Angus Benton Homeward Bound

Angus Benton: Homeward Bound (CR035)

Review by Planet Hugill

Listen and buy now on Convivium Records

Treble Angus Benton won the BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers of the Year Competition in 2015, and last year he made this recording Homeward Bound with pianist Malcolm Archer on the Convivium Records label. Benton and Archer perform an attractive mix of songs by Handel, Michael Head, Malcolm Archer, RVW, and folk songs arranged by Phyllis Tate, Malcolm Archer, Benjamin Britten and Jay Althouse. For some of the songs Benton and Archer are joined by Julia Desbruslais (cello), Gareth Hulse (oboe) and Karen Wills (flute/piccolo). A percentage of sales of the CD goes to support the NSPCC.

Angus Benton was 12 at the the time the recording was made in 2016, and was then one of the sixteen Quiristers forming the treble line in the Chapel Choir of Winchester College, where Malcolm Archer is Director of Chapel Music. Archer says in his introduction to the disc that the idea behind the recording was to capture Angus’s voice whilst it was still at its best.

Benton has a nice clear voice with a lovely focused sound, not large but well formed with a lovely sweet sound, and his diction is admirable. His programme is a typical mix of art songs and folk songs, including a new song The song wandering Aengus written specially for him by Malcolm Archer.

In Handel’s Where’er you walk from Semele, Benton sings with creditable style and nice phrasing, complete with discreet ornaments in the da capo. The aria from Handel’s Tolomeo is sung in Arthur Somervell’s arrangements as Silent Worship.

One nice feature of the disc is the arrangement of some of the songs for piano, flute, oboe, and cello. The Skye Boat Song works very well in Archer’s sympathetic arrangement, with Benton giving the music a charming sense of innocence. Other songs arranged include Archer’s version of the jolly traditional The coasts of high Barbary.

The Sally Gardens and The Ash Grove are given in Benjamin Britten’s versions. The other art songs include RVW’s Linden Lea and three Michael Head songs, all in creditable performances with Head’s The ships of Arcady being gently delightful.

Benton is not the sort of treble who gives sophisticated quasi-adult performances of the music, though he sense of phrasing and musicality is very high. As I have said, he brings a charming sense of innocence to the music, though occasionally this does not quite mesh with the words. Having the phrases of lost love from The Ash Grove and The Sally Gardens sung with such innocent clarity is a little jarring.

The life of the treble voice is inevitably short, and this disc is charming snapshot of a voice at its best.

Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill, 13th January 2017

Further information

Planet Hugill

Planet Hughill

Planet Hugill is written by Robert Hugill, singer, composer, journalist, lover of opera and all things Handel. Planet Hugill contains regular reviews of concerts, CD’s and operas by Robert, our contributor Ruth Hansford and guest posters, along with concert previews, classical music news, interviews and feature articles on subjects as diverse as Handel opera, Bizet’s Carmen and English opera in the 1950’s.

Planet Hugill has been running in its present form since 2011, and averages over 60 postings per month. There is a regular interview slot on Saturday mornings, and recent interviewees have included the composer Sven Helbig, Thomas Lauderdale of the band Pink Martini, the conductor Kristjan Järvi, composer Samuel Bordoli and soprano Rhian Lois.

The blog covers the diversity of music in and around London, with occasional forays further afield. We cover performances at many of the summer festivals including Garsington, Glyndebourne, Grange Park Opera and Opera Holland Park, as well as visiting Opera North and Welsh National Opera.

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