> LOEWE Lieder Vol 15 9994122 [TB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Carl LOEWE (1796-1869)
Lieder, volume 15:
Seven Polish Ballads, Opus 49-51
Saul und Samuel, Opus 14 No. 1
Saul vor seiner, Opus 5 No. 6
Sanheribs Niederlage, Opus 13 No. 1
Saul, Opus 14 No. 4
Eliphas' Gesicht, Opus 14 No. 2
Der Komet, Opus 69 No. 6
Deutsche Barcarole, Opus 103 No. 3
Bauernregel, Opus 9 No. 3
Der alte König, Opus 116 No. 2

Urszula Kryger (soprano), Thomas Mohr (baritone)
Cord Garben (piano)
Rec 17-19 December 1997, SFB Berlin
CPO 999 412-2 [69.21]


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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. The fact that this CPO issue of collected songs is labelled 'Volume 15' tells its own tale.

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. And the Polish Ballads, with which this recital begins, are nothing if not direct. In fact the first of them, Mrs Twardowska, has an easy-going narrative style which has an instant appeal. Urszula Kryger's performance catches this style to perfection, though here as elsewhere she seems most at home when there is a more extended melodic line at a slower tempo. In faster rhythmic music she can sound unduly breathless.

The pianist Cord Garben is an experienced hand, who always seems to select the right dynamic and the right tempo. In this he and his singers are aided by the very pleasing CPO sound, ambient yet detailed. It is therefore easy to follow the words, which are clearly laid out in the accompanying booklet. In common with the other issues in this interesting series, there are detailed introductory notes along with full texts and translations, helping to make this disc an attractive proposition for the specialist and non-specialist alike.

The baritone Thomas Mohr shares the programme with Kryger, which provides a nice contrast for the listener. His voice makes a satisfying impression, and as a light to mid-range baritone he is able to colour the music, achieving insights into the subtleties of the texts. And those texts include some particularly interesting poets: not only Loewe's own favourite, Ludwig Uhland, but a Byron series too.

This CPO project is clearly a major undertaking featuring a large corpus of songs, and it is a significant achievement. However, I do wonder whether a more chronological approach, by opus number, would have been wiser. For the collector wishing to find a particular song, these compilations represent a real challenge, even if the themes do make sense and the artistic balances offer a satisfying listening experience.

Terry Barfoot

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