A song composer successfully turns his hand to string chamber music

Marietta Kratz et al: Loewe

Marietta Kratz et al: Loewe

The Strad Issue: August 2019

Description: A song composer successfully turns his hand to string chamber music

Musicians: Marietta Kratz (violin) Jakob Christoph Kuchenbuch (cello) Lena Eckels (viola) Christian Seibold (clarinet) Henning Lucius (piano)

Works: LOEWE Grand Trio op.12; Schottische Bilder op.112; Duo Espagnôla

Catalogue Number: CPO 555 256-2


The name of Carl Loewe is almost synonymous with art songs: he wrote about 600 of them, becoming known as ‘the North German Schubert’. The main course on this CD dedicated to his chamber music is the Grand Trio op.12, a half-hour piece that was quite popular in its time; in 1831 a reviewer of the first edition found it ‘magnificent, finely written, steadily and ingeniously developed’. Loewe was celebrated for his piano playing, and the music is accordingly keyboard-centred, so that the violin and cello can easily sound like subordinate elements; I hasten to add that Marietta Kratz and Jakob Christoph Kuchenbuch avoid any such risk by virtue of their proactive characterisation. The Scherzo, which received special praise from the aforementioned reviewer, does place the strings in the limelight over a pulsating piano part. The Larghetto achieves a Beethovenian grandeur, and the Finale features an insidiously catchy little motif.

The other pieces included are inspired by cultures considered rather exotic at the time: the Scottish Pictures evoke the romantic atmosphere of the Highlands with the clarinet as ersatz bagpipes, while the strangely spelt Duo Espagnôla duly delivers the expected local colour. Hailing, like the composer, from northern Germany, the present players are a well-attuned bunch. Henning Lucius dispatches Loewe’s filigree passagework with ideal lightness, while Lena Eckels, newly appointed viola professor at the Lübeck Music Academy, gives Loewe’s Hispanic impersonations a delightful lilt.