Thomas Hampson’s decades-long championing of the music of Gustav Mahler reaches new heights in the coming weeks with the release of his new recording with the Wiener Virtuosen of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn on Deutsche Grammophon (Dec 21).  Music-lovers worldwide will have the chance to preview the new release when it is available for streaming in its entirety as part of NPR Music’s popular “First Listen” series (Dec 13-21, at www.npr.org/series/98679384/first-listen).  Soon after, Hampson heads to New York to sing the composer’s Kindertotenlieder in three concerts with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Alan Gilbert (Jan 6-8).  While in New York, Hampson will perform and discuss songs by Mahler – as well as music by Schubert, Schumann, and some American composers – in a front of a live studio audience at the the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR (Jan 10).  This will be broadcast live at 7pm on Classical 105.9 FM WQXR and www.wqxr.org and available as a live video webcast at www.thegreenespace.org.  The music of Gustav Mahler, who was born 150 years ago and died a century ago next May, is the centerpiece of Hampson’s 2010-11 season, when the baritone will perform Mahler’s music in 50 recital and concert programs with the world’s greatest orchestras and leading conductors.  A film crew has been following Hampson throughout his Mahler odyssey, preparing a documentary about Mahler’s life and music that will be broadcast this spring in Europe.

Hampson has long been regarded as the premier interpreter of Mahler’s songs.  He has recorded nearly 20 Mahler albums to date, including long-famous renditions with Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic for DG, and has performed the songs around the world and studied them extensively throughout his career.  Hampson’s scholarly work over two decades with a team of researchers has produced authoritative critical scores of the composer’s complete songs (the Hilmar-Hampson Editions) for voice and piano and for voice and orchestra, published by Universal Edition, the same publisher that issued Mahler’s music in his lifetime.

Despite this extensive Mahler resume, Hampson has nonetheless described the new Des Knaben Wunderhornas “the recording [he] always wanted to make.” Joining the baritone on the new album is the Wiener Virtuosen, a conductor-less ensemble comprised of principal players of the Vienna Philharmonic.  Hampson’s decision to work with a smaller group of musicians, and not a full orchestra, reflects his desire to capture the “Kammerton” – “chamber tone” – that Mahler proposed for these songs, most notably in correspondence with Richard Strauss.  The orchestrations heard on the new recording are exactly as Mahler wrote them, but the reduced forces enhance the chamber-music style of dialogue between instruments and voice that Mahler sought in order to maximize the expressive intent of the words.

The inspiration for Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn) was a three-volume collection of “folk songs” by that name published by Romantic poets Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano between 1805 and 1808, which enjoyed widespread popularity in the 19th century.  From this vast collection, Mahler selected various poems that he set to music over the course of several years.  As the new album’s liner notes point out:

“The 14 Wunderhorn songs for voice and orchestra comprise humoresques, ballads, and grotesque numbers that inhabit different stylistic worlds so that even during the composer’s own lifetime it proved impossible to group them together as a cycle, quite apart from the fact that they were written over a period of several years.  No doubt because they were published as a single collection, the 20th century believed, mistakenly, that the order in which they were printed must be binding.  Rather, they fall under four separate headings in terms of their style and content: children’s songs – dance songs – satirical songs; scenes from nature – tales and parables; this world and the next; and the fates of soldiers and other individuals.”

Though the poems are youthful in terms of their Romantic spirit and subject matter, Mahler characteristically transforms them into deeper ruminations about the ups and downs of human existence, mixing sweetness and naivety with mischievousness and satire to captivating effect.

Additional information about the new album is available at this DG mini-site: www.deutschegrammophon.com/hampson-mahler.

Hampson began the worldwide celebrations of Mahler’s life and music on July 7, 2010 – Mahler’s 150th birthday – in Kaliste, Czech Republic, with a recital from the composer’s birth house, streamed live on medici.tv, as well as an internationally televised orchestral concert, available on DVD.  Later in the summer he performed Mahler’sDas Lied von der Erde with the NDR Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg and Alan Gilbert on a four-city tour that included the final concert of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.  Hampson’s upcoming performances with the New York Philharmonic will be his first with the orchestra since his term last year as its first Mary and James G. Wallach Artist-in-Residence.  This spring, the baritone joins Gilbert and the orchestra on tour in Europe for the second consecutive season, performing Mahler songs in several cities (May 12-23, venues tba).

