Loewe Lieder und Balladen, Vol. 4
The ambitious enterprise of recording all Loewe’s songs and ballads continues with volumes selected from different areas and given to different voices. On her volume, Iris Vermillion has the longest and most taxing of the ballad settings, Goethe’s macabre tale of the clash of pagan and Christian values in Die Braut von Corinth. It is a skilfully sustained composition, varying and re-presenting melodic material with obsessive and cumulative effect; and she expounds it with great skill, though there are passages in the accompaniment where Cord Garben does not seem to be articulating all the figuration clearly enough (the recording is not ideal). Loewe attempted nothing more demanding than this, a dramatic scena cast as an extended ballad, of which medium he was of course a master. Vermillion and Garben handle the other Goethe ballad on this record, Wirkung in der Ferne, with a fine dramatic fervour. Loewe’s setting of Helmina von Chezy’s poem about the moss rose has a Schubertian honesty and simplicity which avoid the sentimental pitfalls; the Byron setting, Die Sonne der Schlaflosen, is one of the songs in which he actually approaches Schubert in quality, and this produces the finest performance on the record.
Gabriele Rossmanith’s much lighter quality of voice is apt for some of the shorter songs in her volume. This includes one of Loewe’s few Liederkreise, his Op. 62 group of 12 Ruckert settings among which are the fine Susses Begrabnis and one or two graphic little pieces such as Hinkende Jamben. She does these and others, among them the sly Madchenwunsche, with a nice touch of irony where it is called for. To Roman Trekel fall some of the other ballads or narrative songs. Though the manner is very characteristic of Loewe, in some of them he can tend to amble along beside the tale agreeably but without intervening musically very strongly: perhaps these really need the vivid style of delivery which Loewe himself is known to have assumed, and even an actual physical dramatic presence of a kind which it would be hard to reproduce today. But Trekel does well with the very touching song of the old admiral dying in captivity, far from the sight or sound of his beloved sea. He also handles with skill the two Anastasius Grun settings about Charles V, though it seems a pity not to have added the other two, by different poets, which can make an effective cycle on the Emperor’s life, as Roland Herrmann and Geoffrey Parsons showed on their old Claves recording.
This admirable project is being maimed by absurd translations that use English words but do not actually get very far out of German. They garble sense; they seem to think that someone who prays is a prayer, that “schon” must mean “nice” (“In the nice land of Tyrol”), that two lovers “embrace themselves”; they include such faux amis as rendering “ewiger Lust” as “eternal lust”, and recommend love’s “hohe Sonneneigenschaft”, in the tones of an estate agent, as “an outstanding solar property”.'