Feb 23, 2017
As readers of last week’s newsletter will be aware, Thomas Hampson’s Tides of Life (in which the American baritone joins forces with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta in lieder by Wolf, Schumann, Brahms and Schubert, arranged for voice and string ensemble by David Matthews) has been receiving a significant amount of air-time in the Presto editorial office over the past month; in my review of the disc last Friday, I promised an interview with the man himself, and here it is! We’re very grateful to Mr Hampson for taking time out of rehearsals for La traviata at the Met (which opens tomorrow, with Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Fabiano as Violetta and Alfredo) to talk to us about his long-term friendship with the Amsterdam players, the themes at the heart of the programme and the pleasures of revisiting these songs in their new ‘clothing’!
How did you settle on which songs to have arranged? Did you have a particular theme in mind for the disc, or was it more a case of the piano parts of these particular songs leaping out as being especially suitable for strings?
I’m happy to say that the collaboration with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta on all of our projects is one of mutual fascination, trust, and unencumbered collaboration. At the outset, the Brahms songs, and the Barber string quartet/string ensemble were the givens. As we decided to do a large group of Schubert and Wolf songs, my concentration was particularly on variety of moods, however in a kind of wondering reflective atmosphere, and of course a musical and poetic agogik that I felt particularly enhanced by a string ensemble versus piano. We came up with the title of the album much later, but in retrospect it would seem that our mutual desire for this project was one of embracing life’s myriad moments of reflection, whether profound, euphoric, or simply observational.
Following on from that, was it a deliberate decision to include songs which make references to strings and string-players: Der Rattenfänger and An die Leier?
It was not a conscious decision, but an interesting observation on your part. It certainly didn’t hurt, and probably was not lost on our public.
What was behind the decision to add upper voices to Ständchen (one of our favourite tracks in the Presto office!)?
The inclusion of the girls’ choir for the Schubert extension came from a concert we did at the Concertgebouw for their sponsors and patrons and specifically celebrating youth in music. Simon Reinink, the director of the Concertgebouw, had the idea to invite this marvelous choir, and as I was asked about the piece I was glad to confirm I had sung it with the Vienna boys’ choir at one time and found it a wonderful idea for a young girls’ choir. That we later included them in a couple of our public programs and added them to our CD project just seemed a very natural and wonderful idea. I’m glad you liked it.
Katherine Cooper – Presto Classical
On this week’s episode of He Sang/She Sang, hosts Merrin Lazyan and Julian Fleisher are joined by dramaturg Cori Ellison to discuss Verdi’s mythical and timeless masterpiece, La Traviata. We also speak with baritone Thomas Hampson, who has been singing the role of Germont for 25 years. Hampson tells us how the complex and beautiful dilemmas that we find in this opera help us to better understand who we really are.
Picks from across the week on In Tune with Sean Rafferty: opera singers Thomas Hampson, Michael Fabiano and Tara Erraught …
Back in 2007, baritone Thomas Hampson gave a Distance Learning Voice Master Class at the Manhattan School of Music. In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of that event, the American singer and the renowned conservatory are rejoining forces for the same program.
“Thomas Hampson is a proper stuffed-shirt as Alfredo’s father Germont senior as he persuades Violetta to leave his son for the sake of the family honor and adding a fine “Di Provenza il mar,” one of the great baritone arias, in Act II.”
Wilborn Hampton – Huffington Post
“It’s not only the singing of baritone Thomas Hampson, on top form, that makes this recital so enjoyable; it’s the affectionate new string arrangements, joyously played by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta – as leader Candida Thompson describes it, “a big string quartet” of two dozen players. All but one of the arrangements are by David Matthews, who adds texture and illumination to already radiant songs, refreshing these lilies without gilding them. Intertwining solo violins make the opening of Wolf’s song Anakreons Grab magical; squeaking strings conjure up the rodents in his Der Rattenfänger. Another highlight is Bob Zimmerman’s gossamer version of Schubert’s Ständchen (“Zögernd leise”), the echoes sung by a girls’ choir. Brahms’s Four Serious Songs find Matthews drawing on darker sonorities. Hampson, full of authority, ends on Barber’s masterly Dover Beach, which seems only to benefit from its quartet parts being lent the weight and security of a full string orchestra.”
Erica Jeal – The Guardian
On March 15 at 4pm ET, Thomas Hampson returns to the Manhattan School of Music to lead his 10th Annual Master Class and Live Webcast. The live stream will be available to watch via dl.msmnyc.edu/live, with an archived broadcast available online following the event (details TBA). The 2016 Master Class can now be enjoyed at the following link; complete program details from that Master Class are also listed online in PDF format.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.