Ignaz Lachner (1807-1895)


The German composer and conductor Ignaz Lachner was born 11 September 1807 in Rain, Bavaria, and died 24 February 1895 in Hannover. He was summoned to Sweden by the Royal Opera management after the preceding chief conductor, Jacopo Foroni, died unexpectedly. After only three seasons, 1858−61, Ignaz Lachner returned to Germany. In Sweden he composed music for royal festivities and re-orchestrated composer Johann Gottlieb Naumann’s opera Gustaf Wasa.


Ignaz Lachner’s father and several of his brothers (Franz, 1803−1890; Vincenz, 1811−1893) were also musicians. Ignaz Lachner took violin and piano lessons early in life − first from his father, and then later from other musicians. At fifteen he was already working as a violinist at a theatre in Munich; at seventeen, he moved to Vienna, where his brother Franz was already working as a musician. By way of his brother, Ignaz Lachner came in contact with Franz Schubert’s circle of friends and musicians, greatly helping his career. He was soon employed as violinist in the court opera orchestra and was then promoted to assistant conductor. Leaving Vienna in 1831, he continued to work as a conductor at opera houses in Stuttgart (1831−42), Munich (1842−53) and Hamburg (1853−58). In Hamburg, Ignaz Lachner set up current operas by his contemporaries Giuseppe Verdi (Il Trovatore, 1856) and Richard Wagner (Tannhäuser, 1853; Lohengrin, 1855).

The heavy work overload meant that he had no time to compose. He therefore expressed a desire for a position at the residence of a ‘knowledgeable noble patron of the arts’, such as in Sweden. We still do not know if he already had Swedish contacts at the time, but it is known that in 1837 he dedicated a composition to King Oscar I. Meanwhile, in Stockholm the Royal Court Orchestra’s hovkapellmästare (chief conductor) Jacopo Foroni died suddenly in the midst of the cholera epidemic raging throughout the city, and in the early autumn of 1858 the orchestra found itself without a leader. In his hunt for a replacement for Foroni, opera manager Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius came in contact with Lachner, who was soon engaged as conductor, and quickly made his way to arrive in Stockholm 1 October 1858. Ignaz Lachner was elected to the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) the same year; the following year he accepted membership in the Saint Erik Masonic Lodge in Stockholm.

But Lachner’s working period at the Royal Court turned out to be short-lived, encompassing only three seasons. Besides conducting the orchestra, he composed music for the funeral of King Oscar I of Sweden in 1859 and for the coronation of King Charles XV the same year. He also arranged a new instrumentation of Johann Gottlieb Naumann's opera Gustaf Wasa, which was staged in 1859 after not having been performed since the beginning of the 1820’s. When Hyltén-Cavallius left his post in 1860 to be followed by baron Eugène von Stedingk, circumstances changed for Lachner. Stedingk demanded that the Swedish conductor Ludvig Norman replace him. Following a farewell performance of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, Lachner departed Stockholm the summer of 1861, to be replaced by Norman.

Lachner returned to Germany and became conductor in Frankfurt am Main, leading operas there by primarily Mozart and Verdi. In 1875 he celebrated his 50th anniversary as conductor with a performance of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. He died in Hannover 24 February 1895.


Most of Ignaz Lachner’s compositions were written for specific occasions when he worked in Germany. This includes three operas, comic operas, ballets, symphonic music, chamber music for various instrumental ensembles, and numerous songs. It is highly unlikely that during the brief time he was in Sweden a possibility arose where he would have had time to compose as much as he wished. Even here he wrote music for special occasions. Only a few works by Lachner have been discovered in Swedish archives: primarily a few songs, a string quartet and several pieces for violin and piano.

Two of his songs, op. 40 (‘Bellarosa’ and ‘Das Ständchen’), were published. They reveal a Lied composer based in the style of the First Viennese School, with romantic coloured harmonies and a certain dismantling of current fashion. Influences from Mozart and Schubert are clear in both of these songs, which deal with intense emotions and fervent love. His String Quartet in C major op. 54 (‘Grosses Quartett C’) is also in this style.

Ignaz Lachner can be viewed as representative of the German musicians that came to Sweden for short periods of time. They made important contributions by enriching Swedish music life with their competence and international experiences. Musically, Lachner was mostly tied to the early romantic style. During his times, he was viewed as a rather conservative composer.

Karin Hallgren © 2015
Trans. Thalia Thunander


Dahlgren, Fredrik AugustAnteckningar om Stockholms theatrar, Stockholm: Norstedts, 1866.
Frimureriska tonsättare och frimurerisk musik, Uppsala: Forskningslogen Carl Friedrich Eckleff, 2008, pp. 302−303.
Müller, Harald, Ignaz Lachner: Versuch einer Würdigung. Mit Werkverzeichnis, Celle: Selbstverlag Harald Müller, 1974.
−−−: Lebensbilder aus dem Bayerischen Schwaben, Sonderdruck, vol. 12. Weissenhorn: Anton H. Konrad Verlag, 1981.
−−−Studien zu Leben und Werk Ignaz Lachners : mit bisher unveröffentlichten Briefen und einem unveröffentlichten Liede, Celle, 1977.
Norlind, Tobias & Trobäck, Emil: Kungl. Hovkapellets historia 1526−1926: Minnesskrift, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1926.
Percy, Gösta: ”Ignaz Lachner”, in: Sohlmans musiklexikon, band 4, Stockholm: Sohlmans förlag, 1977.
Würz, Anton: Ignaz Lachner, in Neue Deutsche Biographie 13, 1982, p. 376 f.

Summary list of works

3 operas (Der Geister-Thurm, Die Regenbrüder and Loreley), comic operas, ballets, symphonic music, chamber music, songs. Works composed in Sweden include: Music for the funeral of King Oscar I, and Music for the coronation of King Charles XV. New instrumentations of Naumann's opera Gustaf Wasa.

Collected works

Works written in Sweded
Music to the funeral of King Oscar I, first performed in Stockholm 8 August 1859.
Epilogue on account of 'Oscar's day', first perfomed in Stockholm 1 December 1859.
Epilogue intended for the gala spectacle of the coronation of Carl XV [1860].

Complete list of works in Müller, Ignaz Lachner 1807−1895, Celle: self-published, 1974.