Thomas Hampson Sings World Premiere of New Song Cycle by Michael Daugherty
Commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s Bicentennial Letters from Lincoln
Premiered with Spokane Symphony February 28 and March 1
Thomas Hampson (pictured), the internationally acclaimed baritone and fervent advocate of American music, celebrates the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln with a concert on February 28 in his hometown of Spokane, Washington, performing the world premiere of Michael Daugherty’s Letters from Lincoln. The work is a song-cycle based on American poems, and was especially commissioned for the occasion by the Spokane Symphony. The performance will be repeated on March 1, and recorded by Koch Classics for release on CD. These concerts are the culmination of a five-week, city-wide Lincoln Festival sanctioned by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, one which emphasizes the fact that President Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1865 helped open up the West.
While both singer and composer note that this piece is a departure from Daugherty’s past work, both are pleased with the outcome. According to Thomas Hampson:
“The dialogue is beautiful in Daugherty’s setting – it’s very natural, not contrived. The musical language takes us deeper into the metaphor of what the words stand for. Michael has a wonderful way of setting the English language.”
Hampson grew up in Spokane and began his musical education there, before relocating to Europe in the 1980s. He recently moved back to the United States and has just appeared in his third Metropolitan Opera production of the season, performing the title role of Tchaikovsky’s Romantic, Pushkin-based tragedy Eugene Onegin. When he first portrayed the haughty aristocrat at the Met in 2001, the New York Times said, “Thomas Hampson is moving from strength to strength these days; his Onegin was truly fine.” This season, opposite soprano Karita Mattila, who was singing her first Met Tatiana, the Times reported that Hampson “subtly conveyed the hauteur of the entitled, clueless hero”:
“Mr. Hampson captured Onegin’s patronizing decorum in advising Tatiana to be more cautious about confiding herself to men who may not be so discreet. … In the final scene, years later, when Onegin re-encounters Tatiana, now married, … Mr. Hampson was the embodiment of a young man who realizes too late what a haughty fool he was to have dismissed Tatiana’s feelings as some schoolgirl crush, [and] fill[ed] the phrases with desperation.”
The Financial Times was similarly impressed:
“Tall, dashing and intelligent nearly to a fault, [Hampson] was equally persuasive expressing Onegin’s narcissistic swagger and traumatic desperation … . [His voice] rang with incisive fervor and poised lyricism.”Thomas Hampson is a renowned recitalist and scholar, and established the Hampsong Foundation to promote to the art of song and the song recital. He was recently named next season’s Artist-in-Residence of the New York Philharmonic – the first under Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s next Music Director. While a student at Eastern Washington University in Spokane , Hampson made his debut with the Spokane Symphony at the Fox Theater, where the performances of Michael Daugherty’s Letters from Lincoln take place. Hampson continues to be instrumental in the restoration of the Fox Theater and presented a benefit concert as part of the opening of the newly-restored theater as Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, in December 2007.