String Quartet No.1 in b minor, Op.75
Franz Lachner (1803-90) was born in Rain am Lech, a small Bavarian town and trained in Munich. He is the older brother of Ignaz, whose works we also publish. In 1823, by winning a musical competition, Lachner was awarded a position as an organist in a church in Vienna. In Vienna, he met Schubert. “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.” It should come as no surprise then that Schubert influenced Lachner’s musical compositions more than anyone else. He left Vienna in 1834 and returned to Munich where he remained the rest of his life, serving as Conductor of the Royal Bavarian Orchestra from 1834 to 1868. He also held the position of Professor of Composition at the Royal Conservatory. Lachner's string quartets were much admired and often performed. Mendelssohn was fascinated by them and Schumann called Lachner the most talented composer in southern Germany. Writing twenty years later, Tchaikovsky noted that Lachner had to be placed near the pinnacle of fine composers.
String Quartet No.1 is dates from the late 1830's and was published in 1843. The first movement, Allegro moderato, is, like many of Haydn's movements, monothematic. Without a contrasting second theme, Lachner instead creates an expressive and somewhat sad lyrical mood from the same melody and cleverly uses counterpoint. The second movement, Adagio quasi andante, begins with an ethereal, otherworldly introduction, which is in part created because there is no bass. The lovely main theme has a very vocal quality which becomes especially apparent in an answering duet between the viola and first violin. When Lachner takes the theme into the major, a Schubertian aura is created. The fleet and driving Scherzo which follows is of a sort one encounters in Mendelssohn. The contrasting trio section is a stately country dance. The main theme of the finale, Allegro agitato, has an urgent and pleading quality.
This early-mid Romantic quartet is sure to appeal to amateur and professional alike and would certainly not be out of place in the concert hall where a fresh work from this era is required. We have reprinted the first edition but have corrected mistakes and added rehearsal numbers.