Departures – Benjamin Hulett & Alexander Soddy

Travelling is part of human nature: ever since our first steps out of Africa travel is a source of inspiration for many. It is also the theme of the new cd of the British tenor Benjamin Hulett, who made a personal choice from the works of British composers and also commissioned ‘Joys of Travel’ by Giles Swayne, performed here as a world premiere.

The young British tenor Benjamin Hulett makes a very powerful statement with this new album. He uses the term ‘Departures’ in several ways: the start of a journey, the cd as a new beginning for him and pianist Alexander Soddy. Another meaning is found in the theme of the composer setting texts in a language not his own – a linguistic departure.
This combination of repertoire and theme is new and daring. Hulett also commissioned a new work to complete the theme of the programme.’ The Joys of Travel Op. 124′ was composed in 2009 by the British composer Giles Swayne and is performed here as world premiere.

Hulett’s strongpoint, apart from his impressive vocal qualities, is the way he brings together the various works in an organic sounding programme. Together with pianist Alexander Soddy, with whom he has an obvious close musical relationship, he forms a remarkably harmonious and balanced duo.

Benjamin Hulett about ‘Departures’:

‘For my university recital I put together a programme called ‘An Englishman Abroad’. The concept was simple: to feature some works by English composers written in languages other than their own. Ten years later it dawned on me that I was the Englishman abroad as I was living in Germany and singing at the Hamburgische Staatsoper. Together with one of the other Englishmen at the opera, the fine conductor Alex Soddy, in whose house conducting debut I had participated as Tamino, we refined the programme and embraced the notion not only of language, but of the act of travelling itself.

As two young musicians we also felt that the opportunity to record and perform this programme was a new beginning in our lives. A departure, if you will. The title found us and the more we began to embark on our new journeys, the more apt it became.’

International reviews

His is an intrinsically beautiful voice, full of character and he is an artist who moves so easily from the lightness of Quilter to the world premiere of Giles Swayne’s The Joys of Travel. Fine accompaniment from Alexander Soddy in the most beautiful sound.’ (Yorkshire Post)

(…) If further proof of Hulett’s ability to alter his tone and grade it to each song is needed, listen to the change in colour as he moves from ‘The Roadside Fire’ to the soft opening of ‘Youth and love’. I admire the whole cycle, but having it sung with such sensitivity and played so responsively makes it seem even better. (…) The clear recording is at a high level. Hulett’s  enunciation is extremely good. (International Record Review, UK)

‘A fine new tenor voice is appearing on the British music scene. His name is Benjamin Hullet, who recently sang in Manchester with Opera North. (…) This is a fine tenor voice, well accompanied by Alexander Soddy, and an auspicious release. (Liverpool Daily Post, UK)

‘Hulett brings his warm, pliable tenor to a selection of English rovers. The carefully constructed programme of Lennox Berkeley’s Tombeaux, Quilter’s Four songs of Mirza Schaffey, Giles Swayne’s scythingly satirical The Joys of Travel, Britten’ s Quatre Chansons Francaises and Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel demands – and receives- multilingual facilty. This is augmented greatly by Soddy’s sensitive playing. What wins this programme the accolade though, is the way it builds almost into an operatic essay on the thrills and trials of foreign travel.’ (Classical Music, *****, Disc of the fortnight, UK)

‘Hulett is a strong singer, with a vibrant personality, good breath control, excellent diction and the ability to tell a story and engage us in the telling. (…) Alexander Soddy gives inspired support and the recording is clear and bright.’ (Musicweb International)

‘With the crisp, clear diction and concisely and cleanly executed emotions that distinguish the recording throughout, Hulett brings a touchingly Schubertian tone to bear that calls to mind the mellow mellifluousness of his elder compatriot, Ian Bostridge. (…) Hulett treats the antique patina of Robert Louis Stevenson’s texts and the music’s atomized evocation of the pastoral with an equally adept subtlety that swells and sways with an altogether beguiling liquescence that, in turn, is exquisitely punctuated and pointed by Soddy’s beautifully judged piano playing.
The sensitive and atmospheric recorded sound, produced and engineered by David Lefeber in New Hall, Worcester College in England, is exemplary. In all, as much a triumph for the young Dutch label Saphrane (founded as recently as 2006) as for Soddy and Hulett, who is clearly a name to watch with interest.’ (, ‘featured review’)

