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Carl LOEWE (1796 – 1869)
Lieder – Balladen Vol. 20: Der Treuergebene op. 9, H.III,4; Mahomet’s Gesang op. 85; Hinaus! Hinauf! Hinab!; Johann von Nepomuk op. 35,2; Jünglings Gebet; Die Heldenbraut; Das heilige Haus in Loretto, op. 33,2; Wohin, Seele wirst du eilen? Op. 13,5; Das Glockenspiel der Phantasie op. 89,1; Dein Auge op. 89,2; Du Geist der reinsten Güte op. 89,5; Mir jedem Pulsschlag leb’ ich dir op. 89,6; Mondlicht op. 107,1; Wach auf! Op. 9,H.VI,1; An Aphrodite op. 9,H.IX,4; An die Grille op. 9,H.IX,5; Auf sich selbst I; Auf sich selbst II; An die Leier; Der Bräutigam op. 9,H.X,3
Robert Wörle (tenor), Cord Garben (piano)
rec. Kleiner Sendersaal, Radio Berlin Brandenburg, 28–30 January 2003. DDD
CPO 999 978-2 [58:27]

Carl Loewe, one year Schubert’s senior and surviving him by more than forty years, was a prolific composer. More than 600 Lieder and Ballads stemmed from his pen, so he can challenge Schubert on quantity in that respect. Whether the quality is on the same level as Schubert’s output is another matter. Enormously popular in his day, also as a singer, much of his oeuvre sunk into oblivion, but a handful of his songs, several of them settings of Goethe, has survived. A handful of great singers have regularly performed them. The last time I heard Hermann Prey he sang Loewe and he has also recorded them. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recorded at least three LPs for DG and another, late in his career, for Teldec. I have them all and, replaying them once in a while, I’m always stunned by the level of invention and sheer professionalism. It is true that some of his longer ballads outstay their welcome but as a whole Loewe’s songs are a treasure trove well worth prospecting. CPO’s ongoing project to record his complete output is to be applauded. Having reached volume 20 the goal should be within reach. Like the corresponding Hyperion and Naxos Schubert projects they wisely employ many different singers but the common denominator is the versatile Cord Garben as pianist. It is right to label him ‘pianist’ and not accompanist, since the piano part in many of Loewe’s songs is just as important and independent as it is in Schubert. He contributes greatly to the overall excellence of this disc - and I suppose to the whole series, but I haven’t heard more than one or two earlier issues and feel urgent need to catch up.

The singer here is tenor Robert Wörle, who is equipped with a bright and flexible voice. Under pressure it adopts a whining quality that can be quite expressive but occasionally becomes a source of irritation when the singer exceeds his natural limits. It is no surprise to read in the booklet that Mime in Siegfried is one of his operatic parts. I once saw him in Weill’s Mahagonny in Paris, where he made quite an impression, characterisation being a strong suit. As befits a Brecht/Weill singer his tone can sometimes sound raw and insufficiently supported. His runs are a bit four-square and the open, uncovered sound that he employs can be uncomfortable on the ear. He can also produce a beautiful soft half-voice. Even though his singing is a matter of swings and roundabouts, his enthusiasm and his sensitivity to the texts make this a worthwhile addition to the catalogue.

Even more worthwhile are the songs, none of which I can ever recall hearing before. There is one Goethe setting, Mahomet’s Gesang (track 2), one of around forty which is more of a dramatic scena. It is seven minutes long, originally intended as the highpoint in a never written drama. Even longer is another highlight, Johann von Nepomuk, (track 4) and the longest is track 9, Das Glockenspiel der Phantasie, playing for more than twelve minutes. The rest of the songs are of more "normal" length, a couple of them less than a minute long. Die Heldenbraut (track 6) is dramatically high-strung with a stormy accompaniment. The vocal part almost touches upon Helden-Tenor territory and Wörle meets the requirements admirably. Wohin, o Seele wirst du eilen? (track 8) has a folk-like beauty; Loewe is very apt at writing simple but catchy tunes. There are no hidden masterpieces here. On the other hand all the songs have their attractions and listened to in small doses they are agreeable. The execution may not always be ideal but one gets used to Wörle’s methods. In the end he won me over through his obvious affection for the music. The booklet has a valuable essay on the songs by Annika Stawe and we get full texts and translation. CPO have excellent production values and the recording is state-of-the-art with a realistic balance between singer and piano. Newcomers to Loewe should start with some of the earlier volumes and cherry-pick there but well-stocked listeners with a taste for off-the-beaten-track romantic songs will find much to enjoy here.

Göran Forsling




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