Thomas Hampson Gives Second World Premiere of his 2012-13 Season with New Chamber Work by Mark Adamo

Thomas Hampson gives the world premiere of a new song commission from one of America’s principal younger composers,Mark Adamo. Scored for baritone and string quartet, Adamo’s Aristotle (2013) was written for Hampson to sing with the Jupiter String Quartet. After giving its world premiere performance together at UC Davis on Wednesday, April 24, they will tour the new work to Boston’s Celebrity Series (Fri, April 26) and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where they will present its New York premiere on Sunday, April 28.

Italian-American composer Mark Adamo (b. 1962) is best known for his operas Little Women and Lysistrata; the New Yorker’s Alex Ross calls him “one of the best opera composers of the moment.” Yet Adamo’s exceptional ear for vocal writing also lends itself to other lyric forms, as already evidenced by his settings of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, his song cycle The Racer’s Widow, and his cantata, Late Victorians. For Hampson, “[Adamo’s] ability to write lyric music” makes for “some of the most extraordinary music being written today.”

Adamo’s new chamber work, Aristotle, is the setting of a poem of the same name by former national Poet Laureate Billy Collins, which explores the nature of beginnings (where “almost anything can happen”), middles (“the sticky part where the plot congeals”), and the ends that are, “according to Aristotle, what we have all been waiting for.” Shedding light on the poem’s appeal to him as a composer, Adamo explains:

“If you’re awarded the privilege of making music for a singing actor the caliber of Thomas Hampson, and for young musicians of the caliber of the Jupiters, one wants to compose a piece that is both a substantial monologue and a structurally rewarding string quartet at the same time. Billy Collins’s pellucid Aristotle made that possible. The range of Collins’s images nudged the string writing into new (for me) colors and registers while demanding each movement retain its own character.”

For Hampson’s upcoming appearances at the Mondavi Center in Davis, Boston’s Jordan Hall, and New York’s Alice Tully Hall, he will be joined by the Jupiter String Quartet, which recently impressed the Washington Post with its combination of “freewheeling excitement and precise ensemble playing.” Besides giving the first performances of Aristotle together, Hampson and the quartet will also team up at all three venues for selected Lieder by Hugo Wolf.

The new commission marks the baritone’s second world premiere of 2012-13, which is the fourth consecutive season in which he will have presented world or North American premieres. As Hampson confides, he considers himself “so blessed to have the kind of career where I can do so much of the great standard repertoire with the world’s best conductors but also get to work with so many important composers of our own time.”

Hampson was most recently seen at the Vienna Symphony, giving concert performances in the title role of Simon Boccanegra that were recorded for future release on the Decca label (April 13 & 17). Verdi’s Doge has become something of a signature role; at Lyric Opera Chicago, John von Rhein concluded that “at a time when true Verdi baritones are a rare commodity, [Hampson] gave an impressive and deeply considered performance in this touchstone Verdi role” (Chicago Tribune). The baritone next looks forward to reprising his portrayal at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where he will headline a production of Simon Boccanegra by Elijah Moshinsky, with Antonio Pappano on the podium (June 27–July 16).