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.
Expanding on the Schubert Weekend that took place in January 2018, Thomas Hampson returns to the Pierre Boulez Saal for Schubert Week, curated completely by Hampson himself. Kicking off the week will be an all-Schubert recital with Hampson and his longtime collaborator Wolfram Rieger, followed by workshops and a final concert presented to the public with singers from the Festival Akademie of the Heidelberger Frühling.
Thomas Hampson kicks off the new year returning to Illinois to perform a series of concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and teach a masterclass at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. These engagements mark Mr. Hampson’s return to Chicago since the release of his debut album with Cedille Records, “Songs from Chicago”, an album featuring songs by early mid-twentieth-century composers from Chicago.
Thomas Hampson travels to the Middle East for concerts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Under the baton of Vasily Petrenko, he will join the ensemble for nine concerts and perform a recital with Polish pianist Maciej Pikulski.
The Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood spotlighted Leonard Bernstein’s wide-ranging talents as a composer, his many gifts as a great interpreter and champion of other composers, and his role as inspiration for a new generation of musicians and music lovers across the country and around the globe. This gala concert featured a kaleidoscopic array of artists and ensembles from the worlds of classical music, film, and Broadway, like Mr. Hampson, Audra McDonald, Midori, Yo-Yo Ma, Nadine Sierra, Susan Graham and Isabel Leonard among others.
On November 18 & 19, Hampson and the ensemble will perform Britten’s War Requiem at the Musikverein Wien. This harrowing work interweaves Latin mass text and text by Wilfred Owen accompanied by the Wiener Sängerknaben and Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien. Hampson shares the stage with star soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, and tenor Werner Güra.
More information and tickets are available via the Calendar page.
Thomas Hampson makes his highly anticipated debut with the Canadian Opera Company in the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian. Hampson sings the title role in this epic love story, based on the life of the Roman emperor Hadrian, with libretto by Daniel MacIvor. Led by Johannes Debus, the monumental production by Peter Hinton will open the COC’s 68th season beginning October 13 through October 27.
In song, you have one of the most amazing diaries of any generation’s culture at a given time.