Benjamin Appl’s Lieder Recital at the Ryedale Festival

Benjamin Appl is blessed with a beautiful baritone voice, burnished when singing out, but softly serene for quieter phrases at the top, as well as resonant in the lower register. He was apparently Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s last pupil and in the lieder recital at the Ryedale Festival it showed, above all through enormous sensitivity to the texts and sub-texts of the songs, by colouring phrases or single words, varying the dynamics to suit the mood, or allowing space to the musical line to evoke emotion, for example pathos or nostalgia. He was most ably accompanied by Simon Lepper at the piano.

Their programme was superbly devised around the theme of Heimat which in German has the connotations not merely of “home”, but also of the people and emotions associated with it. It took us from domestic locations with childish devotions or quiet solitude in nature, to exuberant romantic experiences with flowers, girls and love; then on the road to seek new experiences but with thoughts always returning to Heimat and what it represents. Some of the songs were familiar (for example, Schubert’s Der Einsame and Der Wanderer; some much less so (for example, Reger’s Des Kindes Gebet, Schreker’s Waldeinsamkeit). And how moving it was to hear a song of a traveller communicating his love to his family in the certainty (Ich weiss bestimmt) that he will see them again; this by Adolf Strauss, a now largely forgotten composer who was subsequently transported to his death at Auschwitz.

Though most was in German, Appl proved that he was equally at home (sorry!) in English, for there were excellent renderings of Warlock and Vaughan Williams as well as, inevitably, Bishop’s Home sweet home. An outstanding recital and another feather in the cap for Christopher Glynn whose artistic direction at the Ryedale has been so imaginative.