Thomas Hampson Premieres New Song Cycle by Michael Hersch in San Francisco February 26

Following performances of songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Indianapolis Symphony February 22 and 23, Thomas Hampson heads to San Francisco for a recital with pianist Wolfram Rieger.  Their program at Herbst Theatre on Tuesday, February 26 features music by Schumann and Barber, as well as the world premiere of a new song cycle by Michael Hersch. Hampson discusses the new work in the commentary that follows:

I’m thrilled to be going back to San Francisco for this recital, which will feature an important world premiere.  Composer Michael Hersch has written a beautiful cycle for me, Domicilium, based on poetry by Thomas Hardy.  I’ve known Michael for several years – in fact, one of the first conversations that he had about writing vocal music was with me and the Pittsburgh Symphony about 15 years ago, when he wrote that orchestral piece for them [Ashes of Memory], a powerful work that Mariss Jansons felt very strongly about. Michael and I have regular contact since then, and this new cycle is the first project we’ve done together.

I think it’s wonderful that this young American composer has focused on the poetry of such an important and influential English author as Thomas Hardy, whose poems are known to music lovers through well-known settings by Finzi.  The cycle is comprised of five songs and the first one is only for the piano.  In typical Hersch fashion, he’s gone to using “extracts” – almost Haiku-esque poems of Hardy that are extremely abstractionist.  The story in these poems is in the bits that aren’t actually said!  It’s hard to describe the effect in words, but Hersch has created a soundscape of supposed memory and implied emotions.  It’s very powerful stuff.

I’m so pleased that this important new work is on a great program that starts with a quintessential song cycle by Schumann, his Liederkreis Op. 39.  This cycle, which features poems by Eichendorff, is, in its own way, abstract.  We’re also doing a number of songs by Samuel Barber.  I find Barber and Schumann very close compatriots in the landscape of the soul in song.  Together with the Hersch work this will be a challenging but I think very engaging recital.

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