Johann Carl Gottfried Löwe (usually written Loewe in English), 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 lesser known today, but a number of his 400 or so songs are still occasionally performed.
Carl Loewe 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 Lowe's voice brought him under the notice of Madame de Stal, who procured him a pension from Jerome 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, Carl Loewe moved to Stettin (Szczecin), 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, setting a version of Goethe's Erlkönig in 1824 which some say rivals Schubert's far more famous version. He went on to set many other poets' work, including Friedrich Rückert, and translations of William Shakespeare and Lord Byron. He also wrote a number of operas, oratorios and instrumental works.
In 1821 Carl Loewe 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.
Later in life, Carl Loewe became very popular both as a composer and as a singer, and he made several tours as a singer in the 1840's and 1850's, 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 April 20, 1869.
Carl Loewe wrote five operas, of which only one, Die drei Wünsche, was performed at Berlin in 1834, without much success; seventeen oratorios, many of them for male voices unaccompanied, or with short instrumental interludes only; choral ballads, cantatas, three string quartets, a pianoforte trio; a work for clarinet and piano, published posthumously; and some piano solos. But the branch of his art by which he is remembered, and in which he must be admitted to have attained perfection, is the solo ballad with pianoforte accompaniment. His treatment of long narrative poems, in a clever mixture of the dramatic and lyrical styles, was undoubtedly modelled on the ballads of Zumsteeg, and has been copied by many composers since his day. His settings of the Erlkönig (a very early example), Archibald Douglas, Heinrich der Vogler, Edward and Die Verfallene Mühle, are particularly fine.