Ignaz’s is probably
the least well-documented life of the
Lachner brothers who numbered Franz
and Vinzenz and who were born in Bavaria.
Ignaz was a string player – violin and
viola – and worked in Munich until Franz
managed to secure him a job in Vienna
in 1826. He composed and travelled widely,
spending a period in Frankfurt between
1861 and 1875 where he conducted Wagner
operas which he then cut to fit local
taste. Though he achieved a degree of
renown during his lifetime Lachner’s
works have sunk almost without trace
and I doubt whether many, if any, are
now in print. We do know that the Op.
37 Trio was published in 1851, when
the composer was living in Munich, but
it’s debatable when it was actually
written. The other trios are, in many
cases, undated though it’s clear that
this was a medium he liked and returned
to throughout his compositional life.
The C major for instance is his Op.103.
It was unusual, then
and now, to write for the violin-viola-piano
trio though there was certainly precedent.
Graun’s works for the medium would doubtless
have been known to Lachner; maybe Mendelssohn’s,
given the geographical and stylistic
proximities between the two. Less well
known examples such as those by Lindblad
also present themselves as models –
and as an executant musician, as well
as composing conductor, Lachner would
certainly have been well placed to hear
(and indeed play) them.
But whatever the source
of inspiration the fact remains that
these six works, though frequently formulaic
and straightforward, are pleasing examples
of chamber music and naturally and idiomatically
written for the combination. The D minor
has plenty of busy figuration for the
piano and is strongly tied to classical
procedure. His Andantino is witty and
light hearted with a more strenuously
pomposo contrastive section and he enjoys
a Schubertian Scherzo, well written
and not at all profound. His finale,
as he demonstrates elsewhere, mines
folk elements – here Hungarian with
a Mozartian model very strongly to the
fore. We can establish straightaway
the essential elements of a Lachner
trio – Schubertian lyricism, Mozartian
classicism, excellent instrumental balance
but an avoidance of contrapuntal development.
There are no fugatos here.
The B flat major’s
fluent opening movement impresses even
more when it journeys into the minor
though the material can be unvaried.
But at heart Lachner is a lyricist of
some candour though he makes no aspirations
to any great emotive plangency. Here
his slow movement has pliancy but no
romanticised expressive quotient. Clearly
the Scherzo has partaken of some mid
period Beethoven and there’s Schubert
to give a sense of flow and elasticity
to his finale. These influences are
inescapable in his work though none
the more overbearing for it. We could
equally cite the finale of the E flat
major – his Op.102 – as having inherited
a strong slice of Mendelssohnian brio
– it’s certainly reminiscent of the
Opp.49 and 66 trios. Th players make
the most of their emotive moments in
the Andante of the earlier Op.58 trio,
in D major, and give rein to the flowing
lyric trio of the Scherzo. Another influence
is Schumann who seems to haunt the opening
Andante section of the Op.103 a work
in which Lachner unveils an echt Mozartian
Minuet just to confuse matters stylistically.
And caps it all with a Schubertian finale.
Lest one think; where is Lachner in
all this, one can listen to the initially
ghostly start of the first movement
of the G major and admire the workmanship
and craft as it gathers strength (yes,
there’s still a dainty Mozartian Andante
to follow). Throughout, whilst his eye
was on the Romantics his impulse was
towards the Classical style. If that
means bald conjunctions, seemingly incompatible
manners, well I would go along with
that. But there’s something attractive
about Lachner’s music that defies easy
dismissal. It has grazioso elegance
and it has charm. I rather like it.
I think the Muhmenthaler-Dütschler-Pantillon
like it as well. They play with discretion
and some warmth – but never inflate
material beyond its natural constraint.
There’s just a touch too much resonance
in the recording but it’s not harmful.
The notes relate Lachner’s middling
career in so far as we can now trace
it. No, no masterpieces, but enjoyable
music making and a cool sidelight into
German chamber music of the time.