Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Carl Loewe Lieder - Wigmore Hall RAM Song Circle

The Royal Academy of Music Song Circle presents the Lieder of Carl Loewe at the Wigmore Hall on Tuesday 2nd April (after the weekend).  BOOK HERE ! The singers are Frances Gregory, Olivia Warburton, Kieran Carrel, Paul Grant, and Thomas Bennett, with pianists Richard Gowers, Gus Tredwell and Leo Nicholson. Carl Loewe (1796-1869) was a contemporary of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Weber, Wagner, Robert Schumann - definitely someone we need to know to fully appreciate the richness of the genre.  Loewe's songs are up there with the greats.  Edward (1818) is one of the gems of the repertoire though it was his op 1 no 1, not bad for an early effort by a young composer.  It's interesting because it sits on the cusp of art song as we know it now, and ballads such as Beethoven's settings of English, Irish and Scottish folksongs. Early Romantics were fascinated by wild, "primitive" cultures that offered an alternative to urban "civilized" society. Think Lucia di Lammermoor !  The poem is Gottfried Herder, who wrote many adaptations of northern folk legend.  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, whatsoever. Edward is the quintessential rebel without a cause, a desperado whom society cannot tame.  The concept continues to fascinate. The same tale resurrects in the Country and Western hit Knoxville Girl, where the psychosexual aspects are emphasized - Edward kills a girl, equally without reason. (Please read more HERE, with clips)

Another spooky apparition in  in Odin's Meeresritt op 118. 1851.

At midnight, a horseman in black armour summons a humble blacksmith to shoe his steed. "I have to get to Norway by  morning." Since they're in Denmark, that's a tall order. Then the horseman rides off into the skies, followed by twelve black eagles. The stranger is Odin, king of the Norse Gods,a prototype Wotan. Think Gurrelieder, where the King and his knights fly across the sky, terrifying peasants and Fools. The Romantic obsession with legend and mystery connects to sources in the subconscious.  Also in the RAM Song Circle programme are Loewe's Erlkönig, op1/3, very different to Schubert’s setting, but also very good. Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh (Wandrers Nachtlied), Ach neige, du Schmerzensreiche, Zum Sehen geboren, Meine Ruh ist hin and Die Lotosblume come from Loewe's op 9.  Loewe’s also had a whimsical side. His setting of Goethe's poem, Die wandelnde Glocke Op. 20 No. 3, is droll and wicked, at the same time !

During his long career, Loewe wrote over 400 songs, so no recital could ever be comprehensive. There are many recordings to choose from : Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey, Thomas Quasthoff, and Florian Boesch, whose more agile timbre brings out the magic in many songs where lightness of touch makes a difference. Years ago CPO did a complete Loewe series of nearly 30 CDs which vary from excellent (Prégardien etc) to less so, and the songs pop up regularly live. Please read about concerts in recent years, following the label Loewe below)  Even Jonas Kaufmann sings Loewe - he's on the recording of Loewe's opera Die drei Wünsche op 42, from 2000.  At that time, I got it for Hawlata ! It's a very enjoyable comic opera, closer to Singspeil and the operas of  Schubert and Weber than to "modern" opera like Wagner.   Loewe's chamber and piano music is also undergoing a revival, so this Wigmore Hall recital with the RAM Song Circle comes at an opportune time.

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