Thomas Hampson returns to US for Mahler, Song of America, Macbeth and more
As Thomas Hampson’s “Song of America” Radio Series Takes Off, Baritone Returns to US for Concerts, Recitals and First Met Macbeth
As his 13-week “Song of America” radio series fans out successfully across the American airwaves, Thomas Hampson returns to the US for a series of high-profile concerts, recitals and a company role debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, all featuring signature repertoire. He begins by collaborating for the first time with Gustavo Dudamel, with whom he will perform Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (Jan 13-15). “Song of America” recitals, with pianist Craig Rutenberg, follow at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (Jan 22), and in Clinton, MS (Jan 24), Nashville, TN (Jan 26) and Sarasota, FL (Jan 30). Hampson then teams up with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for Brahms’s Requiem and Dvorák’s Bible Songs (Feb 3-5), before heading to New York for his company role debut as Verdi’s Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera (six performances March 15 – April 9).
Hampson’s “Song of America” project reached a new high this fall with the introduction of a 13-week “Song of America” radio series. The project – which began as a collaboration with the Library of Congress, presenting recitals and outreach activities – has taken Hampson to cities across America, presenting his explorations of both beloved and unjustly neglected music that, in his words, “says everything about the culture we call American.” Conceived and developed by Hampson, the new radio series is syndicated by the WFMT Radio Network of Chicago to public radio stations across the country. Each hour-long program – narrated by Hampson – focuses on a particular topic that sheds light on a larger theme in American history, and includes approximately 40 minutes of songs drawn from archival and modern recordings, plus stories and insights about the people and events that inspired those songs.
While many stations began airing the series in the fall, it will also be heard on many additional stations starting in 2012, including WQXR 105.9 FM in New York, which will broadcast the programs on Sundays at 9 pm, starting on January 8. The series, which was made possible by the Hampsong Foundation and the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, will also be offered to members of the European Broadcasting Union and to stations in other countries around the world. A list of the 208 stations and translators participating thus far is available at www.songofamerica.net/radio, which also houses various online resources to complement the 13 programs.
Stations already airing the series have been enormously pleased with the responses they have received from listeners (some of whose comments appear under a separate heading below), and programmers have offered their own words of praise. Caitriona Bolster, Music Director for KWAX-FM in Eugene Oregon, comments: “This is a series that should be required listening for anyone interested in American social and cultural history, literature, and music. Thomas Hampson does a superb job of bringing the past to life with a directness and passion that are irresistible.”
Carl Blare of KDXRADIO.COM adds, “In our 50th year of concert-music broadcasting we could recite for you the usual American composers, but not until Thomas Hampson’s ‘Song of America’ series did we realize the other universe of songs that have been overlooked by most modern media. The series brings to life an inheritance of not only the songs but also the anecdotes that name the people, place and time involved with each song’s creation. ‘Song of America’ is an audio encyclopedia worthy of permanent residence on the reference shelf.”
WFMT’s music director, Andi Lamoreaux, comments: “Thomas Hampson articulates both knowledge and enthusiasm in his introductions to a wide range of music in ‘Song of America’. The shows are extremely well written, and the varied music choices showcase a number of fine American singers past and present.”
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Mahler songs have been a staple of Hampson’s repertory for more than two decades; his performances of these masterworks with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January are something of a coda to Hampson’s special involvement with the Austrian composer’s music last season, during which the baritone devoted many performances to the Mahler year (commemorating the 150th anniversary of his birth and the 100th anniversary of his death). Recognized as today’s leading interpreter of the Austrian composer’s songs, Hampson began the worldwide celebrations on July 7, 2010 – Mahler’s 150th birthday – in Kaliste, Czech Republic, with both a recital from the composer’s birth house, which was streamed live on medici.tv, and an internationally televised orchestral concert, now available on DVD. Throughout the season Hampson performed Mahler with prominent conductors and leading orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic. His new recording of Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Wiener Virtuosen – a conductorless ensemble comprising principal players of the Vienna Philharmonic – was widely acclaimed, bringing Hampson his third ECHO Klassik prize, generally recognized as the German equivalent of the Grammy Award.
Hampson’s return to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in March will mark his first time performing one of his signature roles – Verdi’s Macbeth – with the company. When he portrayed the role for the first time in the U.S., at San Francisco Opera in November 2007, Joshua Kosman reported enthusiastically, “Just when there seemed to be no way for Thomas Hampson’s performance in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’ to get any more majestic or wrenching, it did … [An] unqualified triumph.” In Opera News, Georgia Rowe called Hampson’s achievement “a performance of sustained beauty and authority throughout.”
Listener responses to the “Song of America” radio series
“The program on Arthur Farwell was brilliant! Long ago, Thomas Hampson introduced me to Farwell’s music, and his music on Native American themes, as presented on this program, just brought me to tears it was so wonderful. The whole program was truly memorable.” — a listener from Los Angeles
“I’m enjoying the radio shows in Salem, Oregon!” — a listener via Facebook
“This is a GREAT program! Heard Stephen Foster and Walt Whitman and just yesterday, songs of downtrodden groups in this country. Now I MUST be home in time to hear ‘Song’ every Sunday. Thanks, Thomas Hampson!” — a listener via Facebook
“I think it is a very wonderful and important series. Quite riveting. I know that radio always does lots of surveys to assess the audiences for its programming. I hope they will do it for Thomas Hampson’s series because I’m sure the results will be gratifying.” —a listener from Los Angeles
“I think Thomas Hampson does such a good job by gathering all the interesting historical stuff! He’s a real intelligent factotum (like that famous Spanish hairdresser). I think he uses every inch of his talent. And, indeed, it is nice if the message of American song would be more and more spread in Europe, just like the German songs are known all over the world. By modern technology the world is already getting one country to a certain level, so why not make all art global known.” — a listener from the Netherlands