J-Wire: An Evening with Thomas Hampson and the MSO

Ron Jontof-Hutter – J-Wire

“The highlight of the evening was without doubt Thomas Hampson singing Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, (Songs of a wayfaring Journeyman.) The text, written by Mahler is autobiographical, depicting his journey from place to place as a young conductor gaining experience.

Influenced by one of Mahler’s favourite books on German folk poetry, ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn,’ the poems describe his passionate feelings towards Johanna Richter, a blue eyed singer he was in love with but jilted by her. The first song ‘Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht’ (On my sweetheart’s wedding day) followed by ‘Ging heut’ Morgen ueber’s Feld (I went out this morning into the fields), Ich hab’ ein gluehend Messer (I have a hot gleaming knife) and ‘Die zwei blauen Augen( The two blue eyes) describe a young Mahler wearing his heart on his sleeves, and his sense of despair at unrequited love.

Mr. Hampson is a singer of exceptional artistry and easy to understand why he was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein. He displayed a stage presence that went beyond his rich baritone voice. With each song, he brought out the essence and fullness of Mahler’s emotions. Mr. Hampson not only connected with the orchestra and Maestro Molino’s excellent orchestral accompaniment, but connected with the audience to great effect. His voice was congruent with his body language and facial expression enhanced by excellent diction, dynamics and phrasing.

Following the wistful but lyrical ‘Ging heut’ Morgen…’ Mr. Hampson sang the dramatic ‘Ich hab’ein gluehend Messer’ with such intensity of tone and conviction that I felt as if I was sitting in the room with Mahler as he expressed his grief, pain and torment. The short stabbing articulated quavers depicting the stabbing knife into his chest highlighted Mr. Hampson’s understanding, if not empathy, of the intense grief that Mahler surely felt.

Mr Hampson’s elegant, warm and charming stage manner was highly appreciated by both orchestra and audience. Hopefully he will visit again.”