Rising Baritone: The Week in Classical Music | Modern Society of USA

Rising Baritone: The Week in Classical Music

Rising Baritone: The Week in Classical Music

And if you’re in Los Angeles (lucky you), check out the L.A. Phil, which is performing Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 12 — settings of lyrics from David Bowie’s album “Lodger” — under the baton of John Adams on Friday and Sunday. I spoke with Mr. Adams and Mr. Glass about the work:


It says something that a song cycle of despair, heartbreak, alienation and yearning for death has become an anthem of our unsettled times. Schubert’s mournful “Winterreise,” which he worked on up to his death at 31, has been a regular feature of recent New York seasons, sung by some of the world’s greatest singers.

I have seen stagings of the cycle, but I have never seen a performance more theatrical than the one the German baritone Benjamin Appl gave, without any props at all, on Thursday in the Park Avenue Armory’s intimate Board of Officers Room.

It was the kind of vocal acting — fearlessly physical, with a broad palette of tones and styles, and a willingness to go for the occasional unbeautiful moment when called for by the text — that could devolve into histrionics. But Mr. Appl was utterly convincing.

He made a vivid miniature of each song. For “Frühlingstraum,” Mr. Appl brought out the Jekyll-and-Hyde contrast terrifyingly. After singing the sweet opening passage, a vision of merry birds in a May meadow, he seemed to turn on a dime, changing his voice and bearing to deliver the shock of the next section: a bitter waking nightmare of crowing roosters, shrieking ravens and loneliness.

It was only in those ferocious moments that you realized his foreshadowing: How, even in the loveliest passages of the song’s opening, there had been something unhinged in his voice, and his eyes. MICHAEL COOPER

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