The Prince Consort - Other Love Songs -

Brahms wrote two sets of Liebeslieder Walzer (Love Song Waltzes) for vocal quartet and piano four hands, separated by just six years. They're part of a repertory that was common in much of the 19th century when vocal quartets were present almost everywhere in German-speaking lands, and during the LP era they were almost always performed together and often by a choir. They're quite different in mood, however, and even in the forces involved, with many more songs for solo soprano in the Neue Liebeslieder, Op. 65, than in the Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52. Britain's Prince Consort performs them with one brisk voice per part, which cuts the sweetness of the first set, and leader Alisdair Hogarth reasoned that the CD format allowed for the interposition of another set of songs that would connect Brahms' two sets and soften the rather sharp contrast between them. With few contemporary pieces having been written for these forces, they commissioned one from British-Australian composer Stephen Hough, who appears as the second pianist in his Other Love Songs (the piano accompaniment calls for just three hands, not four). The title refers partly to the fact that the forms of love depicted in their texts do not include the conventional male-female pair bond; instead focusing on divine, gay, and maternal love, as well as a satirical poem by Langston Hughes about a tense relationship between a maid and her employer. The musical style is similarly diverse, with references to the first Brahms set as well as influences from Indian music and various forms of modern harmony. At first it doesn't seem to fit with the Brahms, but the provision of a sharply different perspective cuts the sometimes excessive sweetness of the earlier waltz set. So does the singing of the Prince Consort, which adds some muscle and some polyphonic definition to the Brahms pieces, without losing its rhythmic character and its essential charm. Superb sound from Linn's engineers, working at the Suffolk region's Potton Hall, is another attraction making this a choice worth considering beside the standard options of sweet-singing choirs who have offered the Liebeslieder waltzes.
01 August 2011