Leonhard Lechner

(c.1553 - 1606)

German composer, born around 1553 in the Val di Adige (South Tyrol). Till 1570 he was a choirboy at the court chapels of Munich and Landshut under Orlando di Lasso and Ivo de Vento. Born a Catholic' he was converted to Protestantism in early manhood. After 1570 he travelled widely and learned -- most probably in Italy -- by modelling his own compositions after the great masters. 1575 he can be traced to Nürnberg, where he acted as schoolmaster and, actively supported by some town-councillors with a taste for art, composed as well as published a great number of secular and sacred works. He married the daughter of a Nürnberg burgher and intended to settle for good in the town which had provided him with a second home. When, however, an opportunity of social advancement presented itself in 1584 by his appointment to the post of chapelmaster at the Hohenzollern court in Hechingen, he was unable to resist this temptation and left his foster-town. Difficulties arising out of religious considerations became soon apparent and as tension grew between the Lutheran composer and Count Eitel-Frederic who zealously supported the counter-reformation, Lechner had to flee the court after only one year in office and seek the protection of the duke of Wurtemberg. An attempt to be appointed court kappelmeister in Dresden failed; Lechner had to be satisfied earning a living as tenor singer in Stuttgart. But once again his qualities were appreciated, he gained in dignity and importance, became court composer and 1595 also court chapelmaster. His creative powers were unimpaired in spite of a long illness, which darkened his last few years. To be sure, only a few of his compositions written during this period have been printed; only two have survived as manuscripts, the majority of his works has been lost. The little we know shows him to have been one of the most important composers of choral music, whose later endeavours to blend the elements of madrigal and motet led to a uniform individual style towering over contemporary art-forms. Lechner died on September 9th 1606, A song cycle Deutsche Sprüche von Leben und Tod turned out to be his swan-song, wherein he once more displayed his mastery of all current styles and produced a last monument of profundity and genius.

The Austrian Lechner was Lassus' most distinguished pupil and a great creative force in German music. He published seven books of German Lieder (160 in all) and five of church music—motets, Masses, Magnificats and Pentitential Psalms; his many works in manuscript include a St John Passion. While his Latin polyphony is traditional in style, the German songs fuse the Italianate villanella with refrain forms. Some of the later ones have religious texts; their music is among the finest written to any German religious words during the sixteenth century, and combines fervor with intense madrigalian expression. Lechner's St John Passion (1594), in 4-part polyphony throughout, is equally impressive, with dramatic touches despite the undifferentiated musical texture.

A Partial Leonhard Lechner Discography | IVH: The German Lied