Tuesday, February 27, 2024

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Baritone Benjamin Appl And Pianist James Baillieu Hyperlink Songs From Hahn To Schoenberg In Forbidden Fruit


Benjamin Appl (Photo: David Ruano)
Benjamin Appl (Picture: David Ruano)

Benjamin Appl/James Baillieu: Forbidden Fruit (Alpha Classics)

★★★★☆

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Franz Schubert knew what he was doing when he wrote songs in cycles. It stopped singers from taking them pick-and-mix for recitals that showcased their very own items reasonably than the composer’s. The artwork of making a voice and piano recital has receded within the current century, with only a few — Matthias Goerne and Alice Coote spring to thoughts amongst current, coherent exceptions — keen and capable of pitch a programme through which the person songs relate to at least one one other and to a bigger concept.

Welcome, then, this new launch by the German baritone Benjamin Appl and his British pianist James Baillieu. The notion of forbidden fruit is taken from the Backyard of Eden and utilized to our personal instances, through which complete permissibility is the norm. A verse from Genesis hyperlinks the songs, and the choice is continually shocking — from the completely decadent Reynaldo Hahn to Arnold Schoenberg on the gates of Arcadia. I defy anybody to say they know each single track on this choice.

Appl is comfy in three languages and a variety of emotional expression. Roger Quilter’s Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, an Edwardian drawing room track, seems like closing time at a Soho homosexual bar. Schubert’s Little Rose is crushed. Hanns Eisler’s Ballad of the Paragraph is a forgotten gem of Weimar licentiousness, and Kurt Weill’s Yukali — intently associated to Surabaya Jonny — is the very epitome of unimaginable love. Baillieu is a full and equal companion on this enterprise. I don’t suppose I’ve ever heard the piano in Mahler’s Urlicht extra delicately, tantalisingly phrased.

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