The Prince Consort - Live - musicOMH

The evening was rounded off by the world première (yes, another one!) of Hough's song cycle Other Love Songs, a collection of texts by authors including Julian of Norwich, Langston Hughes and A.E. Housman, which had been commissioned by the final performers of the evening, the Prince Consort. Written for various combinations of soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone, the piano part is for three hands at one piano - a reflection, said Hough, of the fact that none of the texts he chose is about conventional love between a man and a woman.

Other Love Songs was commissioned so that it could be put between Brahms's two sets of Liebesliederwälzer, and, put simply, it is a work fully deserving of the recognition and praise accorded to those sets of songs. It's a beautiful work, but not one that casts love only in rose-tinted, warm, caring tones - there are outbursts of extreme passion, not least in ‘The Colour of His Hair', a Housman poem commonly thought to refer to Oscar Wilde's imprisonment for homosexuality, which Hough sets as a violent sea shanty, reflecting the anger of a village mob up in arms against an outsider in its midst.

This and other stronger moments are tempered by intimate settings of Langston Hughes and, particularly, of the episode in St John's Gospel where Jesus asks Peter three times ‘Do you love me?', the message being that the love that God shows is open to all and unconditional.

Other Love Songs is a thrilling addition to its genre, and I do hope it will be taken up and performed more widely - the Prince Consort are already giving it dedicated advocacy, and their recording of the work (sandwiched by the two aforementioned Brahms sets) is available now. On the basis of tonight's performance, I heartily recommend it.

15 June 2011