International Performances of John Adams’s The Wound Dresser with the New York Philharmonic

Thomas Hampson continues his year-long appointment as the first Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence of the New York Philharmonic with a program featuring John Adams’s The Wound-Dresser, which Hampson will perform both in New York (Jan 14-16) and on tour with Alan Gilbert on the conductor’s first European tour with the Philharmonic. The tour will feature performances in Barcelona (Jan 21), Madrid (Jan 24), Cologne (Jan 24), Dortmund (Jan 30), Paris (Feb 2) and London (Feb 4).


While in New York, Hampson gave the annual Erich Leinsdorf Lecture on January 11 at the Walter Reade Theater. In the talk, entitled “Listening to Thought: Awakening of the American Voice”, Hampson addressed the impact of poet Walt Whitman on American song, with particular reference to Adams’s setting of Whitman’s “The Wound-Dresser,” and the emergence of American identity. Additionally, on January 15, Hampson was featured in discussion with WQXR’s 105.9 FM’s Jeff Spurgeon as part of the New York Philharmonic’s “Offstage at Barnes & Noble” (66th Street and Broadway). The event also featured a short performance and CD signing.

Hampson comments on the significance of performing Adams’s powerfully evocative work, which was written in 1989 and is a setting of Whitman’s 1865 poem about his experience as a nurse during the American Civil War:
“I think whenever you take serious American repertoire to Europe you’re making a statement that needs to be made. We have a much varied and interesting depth of repertoire and thought in America that very often isn’t appreciated. Certainly all of our arts and letters here in America are dominated by people’s immediate perceptions of geopolitics. It’s an important message to communicate – that we have a deep-thinking, profound relationship with questions of war and suffering and life and love like any other country.

“John Adams’s piece has become an icon of American literature in a short amount of time. It is the best of what Walt Whitman writes. It’s about compassion. It’s not an anti-war statement. It is a kind of reflection of human need and human misery and aggression, met with living compassion that any political party in any country needs to embrace. I’m very, very proud to be with the New York Philharmonic in taking that to Europe.”

The baritone is the New York Philharmonic’s first Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence, and throughout the season – the first with Gilbert as the orchestra’s new Music Director – Hampson is taking part in a variety of activities (16 events in all) that showcase his wide-ranging talents as performer, music enthusiast, and scholar. On New Year’s Eve, he sang a program of Copland songs and selections from Broadway musicals in a concert that was televised nationally on Public Television. In November, he was a soloist with the orchestra in Zemlinsky’s opulent Lyric Symphony, and presented the first of the three lectures he is giving this season.

In the spring, Hampson will sing a recital in Alice Tully Hall, co-presented by the orchestra and Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Song” series (April 11), and will join members of the orchestra in the inaugural season of its “CONTACT!” new music series (April 16 & 17), performing a new work especially written for him by Matthias Pintscher.

The singer was recently named the orchestra’s Leonard Bernstein Scholar. His third and final lecture of the season, “Listening to Thought: A Guide to German Romanticism”, will take place on April 5 at Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse and will explore the iconography, metaphor, and imagery of this epochal period for European art song.