‘Doch meine Saiten tönen/Nur Liebe im Erklingen!’ (‘But my strings sound out only love in their tones!’) sings the bard in Schubert’s An die Leier, the third track on my Disc of the Week. It’s a sentiment which certainly resounds throughout this innovative and warm-hearted collaboration between American baritone Thomas Hampson and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, which places Samuel Barber’s setting of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach alongside eleven songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Wolf in new arrangements for voice and strings by the British composer David Matthews (whose work includes arrangements of Mahler songs in partnership with his brother Colin as well as eight symphonies and thirteen string quartets).
Hampson and the ensemble are old friends (they first worked together in the 1990s, and their projects together have included a chamber version of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn); the programme was put together for a European concert-tour in spring 2014, and arose from a desire to augment the rather scant repertoire for baritone and ensemble (even Dover Beach, the only work on the disc to include strings in the original scoring, is ‘upscaled’ here from the composer’s setting for voice and string quartet).
The results have immediate appeal and integrity, with the new timbres always enhancing rather than obfuscating the text, and striking a quite wonderful balance between fidelity to the spirit of the originals and little touches of happy anachronism here and there: the wide-open spacing of the chords in the second stanza of the first song (Wolf’s raptly pastoral Auf einer Wanderung, brought to quivering life here with breathless tremolos and surging glissandi) rather put me in mind of Vaughan Williams’s fantasias, whilst elsewhere the writing evokes the atmosphere of Britten’s Simple Symphony and the string serenades of Elgar and Tchaikovsky. The macabre glee of Wolf’s Der Rattenfänger (a distinctly adult incarnation of The Pied Piper) is captured with particular relish, all scurrying pizzicati and wiry sul ponticello (playing near the bridge of the instrument) effects as the itinerant musician-cum-pest-controller (appropriately enough, another string-player!) chases down vermin and erotic conquests alike with wily grace.
Thomas Hampson returns to the Verbier Festival this month as a Verbier Academy Faculty member, presenting a series of Masterclasses. Focused on specific topics in singing, these Masterclasses will take place on July 21 & 22 (Opera) and July 23 & 24 (Lied/Art Song). The classes are open to the public – visit VerbierFestival.com for detailed programme information.
Thomas Hampson is a featured contributor to the newly launched platform MUSAIC, from the New World Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas. Mr. Hampson and other acclaimed artists, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, are featured in various site content including master classes, interviews, and more. Watch and learn today at musaic.nws.edu!
On July 8, Thomas Hampson is a featured artist in an Opera Gala concert, hosted at the Opernhaus Düsseldorf. This special annual event, presented by the Friends of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, includes the talents of the Duisburger Philharmoniker and Deutsche Oper am Rhein chorus, led by Axel Kober. Other soloists for the evening are Lavinia Dames, Luiza Fatyol, and Maria Kataeva, on a programme that includes operatic highlights by Rossini, Mozart, Verdi, and more. A limited number of seats remain for this extraordinary summer concert – purchase your tickets at the following link!
Mr. Hampson sings a recital as part of the Munich Festspiel on June 28. Accompanied by pianist Wolfram Rieger, the Mahler cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn will be performed in its entirety. Composed at the turn of the century, Mahler set this collection of anonymous German folk poems to music, originally written for either soprano or baritone. Mr. Hampson and Mr. Rieger are well-known for their interpretation of this cycle, and have performed it numerous times together in premiere international venues. For example, the pair interpreted the cycle in 2002 in Paris at the Théâtre du Châtelet, which can be viewed via YouTube. A few years later, Mr. Hampson discussed the importance of the cycle as an Artist-in-Residence with the New York Philharmonic in this discussion.
Hampson and Rieger’s upcoming performance will be held at the Nationaltheater, in the heart of Munich.
On June 16, 17 & 18, Thomas Hampson is the featured soloist with the Orquesta Nacional de España, under the direction of David Afkham. The concert programme is titled “The Origin of the Future” and highlights selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn as well as Schoenberg’s Pelleas et Melisande, Op. 5. Tickets: ocne.mcu.es/programacion/el-origen-del-futuro
This summer, Thomas Hampson and bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni reunite for their acclaimed “No Tenors Allowed” programme. They perform with the Gewandhausorchester at the Open Air-Bühne im Rosental on June 23 & 24 under the baton of Alexander Shelley. The programme includes selections by Rossini, Mozart, Massenet, Gounod, and more.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.