its leisurely pacing but there are striking patches, in particular the beautiful Lacrymosa for chorus and orchestra with its prominent viola solo throughout (Beethoven’s use of solo violin in the Benedictus of the Missa solemnis may have been in his mind).
 
This recording is described as a live performance, which is hard to believe given the three days it took to record. The acoustic produces a wash of sound in which the orchestra does tend to drown out the chorus of 39 (11,10,10,8), surprisingly so given its chamber orchestral size of 0222 (winds) 2230 (brass), timpani and strings consisting of 44331 players (not desks). Lachner, like Mozart and Schubert before him, does tend to double the voices with the most inappropriate instrument, namely the trombones, and with no flutes in the score there is a layer of brightness missing. However it is a fairly worthy work, the soloists are generally good, the conductor Hermann Meyer paces it all well, and from the byways of the repertory this makes a welcome addition to the catalogue in which, to date, Lachner’s music is usually confined to chamber music and song.
 
Christopher Fifield


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