Thomas Hampson & Mahler
Giuseppe Verdi, divertissements for Nabucco
Gustav Mahler, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (selection)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
America's most famous baritone, Thomas Hampson, is known for his extraordinarily inspired and technically flawless interpretations. As a Lieder singer, no work is better suited to him than Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, a collection of songs that he has already recorded twice: once with piano and once with the principal players of the Wiener Symphoniker (Deutsche Grammophon). Mahler based Des Knaben Wunderhorn on texts of folk songs collected in the book of the same name. Themes such as nature, devotion, longing, love, farewell, death and the joy of a child are dealt with in stories, for example, about Anthony who preaches to the fish, about dead soldiers who appear at roll call, and a singing competition between a nightingale and a cuckoo with a donkey as the referee. Masterfully orchestrated, the songs are sometimes ironic, sometimes humorous, or unexpectedly surrealistic.
In 1876, Tchaikovsky started an eccentric correspondence with Nadezhda von Meck, a wealthy widow who would support the Russian composer financially for 13 years. The only condition was that they would never see each other in person. Tchaikovsky decided to dedicate his Symphony No. 4 to her and kept her informed of his progress. “The introduction,” he wrote, “sows the seed for the whole symphony and at the same time serves as its central theme. It is fate, the Sword of Damocles hanging over us, a force we can but passively endure.” The symphony is greatly influenced by turbulences in Tchaikovsky’s personal life – such as a brief, hasty marriage to a young conservatory student that ended disastrously, numerous periods of depression and ultimately a suicide attempt. However, the work is also a reflection on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. Tchaikovsky’s introductory fanfare serves more or less the same function as Beethoven’s well-known four-note motif.
Michael Schønwandt, conductor
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Michael Schønwandt, born in Copenhagen, is Principal Conductor of the Opéra Orchestre National de Montpellier.
Thomas Hampson, America’s foremost baritone, has received international honors and awards for his captivating artistry and cultural leadership.