Baritone Benjamin Appl explores the mysteries of the darkish in his Carnegie Corridor debut – Seen and Heard Worldwide

United StatesUnited States Numerous: Benjamin Appl (baritone), James Baillieu (piano). Carnegie Corridor, New York, 20.5.2023. (RP)

Benjamin Appl (baritone) and James Baillieu (piano) © Richard Termine

For his Carnegie Corridor debut recital, baritone Benjamin Appl immersed the viewers within the mysteries of the night time. He and pianist James Baillieu explored the wonder and romance in addition to the terrors related to the darkish. It was a outstanding journey and, hopefully, the primary of many appearances in New York.

This system (see under) was drawn primarily from the German and British tune repertoire. Appropriately so, in that Appl was the ultimate protege of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, one of many foremost Lieder singers of the second half of the 20th century. Baillieu, who’s South African by beginning, attended the Royal School of Music in London and has made Nice Britain his inventive house. He commonly collaborates with a lot of at this time’s best singers.

The recital revealed why Appl, who’s forty years previous, is acclaimed as one of many nice interpreters of tune of his technology. For all the fantastic thing about his lyric baritone, that attribute was heard sparingly within the recital. Appl as an alternative used his voice to depict phrases and create moods that usually have been poignant and sorrowful and required a big selection of sounds to specific them. When he did reveal his voice at its most stunning, it was if a ray of lustrous moonlight pierced the darkish.

Baillieu was an equal companion on this musical journey. Certainly, the recital opened with the prolonged prelude to Schubert’s ‘Nachtstück’ and concluded with the prolonged postlude of Strauss’s ‘Morgen’. This as a lot as something signaled that this system was envisioned as a musical entire, reasonably than a set of songs to showcase the singer.

Included among the many German Lieder have been an intoxicatingly sensual efficiency of Strauss’s ‘Ständchen’, a gripping account of Schumann’s ‘Belsatzar’ and a terrifying rendition of Schubert’s ‘Erlkönig’. The mild lyricism of Schoenberg’s ‘Warum bist du aufgewacht’ was expressed within the softest and most lyrical of sounds by Appl. Their efficiency of Wolf’s ‘An die Geliebte’, with the tenderest feelings expressed in probably the most delicate of musical brushstrokes by each, reaffirmed why Wolf is justly deemed to be one of many best of all tune composers.

Appl’s suave lyricism was enchanting in Reynaldo Hahn’s ‘L’heure exquise’, whereas his emotionally fueled singing in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Within the Midst of the Ball’ earned him the well-deserved bravo that rang via the corridor as its closing notes sounded. Appl’s voice in Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Infinite Shining Heaven’ was as clear and glistening because the night time skies of which he sang. In William Bolcom’s ‘Music of Black Max’, Appl took on the persona of a world weary, jaded balladeer as he informed the story of the mysterious man wearing black. The ultimate silent utterance of the phrases ‘Mad Max’ added to the intrigue.

Probably the most emotionally wrenching songs have been those who addressed the depths of unimaginable however all-too-real darkness. The primary tune, Schubert’s ‘Der blinde Knabe’, was the exception. It’s a setting of a poem a few boy who was blind from beginning and can’t mourn for the lack of one thing he has by no means identified, and Appl instilled it with a way of innocence and marvel.

Included within the group have been two songs by Ilse Weber, a Jewish writer, singer and songwriter born within the former Czechoslovakia, who was transported to the Nazi ghetto in Theresienstadt (Terezin). Her ardour was youngsters, and he or she not solely cared for these interred in Theresienstadt, she additionally composed nursery rhymes, lullabies and poetry to consolation them. The deceptively easy songs, nevertheless, contained descriptions of the horrors she witnessed and skilled.

In ‘Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt’, Appl sang of Weber’s craving for house in plaintive tones that have been maybe probably the most stunning of any heard that night. The ultimate verse, by which Weber described the issue of her existence there, was voiced as a easy, childlike prayer. It ended softly and poignantly, with Weber questioning whether or not the sorrows would ever finish and if she would ever be free once more.

Appl sang Weber’s ‘Wiegala’ with profound unhappiness. It was a lullaby she used to consolation the youngsters whom she voluntarily accompanied to the Auschwitz fuel chambers. Neither tune, nevertheless, was as horrific and emotionally devastating as James MacMillan’s ‘The Kids’ which adopted.

It’s a setting of the Scottish poet William Soutar’s poem, impressed by his anguish over the atrocities dedicated within the Spanish Civil Struggle. Appl sang MacMillan’s stark vocal traces with a haunting tone, as if shrinking from the photographs. The accompaniment is naked and jagged, till the very finish when Baillieu produced a cataclysmic wail of sound from the piano. Who knew that such a sound may come from the instrument?

With out lifting his foot from the pedal, Baillieu started to play the prelude to Strauss’s “Morgen’, the ultimate work on this system. Appl sang it as probably the most intimate of exchanges between lovers, with specific consideration to temper and textual content. The recital ended because it had begun with the tune’s transcendent postlude that depicts dawn and rebirth via sound alone.

For an encore, Appl and Baillieu carried out ‘Ich weiss bestimmt, ich werd dich Wiedersehen’ by Adolf Strauss, one of many Jewish composers interred at Terezin. It’s a bittersweet tune of affection, longing and hope, with a tuneful, subtle melody that he composed just a few weeks earlier than he was murdered at Auschwitz. It’s all however not possible to think about such a tune was composed in so horrible a spot.

Rick Perdian

Schubert – ‘Nachtstück’ D.672, ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’ D.774, ‘Der Wanderer an den Mond’ D.870, ‘Erlkönig’ D.328, ‘Der blinde Knabe’ D.833
Tchaikovsky – ‘Within the Midst of the Ball’ Op.38, No.3
R. Strauss – ‘Ständchen’ Op.17, No. 2, ‘Morgen!’, Op.27, No.4
Hahn – ‘L’heure exquise’ (from Chansons grises)
Somervell – ‘White within the Moon the Lengthy Highway Lies’ (from A Shropshire Lad)
Vaughan Williams – ‘The Infinite Shining Heavens’ (from Songs of Journey)
R. Schumann – ‘Mein schöner Stern!’ Op.101, No.4, ‘Belsatzar’ Op.57, ‘Zwielicht’ Op.39, No.10 (from Liederkreis), ‘Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass’ Op.98a, No.4
Bolcom – ‘Music of Black Max’ (from Cabaret Songs)
Quilter – ‘Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal’ Op.3, No.2
Gurney – ‘Sleep’ (from 5 Elizabethan Songs)
Brahms – ‘Wie rafft ich mich auf in der Nacht’ Op.32, No.1
Schoenberg – ‘Warum bist du aufgewacht’ (Nachtblumen)
Wolf – ‘An die Geliebte’
Greig – ‘Ein Traum’ Op.48, No.6
Weber – ‘Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt’, ‘Wiegala’
James MacMillan – ‘The Kids’