C Loewe – The Other Erlking
Songs and Ballads
Nicholas Mogg (baritone), Jâms Coleman (piano)
Champs Hill CHRCD165 60:18 mins
Carl Loewe’s dramatic ballads, much admired in 19th-century Europe, continue to appeal to voice-piano duos who enjoy a ripping yarn. Nicholas Mogg and Jâms Coleman mix those songs with several overlooked lyrical numbers. Some prove musically less interesting than the enthusiastic liner note suggests (for example, ‘Über allen Gipfeln’ has beautiful moments but doesn’t sustain interest overall), and others are genuinely attractive discoveries.
This demanding repertoire requires immaculate German and the ability to inhabit the characters through all their travails. The piano must depict everything from tolling bells to elf-kings (and their daughters) and the deep sea, while simultaneously sustaining occasionally over-large forms. Overall, Coleman and Mogg deliver, especially in the dramatic numbers. Mogg is comfortable across the enormous range and demonstrates much of the timbral flexibility these songs need. Coleman’s playing is outstanding, with thrilling variety in the shimmering piano textures of ‘Erlkönig’; similarly, ‘Herr Oluf’ and ‘Die wandelnde Glocke’ inspire huge variety and imagination at the piano.
Mogg could more fully exploit opportunities like the mother-son contrast in the grisly ballad ‘Edward’, the tranquillity of ‘Der du von dem Himmel bist’, or the legato of ‘Spirito Santo’, especially to match Coleman’s exquisite touch. In thrillers like ‘Odins Meeresritt’, he’s more convincing, as well as in comic numbers like ‘Der alte Goethe’.
There’s much to admire here, even if Loewe’s strengths perhaps don’t extend as far beyond ballads as these musicians would have us believe. We can certainly look forward to their next project.