The Prince Consort - Ned Rorem - Gramophone

A first through here is that the poems would make an excellent anthology in themselves - and that is not to disparage the music. Armin Zanner's introductory essay on the composer and his songs makes much of the echo motif (the phrase adopted for the subtitle is from a poem, well translated by Rorem, by Colette). Rorem is quoted as saying: "I set words to music as I talk them". He also says that the germ, "the spark that's lit in the night", usually goes into the accompaniment. Does that, I wonder, explain a second thought - that these songs are characteristically just a little too delicate, that this prized quality of colloquial ease is a reason why I also think that they will glide out of my mind as easily as they slid into it?

Certainly - certainty at last - this is a most attractive disc. The Prince Consort comprises five singers still young, clear and intelligent in their way with words, and their pianist-director, Alisdair Hogarth. Unusually they have a countertenor in their midst, the excellent Tim Mead, who shares the title-song, a duet with Anna Leese, and has two of the best solos. South African baritone Jacques Imbrailo is also noteworthy: the recording brings out the individual timbre of his voice, and to him goes what I still find the best of the songs, "Early in the morning".

Gramophone