Hampson’s other Mahler performances this season include concerts with such orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic, Hamburg’s NDR Sinfonieorchester, the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, and Czech Philharmonic, with conductors including Mariss Jansons, Philippe Jordan, and Antonio Pappano.  Hampson also features the composer’s songs in a series of recitals in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Vienna, Zurich, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Milan, Madrid, and Oslo, and – as “Mahler Artist-in-Residence” – presents the complete songs at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie.  A detailed list of his upcoming performances follows below.

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Thomas Hampson: upcoming performances and special events

December 5 – January 1
Zurich, Switzerland
Verdi: I masnadieri (new production)

December 7-28
Opera Galas, Switzerland
Geneva (Dec 7); Basel (Dec 10); Bern (Dec 14); Lucerne (Dec 17); Bern (Dec 21); Zurich (Dec 28)
Württembergische Philharmonie / Ola Rudner

December 21
Release of Deutsche Grammophon recording of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Wiener Virtuosen

January 5
New York, NY
Presentation (Insights Series: “Kindertotenlieder: Mahler’s Requiem?”)
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse

January 6-8
New York, NY
Mahler concert (Kindertotenlieder)
New York Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert

January 10, 7pm
New York, NY
Special performance and interview with WQXR host Jeff Spurgeon
Live broadcast and video webcast from the Greene Space at WQXR

January 14
Vienna, Austria
Mahler concert (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)
Vienna Philharmonic / Mariss Jansons

January 16
Paris, France
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

January 18
Hamburg, Germany
Mahler concert (Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)
Vienna Philharmonic / Mariss Jansons

January 20 & 21
Prague, Czech Republic
Mahler concert (Kindertotenlieder)
Czech Philharmonic / Eliahu Inbal

January 26
London, UK
Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony
London Philharmonic / Vladimir Jurowski

January 29 – February 4
Mahler tour (Kindertotenlieder) with Czech Philharmonic / Eliahu Inbal
Paris (Jan 29); Luxembourg (Jan 31); Rotterdam (Feb 1)

February 15
Duke University, Durham, NC
“Song of America” recital

February 18
Athens, GA
Bolcom: Laura Sonnets (world premiere)

February 27
London, UK
Mahler concert (Das Lied von der Erde)
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden / Antonio Pappano

March 1
Hamburg, Germany
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

March 2
Hamburg, Germany
Symposium (“Mahler’s Life through his Songs”)

March 4 & 5
Mahler Festival concerts (early songs) with NDR Sinfonieorchester / Alan Gilbert
Hamburg (Mar 4); Bremen (Mar 5)

March 13
Oslo, Norway
Mahler and “Song Of America” recital with Craig Rutenberg

March 16-22
Heidelberg, Germany
Teaching residency
Heidelberg Frühling Festival: Heidelberg Lied Academy

March 20
Heidelberg, Germany
Recital with Wolfram Rieger
Opening Concert, Heidelberg Lied Academy

March 23
Bayreuth, Germany
Mahler/Liszt recital with Wolfram Rieger

March 25
Munich, Germany
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

March 28
Milan, Italy
Recital with Wolfram Rieger

April 2-20
Mahler tour of Europe with Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester / Philippe Jordan
(Das Lied von der Erde and Des Knaben Wunderhorn)
Interlaken, Switzerland (April 2 & 3); Paris, France (April 5); Vienna, Austria (April 7, 8, & 9); Athens, Greece (April 11 & 12); Madrid, Spain (April 14); Lisbon, Portugal (April 16 & 17); Turin, Italy (April 19 & 20)

April 28
Washington, DC
Crumb: American Songbooks
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

April 29
New York, NY
Crumb: American Songbooks
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

May 5-7
Berlin, Germany
All-Strauss program with Renée Fleming
Berlin Philharmonic / Christian Thielemann

May 12-23
Mahler tour of Europe with New York Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert (cities and repertoire TBA)

May 29
Zurich, Switzerland
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

May 31 & June 1
Amsterdam, Holland
Recital and master class with Wolfram Rieger

June 2
Saarbrücken, Germany
Recital with Wolfram Rieger

June 4
Brussels, Belgium
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

June 6
Vienna, Austria
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

June 13
London, UK
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

June 26 – July 10
Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich Opera
Wagner: Parsifal (Amfortas)

July 14 & 15
Winona, MN
“Song of America” recitals with Craig Rutenberg

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In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.

Thomas Hampson