Winter JourneyBBC TV, December 2021 – date TBC

Winterreise on Alpha Classics released 11 February 2022

Benjamin Appl and James Baillieu in recital at Wigmore Hall on 18 February 2022

Franz Schubert’s masterpiece, his song cycle Winterreise (‘Winter Journey’), was written shortly before his death in 1828, at the age of only 31. On his winter journey, the singer wanders as a lost soul in harsh terrain, wracked with conflicting emotions, but consoled by his memories of kinder times – a vivid reminder of the emotional anguish that can touch every generation, whether from personal rejection, or from exile enforced by political, cultural or military pressures.

Benjamin Appl first encountered Winterreise as a singer – not a listener – when asked to perform it at short notice and has been hooked ever since. This winter sees the release of a John Bridcut film for BBC TV entitled Winter Journey (December 2021, date TBC), a new recording on Alpha Classics (released 11 February 2022) and a live performance at Wigmore Hall (18 February 2022) – all with pianist James Baillieu.

Benjamin Appl commented, ‘Every time I perform it, Winterreise feels like a new and different journey, depending on my own mood, the atmosphere in the hall, and of course the shared creativity with the all-important pianist. This journey will be lifelong, as no singer ever gets tired of it, or feels he or she has mastered it. Fischer-Dieskau’s ten recordings are proof of that. For singers, Schubert’s wanderer is a lifetime companion, yet a daunting one as we confront all the great recordings and performances that are already out there. The challenge for every singer is not to be inhibited, but to find fresh ways of understanding and transmitting both words and music to their own generation. Somehow, in Winterreise, Schubert has made space for that potential. As Benjamin Britten said: “Every time I come back to it, I am amazed not only by the extraordinary mastery of it, but by the renewal of the magic. Each time, the mystery remains.”

Winter Journey, BBC TV, December 2021 (date TBC)

This beautiful film by John Bridcut is shot in and around the Julier Tower, built at the 2,300m summit of the Julier Pass in south-east Switzerland. The Julier Tower is an extraordinary 30-metre-high red wooden structure that was unveiled in late 2017. Out of time and place, it stands in splendid magisterial isolation – but will be dismantled in August 2023 – a tribute to the fleeting nature of theatre performance. Whilst it remains in use, this film uses its many evocative spaces to stage the ultimate musical portrait of isolation: Schubert’s song-cycle Winterreise – the telling of a young man’s wintry self-isolation as he wanders in the open, wracked with emotional turmoil. This is a personal journey for baritone, Benjamin Appl, who sings Winterreise in locations in and around the tower with pianist James Baillieu. Winter Journey was commissioned by Head of BBC Music TV Commissioning Jan Younghusband.

Winterreise, Alpha Classics, release date 11 February 2022

Benjamin Appl begins a rich collaboration with Alpha Classics featuring many projects over a period of several years, starting with Schubert’s epic song cycle Winterreise with pianist James Baillieu, which will be released on 11 February 2022. This release will be followed by a recital album entitled ‘Forbidden Fruit’, combining the works of several composers and telling the story of The Creation – it will explore multiple shades of humankind in a unique and creative way. Benjamin Appl will then devote a recording to a composer he particularly admires and to whom he is very close, György Kurtág, and he will also pay tribute to his teacher and mentor, the legendary baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in a separate release. Further artistic projects and collaborations alongside these initial projects will intertwine mainstream repertoire with new discoveries.

Wigmore Hall, 18 February 2022

A chance to hear Benjamin Appl and James Baillieu perform Winterreise, one of the supreme challenges of the lieder repertoire, live at Wigmore Hall on 18 February. General Sale for this concert will open at 10am on Tuesday 30 November. More information here.