This edition of Take 5 features renowned American baritone Thomas Hampson! Songs from Chicago, his debut album on Cedille, is a program of songs by five composers of the early 20th century associated with the city of Chicago: Ernst Bacon, Florence Price, John Alden Carpenter, Margaret Bonds, and Louis Campbell-Tipton. All of them, Hampson says, “have distinguished themselves in history as great voices of the artistic American narrative.” The poetry used in these songs is equally distinguished and includes poem by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali poet who became the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Songs from Chicago is available September 14, 2018.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?
My life, without music?! Tough to imagine it. I would enjoy running a young artist program or a music school or maybe be a radio host, so I could still be close to the music and connect with audiences in a different way. I can also imagine running an opera company.
What is your most recent project and what sparked your interest in it?
I’m getting ready for the world premiere of Song of America: Beyond Liberty at the Glimmerglass Festival. This is a project I’ve been working on for quite a while, and am counting the days until its debut. We – myself, pianist Lara Downes, the Beyond Liberty Players, and several guest artists – will bring American stories and songs to all 50 states and more over the next few years. We’ll connect with every community we visit through concerts, master classes, teacher workshops, and outreach programs. For me, this is a passion project in every sense of the word.
Was there a formative moment for you as an artist?
I’ve been very lucky in my life and career. Many people, including idols of mine, have offered me formative and important moments. Sister Marietta Coyle, my first voice teacher, awakened something in me. She encouraged me to continue learning history, politics, and literature all throughout my musical studies. Leonard Bernstein gave me wings, inspiring and challenging me throughout every one of our collaborations. Nikolaus Harnoncourt offered me priceless guidance and always drove me to question, to learn, and to explore. I’m grateful for all three of them, and for the others who have had a profound influence on my soul and my art.
What album/band are you listening to right now?
Anything from Wynton Marsalis, especially the live albums, and Willie Nelson’s new album has great tracks.
What makes the Chicago classical music scene unique?
Chicago has always been one of America’s most exciting music hubs and has inspired generations of musicians. You have a world-class orchestra, the legendary Ravinia Festival, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago which is just fantastic, to name a few of the biggies, as well as phenomenal blues and jazz clubs. Although I spend a lot of my time singing classical music, I love to sing American songs that reflect specific regions, or in this case, cities. For me, Songs from Chicago recognizes many of the almost forgotten creative spirits from this city, and it celebrates the rich musical heritage which is unlike anywhere else in the world.
From September 23 – 28, Thomas Hampson and Melanie Diener, worldwide acclaimed soprano from Waiblingen, teach – for the first time in 2019 – an opera workshop at the Bürgerzentrum Waiblingen to outstanding singers of the new generation.
After his curated Schubert Week at Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal this past January, Thomas Hampson returns to the Kongresshaus Stadthalle Heidelberg to lead the Heidelberg Lied Academy from March 21-24. As artistic director, Hampson and fellow renowned mentors and pianists, Hartmut Höll and Ammiel Bushakevitz, will work with the Lied Academy Scholars in public and private masterclasses, with the scholars performing a final concert on March 24.
Thomas Hampson sings with the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra on March 9 & 10, part of the Classix Series: Trailblazers, bringing a concert full of stories about trail blazers that have shaped history and our world. At the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, Mr. Hampson joins the orchestra for Michael Daugherty’s song cycle Letters from Lincoln. Hampson debuted the work in 2009 with the Spokane Symphony, which was recorded and released by Koch Records. Purchase links and more information is available via Hampson’s Recordings.
On March 6, Thomas Hampson returns to Tokyo for a special concert with superstar soprano Angela Gheorghiu and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at Suntory Hall. Under the baton of Eugene Kohn, Ms. Gheorghiu and Mr. Hampson perform beloved operatic arias and duets by Bizet, Verdi, Lehár, and more. Hampson and Ms. Gheorghiu have previously collaborated on a number of critically acclaimed records including Verdi’s Il trovatore, Bizet’s Carmen, and Massenet’s Werther. More information is available via Hampson’s Recordings.
Thomas Hampson performs his “Song of Liberty: Beyond America” project in his hometown of Spokane, on March 1 with pianist Lara Downes and an ensemble of musicians from the Spokane Symphony. Marking the west coast premiere of his new project, Hampson performs an all-American program that explores the influential people, poetry and events that helped create and define our nation. At the Martin Woldson Theater, using song, personal anecdotes and historical monologues, Hampson will take the audience on a journey through American history as seen through the eyes of poets and the ears of composers.
On February 24, Thomas Hampson, clarinetist Daniel Ottensamer, and the Wiener Virtuosen perform music by Mozart, Mahler, and Dvořák at the Musikverein. Hampson will perform Dvořák’s Zigeunerlieder and songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a work he has championed and recorded with the Wiener Virtuosen. Released in Mahler Year 2011, the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death, the album was Hampson’s first ever studio recording of the orchestra version of Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.