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Franz LACHNER (1803-1890)
Symphony No. 3, Op. 41 in D minor (1834) [47:49]
Festival Overture in E flat major (1864) [12:08]
Evergreen Symphony Orchestra/Gernot Schmalfuss
rec. 2016, Keelung City Cultural Centre, Taipei, Taiwan.
CPO 555 081-2 [60:14]

CPO give us premiere recordings of two of Lachner's symphonic works. He wrote eight symphonies and eight orchestral suites as well as various operas and a single oratorio Moses. There's also a full-scale Requiem. There's also lots of chamber music including six string quartets.

As Mike Herman helpfully reminds us, this Bavarian composer who made his reputation in Leipzig and Munich still lacks recordings of his Symphonies. 2 (1833), 4 (1834), 6 (1837) and 7 ‘Elegy in the Form of a Symphony’ (1839). Recordings (unusually not reviewed by this site) exist of No. 1 (1828) by Choo Hoey and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra; No. 5 ‘Passionata’ (1835) and No. 8 (1851), the last two recorded by Paul Robinson and the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra, Košice. All three works are on the Marco Polo label.

Lachner wrote his big-boned, swaggering 50-minute four-movement Symphony No. 3 between the Spring of 1833 and April 1834. It was well received at the time and, as CPO recount, the Leipziger Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung said that it was the ‘bold product of an imagination of youthful fire moderated by the laws of eternal truth and beauty.’

The symphony gets off to a flying start with a proper Allegro. This is charged with an Eroica-like tincture. There's a power amid the scudding clouds but the music holds true to its Allegro with a rugged smile. This is followed by a purposeful Scherzo which flies along in the manner of a relentless perpetuum mobile yet one that retains its interest. It finds time, as did the first movement, for sweetened andante asides. Movement three is an Andante and one that looks back, cheeky and sparkling-eyed, through a Haydn-style dignity.

The finale - Allegro (all four movements carry that designation in one form or another) - sounds at times like a rather Mendelssohnian scherzo. Think in terms of that composer's Scotch Symphony or the more muscular aspects of Sullivan's Irish Symphony. Again, there is a smooth smile to this music and even the 'lightning strikes' at the end have a winsome edge.

The unpublished Festive Overture in E flat major, carries the date 22 February 1864. The Festive Overture might, according to CPO, have been composed for the wedding of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria ("Sissi"). According to CPO's useful notes there are alternative endings, one making play with the Bavarian royal anthem while the other deploys the Austrian Emperor's hymn. It is the second version that is recorded here.

It is no brevity and approaches thirteen minutes. The opening is subdued and with a ponderous with a symphonic bearing to it. At 3:20 there is a parade-ground display feeling. It's a stirring overture with the Hymn heard icily through a pianissimo in strings and in an even more honeyed and quiet version at 8:00. The tune is hammered out unsubtly at the end but then this is a ‘festouverture’.

The Evergreen Symphony Orchestra is excellent and well-schooled by the smiling Gernot Schmalfuss in these unusual scores. As an orchestra they are not total newcomers. They have already recorded the two Vieuxtemps Cello Concertos (777 922-2), the Cartellieri symphonies (777 667-2) and volume 1 of the Theodor Von Schacht symphonies (777 737-2).

The notes - vital for most of us given this unusual music - are by Bert Hagels. The acoustic is good if warm. Plenty of detail escapes clear to the listener's ears.

Rob Barnett



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