Thomas Hampson Explores George Crumb’s American Songbooks in Washington, DC and New York City (April 28-29)

Thomas Hampson returns to the U.S. this month for two concerts with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, featuring songs from six of the American Songbooks by George Crumb.  The performances take place at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on April 28, and at New York’s Alice Tully Hall on April 29.  Soon after, Hampson sings an all-Richard Strauss program with Renée Fleming and the Berlin Philharmonic under Christian Thielemann in Berlin (May 5-7), before returning to the music of Gustav Mahler, on whom he has been focusing intensively this season.  The baritone’s six concerts with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic in the major music capitals of Central Europe (May 12-23) feature an all-Mahler program – Symphony No. 5 andKindertotenlieder – and mark the second consecutive season that Hampson has toured Europe with Gilbert and the orchestra.

Now 81 years old, composer George Crumb remains deeply engrossed in a long-term initiative inspired by the great American songbook – the same great American songbook to which Hampson returns again and again in study and performance.  In recent years, while the baritone toured the country with his “Song of America” project, Crumb was at work on his own American Songbook series.  The Songbooks showcase the composer’s remarkable command of timbre and theatrics, using a battery of percussion instruments to transform spirituals, hymns, Civil War songs, and other folk material into contemporary soundscapes.  In the two upcoming performances, Hampson sings a broad selection of songs from Crumb’s six completed sets.

The baritone first heard works from Crumb’s American Songbooks at the 2005 Salzburg Festival and was immediately captivated by them.  Crumb gave them to him on the spot, and Hampson notes:

“It is thrilling that such a renowned avant-garde composer as George Crumb would be drawn so deeply into the roots of American song.  In these works he has found an utterly original and moving way of encapsulating in musical tones, sounds, and sonic landscapes his powerful emotional response to those often simple musical narratives.”

The concerts in Washington and New York mark Hampson’s first performances of Crumb’s music, and he is thrilled that these haunting and evocative works will be performed at such important venues and with the great musicians of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.  “These songs are not sung as often as they deserve,” the baritone observes.  “I hope our performances will bring them more attention.”

Hampson’s Mahler odyssey continues

Thomas Hampson is currently on tour with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and conductor Philippe Jordan (the final concerts of the tour are in Turin, Apr 19 and 20), performing Das Lied von der Erde and Des Knaben Wunderhorn.  The tour is part of a season-long immersion – more than 50 concerts and recitals – in the music of Mahler, whose music has been central to Hampson’s repertoire for two decades.  The singer began the worldwide celebrations of Mahler’s life and music on the composer’s 150th birthday – July 7, 2010 – in Kaliste, Czech Republic, with a recital from Mahler’s birth house streamed live on, as well as an internationally televised orchestral concert available on DVD.

In January Hampson performed Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, soon after performing more Mahler orchestral songs with Mariss Jansons and the Vienna Philharmonic.  Hampson and Gilbert will reprise their interpretation of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder in May when the New York Philharmonic tours the major music capitals of Central Europe.  Hampson’s six concerts on the orchestra’s eleven-city tour include performances at Vienna’s famed Musikverein on May 15 and in Berlin on May 19.  These two dates bookend the centenary of Mahler’s death on May 18, 2011.

Earlier this year Deutsche Grammophon released Hampson’s recording of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, described by the baritone as “the recording [he] always wanted to make.” Joining him on the album is the Wiener Virtuosen, a conductor-less ensemble comprised of principal players of the Vienna Philharmonic.  The Wall Street Journal called the disc “superb,” while BBC Music magazine described it as “a wonderfully fresh imaginative take on the songs…[:] a constantly absorbing recital [with] pungent characterizations.”  Hampson’s 2010-11 Mahler odyssey draws to a close later this spring with a string of recitals with pianist Wolfram Rieger, including performances in Zurich (May 29), Amsterdam (May 31 & June 1), Brussels (June 4), Vienna (June 6), and London (June 13).

Thomas Hampson: upcoming performances

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

April 29
New York, NY
Crumb: American Songbooks
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Alice Tully Hall, 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
Basel, Switzerland (May 12)
Baden-Baden, Germany (May 13)
Vienna, Austria (May 15)
Berlin, Germany (May 19)
Dresden, Germany (May 21)
Leipzig, Germany (May 23)

May 29
Zurich, Switzerland
Mahler recital with Wolfram Rieger

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