Loewe: Lieder

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LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Juliane Banse (soprano), Franz Hawlata (bass), Helmut Deutsch (piano)
Though Carl Loewe was a prolific composer in many genres (with half a dozen operas and even more oratorios to his credit), it is in the field of song, and especially in the narrative form of the ballad, that he retains his reputation. This wide-ranging selection casts its net widely and includes ten of his Goethe settings (Loewe had met the great poet as a young man) as well as seven to texts by Heine. In the latter, Loewe’s rather two-dimensional productions miss out on the poet’s irony and pale when compared with those of Schumann.


For despite their technical neatness and professionalism (Loewe himself was an accomplished performer of his works) there is an inherent blandness and lack of passion that denies many of his songs the greatness of the work of the finest Lieder composers. Yet there are exceptions — as in the Gothic ballad-like Reiterlied, with its darker Romantic colourings, or the unusually personal setting of Goethe’s Sehnsucht.


These performances have been finely recorded in the studios of Bavarian Radio and both singers show a keen sensitivity to the demands of texts and notes (though Franz Hawlata’s intonation is not above suspicion). The playing of accompanist Helmut Deutsch is a delight. George Hall