Loewe is an important figure in the German song (lieder)
repertory. Practically an exact contemporary of Schubert (he was born
the previous year), we tend to think of him as a composer of the next
generation, because he lived a normal life span, until 1869.
Loewe wrote in excess of 500 lieder, as well as all
manner of instrumental and choral compositions, though it is for his
solo vocal works that he is remembered. Loewe was inspired by many poetic
sources, and it is possible to argue that he is at his best when he
is most direct, laying emphasis on a direct and song-like melodic line.
Therefore there is no reason to discount the value of the earlier songs,
less subtle and complex though they may be. And with an artist of the
calibre of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at the helm, along with a seasoned
accompanist in the form of Hartmut Höll, the music is well served.
The recording too shows the Teldec original to have
been sensitive to the needs of a voice and piano recital, with plenty
of detail captured without over-close placing of microphones. The Apex
reissue serves the best interest of both composer and artists, if anything
enhancing the qualities of the original issue. Full texts and translations
are provided, for which all praise is due, though as always with this
series the reader is frustrated by the shiny paper and the small print.
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recorded these songs relatively
late in his distinguished career. The issue is therefore whether his
deep understanding of the lieder territory is undermined by failing
vocal powers. While he is not in his best voice, he always chooses the
right tempo and articulates it with feeling and conviction. Thus the
tone is set by the first song in the recital, Der seltne Beter, which
is thoroughly typical of Loewe's ballad settings. It is a tale of castles
and battles, and has a really telling climax powerfully delivered.
However, there are more subtle songs in which careful
attention to dynamic gradings can make all the difference. This is true
for the accompanist as much as for the singer; and all praise to the
splendidly alert Hartmut Höll, who knows and loves this music to
perfection. The tale of Mary and the hawthorn bush, entitled Der Weichdorn,
is beautifully performed.
While Fischer-Dieskau may have been in more commanding
voice earlier in his career, these Loewe songs suit his voice and his
vocal understanding to the full. At bargain price this gains a strong