The other prevailing myth about the countertenor voice is its supposedly ethereal other-worldly quality. Chance is one of several who are taking steps to remedy this with a series of commissions. Despite his early job as jazz correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, Philip Larkin does not leap to mind as first port of call when looking for song settings, but Anthony Powers has taken six of his poems for his cycle High Windows.
Ironically, those relying on baldness of expression come off best. The pewter light of "Dublinesque" is coolly evoked in the atmospheric piano writing, Julius Drake allowing the gently rhythmic accompaniment to touch in the passing funeral. Chance rose to the occasion with marvellously secure intonation and highly assured singing, but the dramatic demands of the setting require more than simply a wide range of dynamics. The heart of the writing proved tantalisingly elusive.
Similar problems arose with Chance's novel interpretations of Butterworth's sublime baritone settings of Housman's A Shropshire Lad. "When I was one- and-twenty" ends with the repetition of the phrase "`Tis true." Here, it sounded lovely, the tone resonant and flowing, but the heartfelt poignancy was missing. Butterworth's writing relies to a large extent on the solidity and openness of the baritone voice. Transposing the line up pushes the texts on to a different level of emotional intensity. You feel at one remove, admiring the singer rather than the songs. Chance should be applauded for expanding the countertenor repertoire but until he lets the material take precedence over technique, he'll leave us feeling slightly short- changed. David BenedictReuse content