Frederick Loewe
(1901-1988)

Frederick Loewe, best known for his work with lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, had his beginnings in Berlin. The son of an actress and a popular German operetta star, he grew up a pianist prodigy and found success as a composer by his mid-teens. In 1924, Loewe immigrated to America, embarking on a number of unsuccessful projects, while playing piano in silent movie houses and other miscellaneous jobs to make ends meet.

It was not until he met Lerner that he had any success. Among the duo’s first five musicals, two were hits. The 1947 production Brigadoon established them as the first major Broadway songwriters to emerge in the post war era. Nearly ten years later, My Fair Lady in 1956 proved to be Lerner and Loewe's most enduring hit; it was the longest run of any Broadway musical prior to Cats. The songwriting team next worked on the movie musical Gigi, which became a surprise hit of 1958 and earned the Academy Award for Best Picture. After their musical Camelot in 1960, Loewe announced his retirement, however the pair did reunite briefly in the seventies.

Loewe's taste and musical personality was rooted in the Viennese operetta of his youth and though Americanized to some extent, the utilization of his early influences ultimately became his crowning achievement. His settings of Lerner's English lyrics are so natural that they become less than noticeable, almost like speech. It is easy to mistake this hard-won simplicity of expression to a kind of emotional distancing, but the total integration of story and song in the work of Lerner and Loewe is what makes their work so widely appealing to so many. This has ensured the survival of shows like My Fair Lady well past their closing date on Broadway and caused the famous duo’s music to live on far beyond the composers’ lives ended.

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Symphonic Orchestra   Educational

 

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