Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (1948) are among the most popular works for voice and orchestra in the entire repertoire, but the great composer’s Four Early Songs (1896/1897) Op. 33 – written more than five decades earlier – have remained virtually unknown.   Thomas Hampson has been working over the years to redress this imbalance (conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch introduced Hampson to the songs more than a decade ago), including this fall when he sang the Four Early Songs in season-opening performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  Hampson takes these songs up again on January 19 with Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic in an all-Strauss concert with soprano Karita Mattila (for ticket information visit http://shop.lpo.org.uk/performances/detail.asp?7903,63,0,0,0).  The Four Early Songs were among the few that Strauss wrote specifically for baritone and orchestra, and they are powerful, extremely evocative works.  Hampson discussed the songs at length in the fall with Jim Cunningham of Pittsburgh’s WQED, an interview that can be heard in a podcast available here.  Following the Pittsburgh performances, Andrew Druckenbrod reported for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “you knew this artistic titan and his mahogany tone would be enrapturing…and he was.”

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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