Monday, 8 November 2010

Carl Loewe's creepy Edward

Carl Loewe (1796-1869) was an exact contemporary of Schubert, and a friend of Felix Mendelssohn, whose music he conducted. He lived long enough to know Schumann and Brahms. He's definitely an important part of the jigsaw that is 19th century Lieder. Loewe was an independent individualist who found his own distinctive voice. A few years ago, Cpo the budget label recorded Loewe's complete songs - over 400, on about 20 discs. The series is uneven but the good ones are extremely good - Edith Mathis, Christoph Prégardien, and Kurt Moll for example. There are also excellent collections with Hermann Prey and Thomas Quasthoff.  Loewe's operas are also great fun. A very young Jonas Kaufmann (1998, Munich) appears in Loewe's Die Drei Wünsche, to which he's ideally suited. 

Here's Loewe's Edward, Edward. Wilhelm Strienz with Michael Raucheisen, from German radio in the 1930'/40's .Being Loewe's op1 no 1, it's not as sophisticated as some of his greater pieces like Herr Oluf (Loewe's answer to Schubert's Erlkoenig)  but it's highly dramatic - a great encore piece. For the full text go to Emily Ezust's HERE.

The poem is Gottfried Herder. It's based on Scottish legend. Early Romantics were fascinated by wild, "primitive" cultures that offered an alternative to urban "civilized" society. Edward walks in on his mother. He's saturated with blood. "It's my hawk".  No, says Mum.  "It's my steed", blurts Edward. But the truth comes out. He's slaughtered his father. No explanation, but he's going on the run and will never return, leaving behind castle, wife and kids.

Edward is one of the first desperados in 19th century literature and song. The concept continues to fascinate. Below, a variation on the Edward theme. It's a traditional ballad here given C&W  treatment in 1952. Listen to the words - seriously psychotic. Even more surreal is the bland  nonchalance with which the band dedicates the song to the people of Knoxville, Tennessee, as if they think it's cute to be associated with sicko killers. At least Edward had an inkling of what he'd done, as Loewe's impassioned coda reminds us.

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