Thomas Hampson, Mahler
As his 13-week "Song of America" radio series fans out successfully across the American airwaves, Thomas Hampson returns to the US for a series of high-profile concerts, recitals and a company role debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera, all featuring signature repertoire.
He begins by collaborating for the first time with Gustavo Dudamel, with whom he will perform Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (Jan 13-15). "Song of America" recitals, with pianist Craig Rutenberg, follow at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Jan 22), and in Clinton, MS (Jan 24), Nashville, TN (Jan 26) and Sarasota, FL (Jan 30). Hampson then teams up with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for Brahms's Requiem and Dvorák's Bible Songs (Feb 3-5), before heading to New York for his company role debut as Verdi's Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera (six performances March 15 – April 9).
Hampson's "Song of America" project reached a new high this fall with the introduction of a 13-week "Song of America" radio series. The project – which began as a collaboration with the Library of Congress, presenting recitals and outreach activities – has taken Hampson to cities across America, presenting his explorations of both beloved and unjustly neglected music that, in his words, "says everything about the culture we call American." Conceived and developed by Hampson, the new radio series is syndicated by the WFMT Radio Network of Chicago to public radio stations across the country. Each hour-long program – narrated by Hampson – focuses on a particular topic that sheds light on a larger theme in American history, and includes approximately 40 minutes of songs drawn from archival and modern recordings, plus stories and insights about the people and events that inspired those songs.
While many stations began airing the series in the fall, it will also be heard on many additional stations starting in 2012, including WQXR 105.9 FM in New York, which will broadcast the programs on Sundays at 9 pm, starting on January 8. The series, which was made possible by the Hampsong Foundation and the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, will also be offered to members of the European Broadcasting Union and to stations in other countries around the world. A list of the 208 stations and translators participating thus far is available at www.songofamerica.net/radio, which also houses various online resources to complement the 13 programs.
Stations already airing the series have been enormously pleased with the responses they have received from listeners (some of whose comments appear under a separate heading below), and programmers have offered their own words of praise. Caitriona Bolster, Music Director for KWAX-FM in Eugene Oregon, comments: "This is a series that should be required listening for anyone interested in American social and cultural history, literature, and music. Thomas Hampson does a superb job of bringing the past to life with a directness and passion that are irresistible."
Carl Blare of KDXRADIO.COM adds, "In our 50th year of concert-music broadcasting we could recite for you the usual American composers, but not until Thomas Hampson's 'Song of America' series did we realize the other universe of songs that have been overlooked by most modern media. The series brings to life an inheritance of not only the songs but also the anecdotes that name the people, place and time involved with each song's creation. 'Song of America' is an audio encyclopedia worthy of permanent residence on the reference shelf."
WFMT's music director, Andi Lamoreaux, comments: "Thomas Hampson articulates both knowledge and enthusiasm in his introductions to a wide range of music in 'Song of America'. The shows are extremely well written, and the varied music choices showcase a number of fine American singers past and present."
Mahler songs have been a staple of Hampson's repertory for more than two decades; his performances of these masterworks with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January are something of a coda to Hampson's special involvement with the Austrian composer's music last season, during which the baritone devoted many performances to the Mahler year (commemorating the 150th anniversary of his birth and the 100th anniversary of his death). Recognized as today's leading interpreter of the Austrian composer's songs, Hampson began the worldwide celebrations on July 7, 2010 – Mahler's 150th birthday – in Kaliste, Czech Republic, with both a recital from the composer's birth house, which was streamed live on medici.tv, and an internationally televised orchestral concert, now available on DVD. Throughout the season Hampson performEd Mahler with prominent conductors and leading orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic. His new recording of Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Wiener Virtuosen – a conductorless ensemble comprising principal players of the Vienna Philharmonic – was widely acclaimed, bringing Hampson his third ECHO Klassik prize, generally recognized as the German equivalent of the Grammy Award.
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