Loewe: Lieder

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Capriccio
WORKS: Lieder
PERFORMER: Juliane Banse (soprano), Franz Hawlata (bass),Helmut Deutsch (piano)
The extensive Loewe edition from CPO and, before that, important collections on DG from Fischer-Dieskau and Fassbaender have opened our ears to the songs and ballads of that prolific older contemporary of Goethe and Schubert, Carl Loewe. So now it’s good to see such accomplished young singers as Juliane Banse and Franz Hawlata continuing to champion songs which at their worst throw valuable documentary light on their period and, at best, give considerable pleasure in their own right.


Loewe’s Goethe settings show obedience and respect where Schubert’s, significantly ignored by Goethe, reveal inspiration and transfiguration. Gretchen’s heart sighs, but scarcely misses a beat in Loewe’s ‘Meine Ruh’ ist hin’; yet Banse’s soprano recreates an anguished ‘Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt’ and Hawlata’s bass darkly delineates the sombre, syllabic settings of both ‘Wandrers Nachtlied’ poems.


Unlike either Schubert or Schumann, Loewe showed little interest in the dark ironies of Heine’s poetry. Banse shows just how ingenuous is his setting of the literally traumatic ‘Ich hab’ im Traume geweinet’; and Hawlata’s fisherman sings an almost comically bluff serenade to his ‘Fischermädchen’. Loewe’s songs – most of them here from Op. 9 – were, above all, performance art, and Hawlata has the measure of his rhetoric in the three Goethe songs of Lynceus the Watchman and in the Op. 145 ‘garland’ of songs for bass voice. Throughout, Helmut Deutsch’s skill makes the listener almost unaware of Loewe’s often less-than-imaginative piano accompaniments. Hilary Finch