Johann Carl Gottfried Loewe

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Johann Carl Gottfried Loewe (30 November 1796, Löbejün – 20 April 1869), usually called Carl Loewe (sometimes seen as Karl Loewe), was a German composer, baritone singer and conductor. In his lifetime, his songs were well enough known for some to call him the "Schubert of North Germany", and Hugo Wolf came to admire his work. He is less known today, but sometimes his ballads and songs, which amount to over 400, are occasionally performed.


Life and career

Loewe was born in Löbejün and received his first music lessons from his father. He was a choir-boy, first at Köthen, and later at Halle, where he went to grammar school. The beauty of Loewe's voice brought him under the notice of Madame de Staël, who procured him a pension from Jérôme Bonaparte, then king of Westphalia, which enabled him to further his education in music, and to study theology at Halle University. This ended in 1813, on the flight of the king.

In 1820, he moved to Stettin in Prussia (now Szczecin in Poland), where he worked as organist and music director of the school. It was while there that he did most of his work as a composer, publishing a version of Goethe's Erlkönig in 1824 (written 1817-18) which some say rivals Schubert's far more famous version. He went on to set many other poets' works, including Friedrich Rückert, and translations of William Shakespeare and Lord Byron.

In 1821 he married Julie von Jacob, who died in 1823. His second wife, Auguste Lange, was an accomplished singer, and they appeared together in his oratorio performances with great success.

On 20 February 1827[1], he conducted the first performance of the 18-year old Felix Mendelssohn's Overture "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Op. 21. He and Mendelssohn were also soloists in Mendelssohn's Concerto in A-flat major for 2 pianos and orchestra.[2]

Later in life, Loewe became very popular both as a composer and as a singer. As a youth, he had a high soprano voice (he could sing the music of the "Queen of the Night" in Die Zauberflöte as a boy), and his voice developed into a fine tenor. He made several tours as a singer in the 1840s and 1850s, visiting England, France, Sweden and Norway amongst other countries. He eventually moved back to Germany, and, after quitting his posts in Stettin after 46 years, moved to Kiel, where he died from a stroke on 20 April 1869.

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