‘The stylish and technically secure English tenor Benjamin Hulett has devised with his pianist Alexander Soddy an original programme of 20th century English song focused on travel.  Four early songs by Roger Quilter to German texts are a fascinating oddity and Vaughan Williams’s enchanting Songs of Travel are sung with charm and confidence. Giles Swayne contributes a strangely haunting new work reflecting on the nightmare of package holidays, cheap flights and overcrowded airports.’ (Daily Telegraph ****)

‘[Benjamin Hulett’s] voice places him firmly in the long and distinguished line of English tenors. (…) there is an extra quality to this voice, a certain dramatic force, that puts me in mind of Martyn Hill, and praise doesn’t come higher than that in my book. He sings with a marvellous sense of line, nothing is overdone, and his words are beautifully clear. (…) The pianist, Alexander Soddy (…) plays with brilliant technical control, supports his singer with the utmost sensitivity, and has the uncanny knack of judging exactly when and how to take centre stage himself, even where it only amounts to a few notes. (Ralph Vaughan Williams Society Journal)

Dutch reviews

‘Maar het is de stem die maakt dat je de cd tot aan de laatste bit wilt horen. Hulett is zo’n hoge Britse tenor die door het luchtruim zeilt alsof wrijving en zwaartekracht niet bestaan. Zeer verstaanbaar, altijd gefocust, zonder kwakkelvibrato of huilerigheid. Als toegift levert hij de net niet te zoete Songs of Travel van Ralph Vaughan Williams. Zijn begeleider heet Alexander Soddy, nog een naam om te onthouden.’ (Volkskrant, ****)

‘Twee jaar geleden frappeerde hij tijdens het Gergjev Festival in Genre- klassiek Rotterdam al met Les illuminations van Benjamin Britten,wat een schitterende live-cd opleverde. (…) Hulett heeft een droom van een timbre en zijn dictie is voorbeeldig, ook als hij in het Frans zingt. De vraag of al die liederen even interessant zijn, is bij zoveel schoonheid nauwelijks meer relevant.’ (Telegraaf, ****)

‘Hij bezit een mooie lyrische stem die heerlijk wendbaar door alle registers ‘reist’. Ook in het moderne repertoire laat hij fraaie vloeiende lijnen horen’ (Gooi en Eemlander, ****)

‘Hulett zingt moeiteloos, met een aangenaam timbre, een makkelijke hoogte en een zeer elegante stijl. Geen noot veronachtzaamt hij; ze krijgen allemaal een exclusieve behandeling.Zonder zijn elegantie te verliezen weet Hulett ondertussen mooie contrasten te tekenen tussen de liederen. Waar hij bijvoorbeeld in ‘Ich fühle deinen Odem’ van Quilter kwetsbaar en warm kleurt, zet hij in ‘De Don Juan’ van Berkely een groteske Spaanse sfeer neer. (…) Met Soddy is de tweede jonge ster van dit album genoemd. De Brit (nog maar 28 jaar!) voorziet Hulett in alle liederen van gevoelige, fijnzinnige pianobegeleiding. Zo inspanningsloos als Hulett zijn klankenproduceert, zo gemakkelijk glijden Soddy’s vingers over de toetsen. Eenuitstekend duo.’ (

‘De liedteksten heb je amper nodig: reisleider Hulett is uitstekend verstaanbaar en heeft een jonge, lyrische stem. Op zijn tocht krijgt hij voortreffelijk support van pianist Alexander Soddy.’ (Vier)

‘Je hoort tenor Benjamin Hulett echt opbloeien in ‘Nuits de Juin’, ‘Sagesse’, ‘L’enfance’ of ‘Chanson d’Automne’. Vaughan-Williams treedt in dit recital op als zijn bevlogen, geniale zelf. Rest Giles Swayne (1946). De laatste van zijn Joys of Travel-liederen boeit. Tenor Hulett en pianist Alexander Soddy zijn minstens vier sterren waard.’ (Luister, uitvoering ***, registratie ****)