Klosters Music: You will perform the opening concert of “Klosters Music 2020” on 31 July together with pianist Simon Lepper and the Vienna Piano Trio and sing Beethoven’s song cycle “An die ferne Geliebte”. What do you associate with this work cycle?
Benjamin Appl: During my studies in Munich I learned the cycle, which I was later allowed to work on with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. It was also the work I sang in my first concert outside Europe at the Ravinia Festival near Chicago. So Beethoven’s masterpiece is a piece that I’ve been carrying around with me for a long time and I’m always trying to shed new light on it. It is incredibly topical in my eyes, even if some images may seem a bit outdated: In my years as a young adult I often listened to “An die ferne Geliebte”, especially when I was travelling and yet longed for someone or when I was newly in love. This unspent, sometimes naive view in music and lyrics always gave me the drive to see things in a more romantic or positive light.
KM: “Klosters Music” in 2020 is all about Ludwig van Beethoven. What was your first contact with Beethoven or what does this composer mean to you?
BA: My first contact with Beethoven was probably the second movement from the “Pathétique” Sonata. I developed a great love for this music, so I listened to it often and repeatedly as a child to build Lego or Playmobil. Beethoven somehow manages to lift people into all kinds of spheres, whether into the idyll or into the darkest corners. In December 2018, I was allowed to sing Mahler songs in a stadium in Osaka in front of 17,000 people. In the second part of the concert, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was on the programme with 10,000 people in the choir. What I experienced there gave me goose bumps. Thousands of Japanese singers – all reciting from memory – gave the text “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” with their whole soul: a sign of togetherness, connected around the globe – that is Beethoven.
KM: You have been working with Simon Lepper for many years. Is there a special moment or a special memory of your concerts with Simon Lepper that you would like to share with us?
BA: With Simon I was able to experience many wonderful moments. He is not only an excellent musician and one of the leading song pianists, but also a special, interesting person with whom one also likes to spend time. This is incredibly important in a musical relationship between song accompanist and singer. There are many excellent pianists, but only a few can convey the trust that the singer on the podium needs. Especially the two concert tours to India with Simon were something very special: from the monkey who suddenly honoured us on stage, to very wonderful encounters with concert visitors who had never heard Western, classical music before.
KM: You are performing for the first time in the mountain village of Klosters in the Swiss Grisons. What do you expect?
BA: I love Switzerland and often toy with the idea of spending more time here. For me, the mountains are the place where I can best recharge my batteries. After having seen pictures of Klosters, I am especially looking forward to it. Such unique surroundings inspire making music immensely.
KM: Which of your future engagements are you most looking forward to and why?
BA: That is a good question, especially from the point of view of Covid-19. I would put it more like this: At the moment I am happy about every engagement that can be carried out. There are some courageous organizers – among them especially Klosters Music – who will organize concerts again under certain hygienic precautions. That is really balm for the soul. In the past months there have been a lot of offers of live streams and broadcasts, but all this does not replace the live concert, where musicians and audience experience and share something together – and that is what I am most looking forward to.
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