<< -- 2 -- Roderic Dunnett THE NORTHERN SCHUBERT
As Schubert approached his greatest, Loewe had already arrived. Born
just two months before his greater Austrian rival (on 30 November 1796;
Schubert was born on 31 January 1797), Loewe survived him by over forty
Yet by the 1840s even the once admiring (and now turncoat) Schumann classed
Loewe as passé. Gradually his songs and wider oeuvre -- symphonies,
piano concertos, several oratorios, four quartets -- faded from the repertoire.
Of his four hundred or more songs, only the ballads lived on, remaining
popular in Victorian and later Edwardian England (Prince Albert himself
turned the pages when Loewe, who both sang and played his own songs, gave
a Royal command performance).
Perhaps that was what 'did for' Carl Loewe : 'ballad' reeks too much
of music hall; even Weber's ballads have largely been consigned to the dust-heap.
Loewe's titles sound like a Schubert roll-call : Edward, der erlkönig,
Meine Ruh ist hin, Wandrers Nachtlied. Isn't there a grave danger
of comparing David with Goliath?
'No, I don't think that's true at all', says German scholar Richard Stokes,
who has provided many of the series' translations, and who supplied a spoken
introduction to each of the songs at the St John's recital. 'Take Mein
Rüh ist hin (Schubert's Gretchen am Spinnrade) : how the
seventeen-year-old Schubert managed to probe the psychology is truly extraordinary;
yet Loewe's setting, if not as great, is in its way wonderful too.
Schubert starts the poem softly, but in the original Goethe it's not like
that : the girl is emotionally and sexually aroused, she's pent up and excited.
Loewe starts right in there, it's passionate and loud; and actually more
faithful to the text.'
Copyright © 7 February 2002
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
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