LOEWE: Grand Trio in g min., Op. 12 / Marietta Kratz, vln; Jakob Christoph Kuchenbuch, cel; Henning Lucius, pno / Schottische Bilder, Op. 112 / Christian Seibold, cl; Lucius, pno / Duo Espagñola (compl. by C. Garben) / Lena Eckels, vla; Lucius, pno / CPO 555256-2
Carl Loewe, one of the most famous song composers of the 1830s through the ‘50s, also wrote a fair amount of instrumental music, much of which doesn’t get heard very often. This disc presents three of his works, of which the meatiest is the Grand Trio of 1830.
The music of this trio is very characteristic of the man who wrote Edward, Der Mummelsee and Tom der Reimer: fairly exciting, well constructed and with a dramatic flair. Indeed, the first movement could easily be confused for an early work in this genre by Beethoven, one of his idols. The themes are melodic but somewhat brief, developed well and dramatically, and in addition to early Beethoven one also hears a debt to Schubert in it. There are surprising rapid modulations in it as well, though the overriding feeling is of lyricism tempered with drama, not the other way around. The trio of Kratz, Kuchenbuch and Lucius play it in the accepted modern style, which is straightahead in phrasing with little rubato, dramatic attacks and plenty of energy.
One weakness, however, is the second movement, which has the same tempo, key and general feeling of the first, only with theme of shorter length and breadth, which lead to a feeling of déjà vu which lead to a feeling of déjà vu. (Yes, I did that on purpose.) I also noted that, in both of the first two movements, the cello gets the least amount of work, mainly playing accompanying figures as if he were a second piano bass line. There is little or no interaction with the violin except in a very few passages. The third movement is appropriately lyrical, a medium-slow “Larghetto” that begins with solo piano before the violin and cello enter in thirds playing the theme. Here, at least, we get some back-and-forth exchanges between the two strings while the piano leads them and adds to the development. A bit later, the piano plays some flashy double-time runs familiar to those who know Loewe’s ballads while the strings continue to exchange motifs. The finale, “Allegro assai vivace,” is in a sprightly rhythm that could easily be taken as a folk dance, again with a lot of flashy piano runs and a bit of flashy playing from the cello. One of the nice features of this movement is the very lyrical secondary theme, which could easily have been worked into a song.
The Schottische Bilder for clarinet and piano are late works reflecting Loewe’s late-in-life interest in Scotland’s history and landscape as related to him by Robert Schumann. The song Tom der Reimer also came from this interest, and like the song the themes used here are Loewe’s own and not authentic Scottish ballads. They’re quite lovely and well-written, but decidedly lighter fare. You might hear these turn up on your local classical music radio station.
The Duo Espagñola was Loewe’s last instrumental piece, and again he wrote it as a reflection of another country’s folk music but, like the Scottish pieces, more as a tribute than the use of actual Spanish themes. On the contrary, some elements in the viola part resemble his song Der Nöcke, but by and large this is a more interesting piece of work. It is also lyrical but, at least as played here by Lena Eckels and Henning Lucius, it has some backbone and sprightliness about it that lift it above the mundane.
The one thing you can say about all of this music is that it clearly sounds like Carl Loewe, but by and large it is the Grand Piano Trio, or at least parts of it, that grab one’s attention the most despite energetic performances of all the music.
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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