Thomas Hampson's 2010-11 Season Highlighted By Music Of Mahler
Though the music of Gustav Mahler is the cornerstone of Thomas Hampson's 2010-11 season, the baritone will take some time away from the Austrian composer this month to devote his energy to two other great passions: American song and teaching. On February 15, Hampson continues his ongoing "Song of America" project with a wide-ranging recital of American songs at Duke University. Later that week, he will give the world premiere of William Bolcom's Liszt-inspired Laura Sonnets with pianist Craig Rutenberg. The performance will take place at the University of Georgia, Athens on February 18 as part of the American Liszt Society's celebration of the 2011 bicentennial of Franz Liszt. In between, the baritone returns to the Manhattan School of Music to coach hand-selected voice students on pieces from the American songbook. Hampson's master class on February 14 at 4pm will be presented before a live audience at the school and simultaneously streamed to a virtual global audience via Manhattan School of Music's web site (www.dl.msmnyc.edu/live) and Hampson's and MSM's own CMSLC Android, iPhone (iOS), and Smartphone apps powered by InstantEncore. February ends with a return to Mahler, when he performs Das Lied von der Erde in Schoenberg's chamber version (completed by Rainer Riehn) in London's Cadogan Hall on February 27, with Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Hampson's "Song of America" project, an ongoing collaboration with the Library of Congress, has gone from strength to strength since he first introduced it in 2005. Last season, the Financial Times observed, "The 'Song of America' project reaffirms Hampson's talent for fusing a searing intellect with artistry of the highest order." A Chicago Tribune review noted, "With a voice like oiled oak, capable of infinite tonal shadings, and a gift for storytelling possessed by few of his colleagues, Hampson made each song as dramatically potent as any character in his operatic arsenal." The Boston Globe called his "Song of America" recital at the Tanglewood Music Festival a "triumph," adding, "Hampson is a prince among musicians, a commanding presence, with a remarkable, flexible instrument, and lots of virile tone. He keeps on discovering new and worthy music. He deserves all the applause he got, and there was a lot of it." Ticket information for the February 15 performance at Duke University is available here: dukeperformances.duke.edu/series/duke-artists-series/thomashampson.
Commissioned by the American Liszt Society, Bolcom's set of five new Laura Sonnets - inspired by the sonnets of Francesco Petrarch - pay homage (tacitly) to the masterful Petrarch Sonnets of Liszt himself. The Laura Sonnets refer to Laura, Petrarch's idée fixe much as Beatrice was Dante's. In the tributary collection, the Rime Sparse, Laura's name becomes a source of word games and (sober) puns. Of the Sonnets, Bolcom writes: "I think that the miracle of these foundational works is of perfect balance between emotion and artifice. In this context it doesn't matter whether Laura ever actually existed. But if she did or did not exist in the flesh, she exists now in these sonnets as indubitably as does Bernini's Daphne at Rome's Villa Borghese, caught in stone as she turns into a laurel tree."
Hampson comments: "Having known and admired William Bolcom's vocal music throughout my career, I am very honored to have been asked to premiere his new song cycle based on texts by Petrarch. The American Liszt Society's innovative idea to commission one of America's leading composers to set Petrarchan sonnets to be premiered at its Liszt conference at the University of Georgia is very exciting and appropriate." Ticket and other information is available here: www.uga.edu/music/lisztfest2010.
Hampson is no less enthusiastic about returning to the Manhattan School of Music for another master class that will reach far beyond the confines of the classroom:
"My close relationship with the Manhattan School of Music is well known and I always especially look forward to my yearly master class at the school. The powerful mix of high-level musical performances and the use of far-reaching educational technologies under the auspices of MSM's Distance Learning program make these events some of the most exciting forums in higher education today. The fact that the upcoming class will be available live to a virtual global audience not only on desktop computers but also on handheld mobile devices, such as Androids, iPhones and Smartphones, is especially thrilling."
Hampson, a Manhattan School of Music Distinguished Visiting Artist, made history with the school last spring when his Mahler master class became the first classical music event to be video streamed live through an iPhone/iTouch app. Stephen Smoliar wrote an extensive review of the live webcast for the Examiner, noting - under the headline "Thomas Hampson, cyberspace pioneer" - that the quality of the video "certainly exceeded my expectations by more than I would have dared anticipate." He went on to conclude, "[Hampson] has come to recognize that education can no longer be confined to the traditional boundaries of curriculum. One needs to learn new ways to approach the 'real world'; and Hampson could address that particular learning need today by the most valuable technique possible, setting an example."
Also this month, Hampson will host the Metropolitan Opera's "Live in HD" transmission of John Adams's most famous opera, Nixon in China, which will be shown in theaters worldwide on Saturday, February 12, at 1pm ET. Celebrated director and Adams-collaborator Peter Sellars makes his long overdue Met debut with the production, with the composer himself conducting.
The New Year began with a flourish of Mahler-related activity for Hampson, starting with the release on Deutsche Grammophon of his new recording of Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Wiener Virtuosen and performances of Kindertotenlieder with the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert. While in New York, Hampson discussed the new album, and performed a selection of songs by Mahler and other composers, at the Greene Space, which was webcast and broadcast live by WQXR (audio and video available here: www.wqxr.org/articles/live-broadcasts/2011/jan/10/thomas-hampson-the-greene-space). Other January highlights included a recital in Paris, and performances with the Vienna Philharmonic and Mariss Jansons; the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Jurowski; the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Eliahu Inbal in Prague; and on tour in Paris and Luxembourg.