The Prince Consort - Other Love Songs - Audio Video Club of Atlanta

As befits an album entitled “Other Love Songs,” the performances of Brahms’ famed Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52 and his follow­up, the Neue Liebselieder, Op. 65 took a bit of getting used­to for a listener accustomed to hearing these songs rendered by a much larger ensemble, such as the Robert Shaw Festival singers, on Telarc. Though it didn’t inspire me with an urge to chuck the older recording, it was something of a revelation.

For this was Brahms’ original version of these choice love songs for a quartet or quintet of singers plus piano four­hands. What we miss in the lushness and variety of color in the larger forces is made up for in the sharply dfefined point making and the scintillating edge the members of the Prince Consort impart to their vision of Brahms. Members of this exciting new British vocal ensemble are Anna leese, soprano; Jennifer Johnston, mezzo; Andrew Staples, tenor; Tim Mead, countertenor; and Jacques Imbrailo, baritone, with Alisdair Hogarth on piano. The Brahms liebeslieder (love songs), to accompaniments that are not always in waltz­time, treat the various aspects of yearning for love, including the experience of love fulfilled, and occasionally, the disillusionment that follows it, from the gently rocking lyricism of “Nich wandle, mein Licht” (Do not wander in the fields, my Love) to the rage of a secret love exposed in “Nein, es ist nicht auszukommen” (It is not possible to endure these people).

Other Love songs by Stephen Hough is a roving miscellany that explores alternative views of love, with texts ranging from the famous prayer of comfort “All shall be well” by Dame Julian of Norwich to the stinging irony of A E Houseman’s “The Colour of his Hair,” with coruscating accompaniment by Philip Fowke and Hough himself.

01 July 2011