Benjamin Appl Baritone, James Baikieu piano: Songs to the words of Heine. Champs Hill Records
Greig, Rubinstein, Schubert, Mendelssohn, (brother and sister), Schumann
This is a debut disc of what I think is an unusually talented young singer. I first heard him a few months ago on radio in the car and had to look up who it was when I got home. I have followed his broadcasts since then. He is one of the BBCs Young Artists, so gets some very useful exposure. He recently sang Mahler songs in a live concert, very, very fine.
So I urge folk to get this disc and watch this singer's career.
The disc is absolutley terrific. It consists of three groups of songs, one by Rubinstein then four songs from Schwanengesang, surrounded by the other composers mentioned until the latter part of the disc which consists of a complete warmly ardent Dichterliebe. Only one short poem is explored twice. This is the kind of recital I go for, some songs I don't know and some well known to me. On this disc the Fanny Mendelssohn and Rubinstein were unfamiliar.
My ear was especially caught by the third in the Rubinstein set. Es war ein alter König is a short matter-of-fact poem about an old king, a young wife, her equally young page and the obviously necessary deaths of the young lovers. This becomes a chilling little masterpiece of economical story telling. Appl really tells the story in a way that sounds like natural speech rhythms. The pianist provides a hushed, grief laden accompaniment. It is quite shattering. This is a good illustration of how well they work together.
They scale the heights of Schubert's Die Stadt, again hand in hand creating atmosphere and word painting. The concentration and focus is almost palpable. I think Der Atlas yields to more weight, but my favourite version of this might be thought to be vulgar and crude, which is never part of this singer's makeup. His approach is direct, open and he looks for the narritave, imprinting words and using the drama where appropriate. There is nothing bland.
The wonderful Mendelssohn Neue Liebe flies past sounding like an extract of Midsummer Night's Dream, then the melting payoff. The Schumann is simply beautiful. No wonder the singer received rave reviews as a late substitute at a recent Wigmore Hall recital.
I have made this review long enough and you catch my drift....This singer has a warm light brown voice whch he can darken. Every word is clear, yet integrated within the legato lines. And he does not sound like an imitation of Fischer Dieskau. He is not in anyone's shadow. I hope for more discs, many more.
Listen for yourselves..... http://www.benjaminappl.com/Benjamin_Appl_Baritone/CD_RELEASE_STUNDEN_TAGE_EWIGKEITEN.html