The Kennedy Center

Carl Gottfried Loewe Johann



Biography

Johann Carl Gottfried Loewe as born in Halle, Germany, in 1796. While he would later travel more widely, his roots remained in Germany and to this day he is remembered best in his home country.
 
Loewe became both a composer and a singer of note. His father, Adam Loewe, was his first teacher, and he served both as a choirboy and a church organist as a young boy. His promise as a singer attracted the attention of the King of Westphalia, who helped support the boy's studies. Although he studied philosophy and theology at the university in Halle, his paramount interest was always music. He would later become a prolific composer of songs, but his first important works in this form were written while at the Halle Singakademie.
 
In his twenties Loewe moved to Stettin, where he would spend most of the rest of his life. He served as a professor at the Gymnasium there, an organist at its Jakobkirche, and subsequently as the city's music director. His reputation throughout Germany and Europe as both composer and singer grew during his Stettin years, when he enjoyed the attention and respect of the Prussian Court, where he was a favorite of both Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III and Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm IV. It was during this time that he became a member of the Berlin Academy and performed in many of the prestigious musical centers on the continent and in London.
 
While Loewe worked in many musical forms, including the sonata, opera, and oratorio, he is best remembered for the songs that he wrote. While rarely heard today, they were popular during his lifetime, as was his own performance of them in a well-regarded baritone voice. Loewe's songs evolved musically into ballads. One of the earliest of these ballads, Erlkonig, invites comparison with Schubert's version. Critics have deemed it inferior, with the noticeable absence of a unifying musical motif that characterized most of his works for the voice. Many of Loewe's early ballads were based on poems with supernatural themes; he also used texts based on folk myths, and later patriotic and historic themes and even texts reflecting an oriental influence.
 
Even when not composing ballads, Loewe continued to write songs, frequently using religious and nature texts.  His choice of poets ranged widely, including such major figures as Goethe, Schiller, Herder, and Ruckert. While the results varied, critics are agreed that in virtually all of his work Loewe remained consistently conservative. It has been noted that Loewe's interest in and primary commitment to song is in evidence even in his instrumental works, such as his E major Piano Sonata op. 16. While his efforts to have his operas staged were largely unsuccessful, his oratorios, many on biblical themes, are generally considered better suited to his skills as a dramatist.
 
Ironically, his talent as a singer was perhaps better appreciated during his lifetime than his compositional skills. Whereas musical trends were moving in new directions, Loewe did not embrace them. He was largely uninfluenced by works of such forward-thinking  contemporaries as Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt, and at the time of his death in 1869 "he was an outdated figure."
Carl Gottfried Johann