Benjamin Appl

Benjamin Appl: Schubert at Wigmore Hall

As a followup to Wednesday’s post, here are three excerpts from an album of Schubert songs released last year by German baritone Benjamin Appl. The album was recorded live at London’s Wigmore Hall with pianist Graham Johnson accompanying.

Am Bach im Fruhling

In the 1816 song, Am Bach I’m frühling, D. 361 (“By the Brook in the Spring”), we can hear the flowing brook in the piano’s triplets. The brook seems to be a metaphor for the flow of time. The first stanza celebrates nature’s rebirth and the spring thawing of the brook. Then, the mood turns darker. Nostalgia and far-off memories turn to mournful lament: “The flowering of the whole earth does not gladden my heart.”

Schubert’s songs are filled with subtle harmonic details. For example, listen to the piano’s inner voices in this passage. One unexpected rising half step conveys a sudden tinge of pain. At moments, the song takes on a recitative quality.

Im Freien

Im Freien, D880 (“Courtship”) is filled with youthful euphoria. Here are the final lines: “Every little place that beckons is precious to me. And wherever a moonbeam falls, cherished treasure entices. So everything here beckons to me with longing. And calls to me with the sounds of true love.”

An die Leier

An die Leier, D737 (“To the Lyre”) tries to beat the drums of war, but succumbs to love as C minor melts into E-flat major: “I have changed the strings, and I would even switch lyres! Alcides’ victory march should roar forth in its might! Yet even these new strings sound out only love in their tones!”

Recordings

  • Schubert: Wigmore Hall Live, Benjamin Appl, Graham Johnson iTunes
  • Benjamin Appl’s  complete discography iTunes

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