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For all his inconsistency -- not all the songs come up to the mark (though a remarkable number do) -- one thing that makes Loewe a supreme master is the way he employs his musical means to underline the dramatic quality of the words. Making use of a modified strophic style, i.e. varying the accompaniment, often to each verse, by ever more ingenious transformation and subtle harmonic change, he has the gift, it has been said (using an aptly graphic metaphor) of 'throwing an altered light across the song's landscape'.

Who does not know Schubert's terrifying setting of Goethe's Der Erlkönig, with its pounding triplets evoking the horses' hooves and, as it were, the thumping of the poet's heart? But in a very real sense, Richard Stokes suggests, Loewe's is arguably greater : 'It's very spooky; the Erl-King is a decidedly evil spirit, evoked by sinister grace notes that have a really hypnotic quality. The final two bars, with their fermatas and sforzandos, are much more theatrical and formidable than Schubert's. And the way Loewe's accompaniment evokes the shimmering of the alder leaves, right at the start, is masterly.'

Certainly others have agreed, for Loewe's reputation remains high in Germany. Those who have sung or recorded him include (on Deutsche Grammophon) Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Brigitte Fassbaender (Loewe's Frauenliebe cycle bears comparison, Stokes argues, with Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben); Richard Tauber (on Pearl); Edith Mathis (on CPO); Hermann Prey (on Philips and Capriccio); Hans Hotter, Robert Holl and Eberhard Waechter (on Preiser); Theo Adam and Kurt Moll (on Harmonia Mundi and CPO).

Hans Hotter sings Loewe ballads. CD covers © Preiser Records

More recently a younger generation of singers has taken up the Loewe cause : outstanding performers like Andreas Schmidt (whose magnificent recording of Odins Meeresritt is included in the CPO series), Ruth Ziesak, Iris Vermillion, Christoph Prégardien and Thomas Mohr (also on CPO); Kornelius Hauptmann (on Bayer); and from the English-speaking world, Thomas Hampson, Thomas Quasthoff and Gerald Finley.

Carl Loewe: Lieder & Balladen Complete Edition Vol 10. Ruth Ziesak, Cord Gaben. CD cover © CPO

 

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Copyright © 7 February 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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INTERNATIONAL CARL LOEWE SOCIETY

LISTEN TO LOEWE SONGS AND PIANO SONATAS ON CPO

A LOEWE SYMPHONY & PIANO CONCERTO ON KOCH

AN HISTORIC CARL LOEWE RECORDING

CARL LOEWE AT AMAZON.COM

FISCHER-DIESKAU SINGS LOEWE ON DG

 

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