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Lassen developed a fine reputation as a conductor. As music director at Weimar, Liszt recommended that Lassen should succeed him in 1858, to be responsible for both the opera house and the court orchestra. Lassen’s long tenure extended until his retirement in 1895. He conducted the premiere of Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila and the first Weimar performance of Tristan und Isolde. The American pianist Amy Fay, who later became Liszt’s pupil, wrote, ‘[Lassen] is a beautiful pianist and composer himself, as well as a splendid conductor’. From 1889 to 1894, Lassen’s assistant at Weimar was the young Richard Strauss.
Lassen’s songs—of which there are more than three hundred—were generally regarded as his most successful works, many of them popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He also composed two symphonies, piano pieces, and choral, chamber and instrumental works. Through his association with the Weimar Court Theatre, he provided incidental music for several productions. Mahler is known to have conducted Lassen’s score for Faust. Lassen’s close connection with Liszt led to his arrangement of Vallée d’Obermann for piano trio (newly entitled Tristia), while Liszt himself transcribed two of Lassen’s songs and a few numbers from his incidental music. Lassen died in January 1904, a few months before Dvořák.
from notes by Phillip Borg-Wheeler © 2019