The Park Avenue Armory should actually need you to know who Benjamin Appl is.
Otherwise it wouldn’t have given such important actual property — three concert events, three Schubert masterworks — to Mr. Appl, a 36-year-old baritone who, with these performances, is making his American recital debut.
His concert events on the Armory’s intimate Board of Officers Room, which started with Schubert’s “Die Schöne Müllerin” on Sunday and proceed with the composer’s “Schwanengesang” on Tuesday and “Winterreise” on Thursday, remind me of the pianist Igor Levit’s debut there in 2014. Mr. Levit made an entrance by daring to program Beethoven’s ultimate sonatas; Mr. Appl has chosen a few of the most well-known, and revealing, works within the art-song repertory.
And like Mr. Levit, who pulled off his American entree with confidence and preternatural maturity, Mr. Appl introduced a masterly account of “Die Schöne Müllerin.” He had the exacting consideration to textual content of an actor, the charisma of a seasoned storyteller and an agile voice that, whereas not absolutely shaped, reveals promise not just for this week’s remaining concert events, but in addition for what I hope to be extra appearances right here within the years forward.
Mr. Appl, born in Germany and based mostly in London, comes much-hyped from Europe, as one of many final personal college students of the lieder grasp Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the recipient of rising artist awards, in addition to honors for his first album with Sony Classical, “Heimat,” in 2017.
He performs with the pianist James Baillieu, who on Sunday maintained readability and prevented the muddle that usually comes with “Die Schöne Müllerin” when it’s transposed decrease for the baritone voice. (The piece is written for a tenor’s vary.)
With textual content by the poet Wilhelm Müller, Schubert’s music cycle — which has the dramatic breadth of theater, and an unlimited melodic language — tells the story of a delicate younger miller who falls in love with the gorgeous miller maid of the title, however is consumed by jealousy and, misplaced in his darkish ideas, drowns himself in a brook.
The youthful Mr. Appl, with vast eyes and animated dimples, regarded each bit the a part of Müller’s Romantic hero. Over the course of the 70-minute efficiency his face more and more shined with sweat and his sculpted hair misplaced its form, a serendipitous parallel with the miller’s descent into histrionics.
Yet he wasn’t overly dramatic. For essentially the most half, Mr. Appl gave a direct studying of the piece, restrained and stylish within the ultimate “Des Baches Wiegenlied,” and rationing theatrical moments for optimum impact: the unbridled pleasure of “Mein!,” the breathless rage of “Der Jäger,” the disturbing flip towards insanity of “Am Feierabend.”
That music — “Am Feierabend,” wherein the miller is upset that his crush mentioned good evening to everybody, to not him solely — showcased Mr. Appl’s best skills as a performer, but revealed the place he nonetheless has room to develop. His voice’s heat didn’t quiet carry to the highest of his vary, and one outburst verged on barking.
But the best way he navigated the music’s transformation, from disappointment to obsession, was so gripping and troublingly actual, I heard individuals throughout me exhale afterward, as if Mr. Appl had rendered them breathless.