The Prince Consort - Other Love Songs -

A marvellous disc, pairing some of Brahms' most delightful works with what is surely destined to be a modern classic - Stephen Hough's "Other Love Songs" written in 2010 for The Prince Consort to partner these Brahms works.

The Brahms is presented chronologically, either side of Hough's debut on SACD as a composer. Philip Fowke joins Alisdair Hogarth on piano for the Brahms and they play with such unanimity that a listener not familiar with the piano could be forgiven for thinking it was just one musician. A similar level of ensemble describes the singing of the remaining members of The Prince Consort and the use of single voices (rather than, even a small, chorus) lends a feeling of intimacy that is endearing and - as this is "light" Brahms - a Schubertiade in ones living room.

The Hough is a world premiere on disc and was written as a companion piece for the Brahms works. As Hough writes "I decided, for the sake of contrast, to avoid waltzes, and avoid setting poems about romantic love between a man and a woman. Other Love Songs explore other kinds of love; and, as a symbol of this, the accompaniment is for three rather than four hands at one piano." There are a wide variety of texts from a Biblical excerpt to Housman and others in between. The imagination of these pieces is wonderful - in particular, "The Colour of His Hair" stands out and for the only time on this disc, the singers are threatened by the sheer volume of the piano which, as Hough puts it, becomes "increasingly violent". For this outwardly virtuoso piano score, Alisdair Hogarth is joined by the composer.

Linn's recording in Potton Hall (Suffolk) is wonderful, providing clarity to all concerned with a rich timbre.

This release can't be too highly recommended on any account.
14 June 2011