I wanted to like this more than I did. It’s been a long while since I have heard any of the composer’s music, and I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. He wrote a lot—over 300 compositions at least, and was very successful after being appointed to the Bavarian State Court. Franz Lachner lived a long life, from 1803-1890, and consequently also saw a lot of changes in the musical scene. One of the things he saw that he did not like was the rampant Wagnerism that had infected Bavaria in King Ludwig’s court, and he finally asked for a pension and a release in order to avoid that particularly vehement political scene.
His craftsmanship is never in doubt, and his music generally speaking has many attractive moments. This Requiem, from the Mozart birth centenary of 1856, was performed by him and others for several years. (One must ask why a requiem was written for a birth year.) But for many years after the first successes, the work lay dormant until the composer revived it in 1871(with revisions—he added a “Communio” at the conclusion instead of repeating the “Kyrie” fugue as Mozart requested in his requiem, and this is the version we get here).
The piece has few dramatic moments, and is long (an hour) on top of that, so one must not expect much more than a meditative exercise in pleasantries for great stretches of time. I am disappointed in it, for I feel that the composer is holding back on drama. Perhaps that is just not his temperament, and he is showing restraint for the piety’s sake, but then why was this work never performed (or indeed intended for) in a church setting? A great mystery, no doubt.
The performance is very good, and one could hardly ask for more, so if your Lachner collection is suffering (and whose isn’t) then this might fill a gap. If you are new to the composer, start someplace else. Carus gives the performers wonderful surround sound, and the orchestra, choir, and soloists are exemplary. It’s just that Lachner, here at least, really isn’t.
— Steven Ritter