Appl opened his lunchtime recital with Schubert's delicious song about bliss - Seligkeit. And it set the tone for a blissful hour of music making.
The theme for the recital was Heimat - a curiously German concept embodying more than just homeland and family. What it was - on this occasion - was the opportunity for Appl to take us on a very personal journey through his love of art song and how his own life has been shaped by people, places and events. Through brief introductory remarks, he helped guide us through his song choices and gave them a context which enhanced our enjoyment of the music.
Appl is always a pleasing figure - he is the poster boy for this year's Lieder Festival (and indeed for modern lieder recitals). His baritone is getting better with each passing year. He is finding more colour, more variation and relishing the language - mining it for deeper meaning and understanding. He was sensitively accompanied by James Baillieu who supported the singing without ever once imposing himself on proceedings. It was a masterclass on how singers and pianists should work together. They made the frequently cavernous Sheldonian Theatre feel intimate and warm.
The programme was a clever mixture of the familiar with the unknown. Alongside the familiar Schubert, there were some lesser-known composers represented. The highlight of those was a delightful song from Adolf Strauss - Ich weiß bestimmt, ich werd' dich wiedersehen. Written in a concentration camp, it is a piece full of yearning and beauty - made tragic given the circumstances of its composition. Appl sang it with a lightness of touch which matched the beauty and tragedy perfectly.
Other highlights included Wolf's Verschwiegene Liebe - probably the emotional core of the programme for me. Deceptively simple but totally engrossing throughout. I was also taken by Waldeinsamkeit by Schreker - another song completely new to me - but sung with clarity and commitment, it has already become one that I have revisited since leaving the recital.
Whilst totally at home in German, Appl did struggle a little to communicate when he performed a section of English song but I can forgive that given the overall quality of the recital.
It was a memorable hour - over in an instant - we can but hope that Appl will continue to grace