String Quartet No.5 in G Major, Op.104
" To the very end, I have been true to the classical composers of Vienna I admired so much." Lachner continually maintained that his goal was to write with the clarity and transparency typified by Mozart and Haydn, combined with the lilting beauty of Schubert. String Quartet No.5 is the epitome of this goal. This Quartet, along with his others, was for many years quite popular by virtue of its fetching melodies, effective harmonies and the ease with which they could be performed.
Ignaz Lachner (1807-1895) was the second of the three famous Lachner brothers. Ignaz was taught (as were the others) organ, piano and violin. Upon the latter instrument, he was somewhat of a prodigy. He eventually joined his older brother Franz in Vienna where he became a close friend of Schubert's and fell under the influence of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Though primarily known as a conductor, Lachner composed a considerable amount of music, much of it chamber music, including seven string quartets.
The opening Allegro ma non troppo has for its main theme a lovely, cheerful, somewhat stately folk dance melody. Lachner rather than introducing other themes spends the movement elaborating on its possibilities. The Andante grave which follows is dominated by a simple naive but charming folk melody of the kind Schubert wrote. In the scherzo, Allegro vivace, which follows, Lachner quotes the folk melody (Lustiges Zusammensein Landleute--the happy gathering of the country folk) which Beethoven used in the scherzo of his Pastoral Symphony. It is meant as tribute to the last of the great classicist composers from his Viennese period. But he immediately punctures the balloon with humor by suddenly inserting a snippet from the Viennese drinking song, Du Lieber Augustine, about a drunk who during a outbreak of the plague fell into a pit with corpses and then later woke up greatly surprised by his companions. The bright and light-hearted finale, Allegro vivace, begins in Haydnesque fashion. Quite striking is the double-stopping used to create the sound of bagpipes. Suddenly, in the middle of proceedings, a sad, slower andante is inserted. But not for long as the clouds quickly clear with the return of the main theme.
Here is a short work which is fun to play and good to hear. It should be considered for concerts where an alternative to the inevitable Mozart or Haydn is sought.