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Carl LOEWE (1796-1869)

Nächtliche Heerschau, op. 23
Der Räuber, op. 34 No. 2
Süßes Begräbnis, op. 62 No. 5
Hinkende Jamben, op. 62 No. 5
Kleiner Haushalt, op. 71
Heinrich der Vogler, op. 56 No. 1
Die verfallene Mühle, op. 109
Trommelständchen, op. 132 No. 2
Die Uhr, op. 123 No. 3
Der Nöck, op. 129 No. 2
Spirito Santo, op. 143
Der Feind (Der Marsch), op. 145 No. 2
Hermann Prey (baritone)
Karl Engel (piano)
Recorded Rittersaal, Schloss Hohenems, May 1976
ARTS 43021-2 [49.24]


Prey has just the right voice for Loewe’s strophic ballads. A warm, flexible and adeptly lyric baritone, it’s one capable of irresistible mezza voce and considerable colour. It also has great authority and a certain grand seigneurial status. And yet, again, there is a benign authority and a sense of grave narration that compels not only attention but provokes thought. Loewe’s ballads, after his initial successes, were, after all, routinely denigrated by comparison with Schubert’s songs. Prey and Engel, a long-standing partner, prove masterly guides to these twelve songs in a studio recording made back in 1976.

They catch the distinctly Schubertian military march feel of Nächtliche Heerschau with Prey proving, by turns, bluff and withdrawn, employing his half voice here with authority and imagination. Much of the same shading and lightening of the voice can be heard illuminating Süßes Begräbnis, a setting of Rückert that shows that Prey’s voice, though powerful, can be adeptly scaled down. And then there’s Prey’s fusion of manly swagger and conversational ease in Heinrich der Vogler – it comes with ease of vocal production, the animating feature. In the longer ballads the duo manage to corral the rhetoric with crisp rhythm and telling gesture. In a simpler setting, calling for more focused intensity, they have lyric generosity in abundance – try Die Uhr which is beautifully done. In Der Nöck, an eight minute setting, we find them embracing ebullience as much as discursive simplicity, with Engel proving eloquent indeed; how well did Loewe know Chopin’s Preludes one wonders after listening to some of the piano writing? We end, appositely, with the controlled dread and anticipation of Der Feind – where the nervous tension is as telling as an M.R. James short story.

The notes are bold in their summation of Loewe’s battles and the performances are, as I have indicated, just as notable and consuming.

Jonathan Woolf


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