Meet the performer: Benjamin Appl

We sit down with our cover CD star, German baritone Benjamin Appl, to discuss his recordings of Schubert's Lieder.

Meet the performer: Benjamin Appl

To hear Schubert’s lieder sung with orchestra rather than piano is relatively rare. How do these orchestral arrangements alter how you sing them?

It is almost a new artform. You have a conductor who is in charge of the tempos, whereas normally it is you and the pianist, and then with an enormous number of players behind you, there is less flexibility. You also can’t restrain the voice as much as with a piano, so overall the approach is like painting with a big brush, rather than a small brush as you would with a watercolour. 


What do you particularly enjoy about the orchestral arrangements?

They add a range of new colours. Often, when I’ve performed the songs with piano, I’ve had in my mind various ideas of how they should sound. When an orchestra is then involved, sometimes it confirms the colours I’ve had in mind, but on other occasions, it provides very different ones. That’s very inspiring.


Are there many orchestral arrangements of Schubert lieder in the repertoire?

Yes, as there was a trend towards bringing them to audiences who might not attend song recitals. After Schubert’s death, his brother arranged a few songs for orchestra, but apparently they are not very good. Then Berlioz arranged some, as did Liszt, Brahms and, particularly, Reger, and there have been more recent ones by the likes of Alexander Schmalcz. In the case of Erlkönig, you have four or five different versions to choose from.


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