The Prince Consort - Ned Rorem -

This is a brilliant debut from a wonderfully exciting young British group of singers (and a pianist).

Together Anna Leese (soprano), Jennifer Johnston (mezzo), Andrew Staples (tenor), Tim Mead (countertenor), Jacques Imbrailo (baritone) and Alisdair Hogarth show themselves to have a real understanding of Rorem in particular and of the song recital in general. Throughout all the songs, an affinity for the text and the musical line is heard from singers and pianist alike, be it in solo songs (evenly distributed) or ensemble numbers (arguably too few!) from the 600+ songs in Rorem's catalogue. Even choosing a programme would have been demanding, let alone deciding upon the order of the works - here it is done with aplomb and has a balanced selection of works and their styles within the recital.

All have beautifully clear diction, rendering the printing of the song texts superfluous - it would have been nice to have more information on the songs themselves and a discussion on how they fit into Rorem's wider output in the otherwise interesting and informative notes. Still, this is the only matter that I can find to carp at for the singing from all concerned is first rate, vividly characterising the words and conveying the moods present with great conviction. Hogarth accompanies with real style and at no time does he allow himself to be content with sitting in the background - his "voice" is also heard and combines with his singers to present a convincing whole; it is little wonder, on hearing this disc, that Rorem has composed a work for The Prince Consort.

The sound captured in Potton Hall is beautiful with a bloom on the voices and piano that is not in the least bit resonant; indeed it is perhaps the finest yet from Linn that I have heard.

Highly recommended for all lovers of the human voice and also a valuable reminder that not all modern composers of substance have turned their back on tonality.

18 March 2010