The Prince Consort - Other Love Songs - Gramophone
01 October 2011Gramophone
Liebeslieder sandwich, with Stephen Hough's witty songs the delicious filling
For all the
Brahms's melodic and rhythmic inventiveness in his Liebeslieder waltzes, anyone who listens to the two sets straight
through risks overdosing on triple-tie Viennese Gemütlichkeit. Stephen Hough's cycle Other Love Songs, commissioned by The Prince Consort as a companion
to the Liebeslieder, makes an ideal
Hough avowedly avoided poems about romantic heterosexual love to explore
other kinds of love: filial love, gay love, divine love, love in defiance of
racial prejudice. Drawing on poetic
sources from St. John's Gospel to AE Housman and Langston Hughes, the songs
range eclectically from cabaret-style numbers to the Indian exoticism of "Kashmiri
Song". The performers, including Hough
himself as one of the pianists, do them proud.
Soprano Anna Leese, bright and vibrant of tone, rises poignantly to the
impassioned climax of "Kashmiri Song", while mezzo Jennifer Johnston, singing
in broad Scouse, offers a delightful comic cameo as the feisty maid in "Madam
and her Madam".
The Liebeslieder are
enjoyable, too, with a splendid bite in the more vigorous numbers, although in
their determiniation to avoid any thing of sentimentality the performers can be
a touch prosaic, as in the serene hymn to the muses that closes the Neue Liebeslieder. The forward recording of the voices means
that true soft singing, here and elsewhere, is at a premium. Still, if the rival versions are rather more
beguilingly sung and shaped, with a subtler use of rubato, these fresh and
direct performances have much to commend them.
A clinching factor may well be the Hough songs, acerbically witty and
deeply touching by turns, and culminating in the ethereal lullaby of "Simon,
Son of John".
Related LinksThe Prince ConsortOther Love Songs