Walt Whitman wrote, “I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear.” The American experience – the courage and the struggle and the hope of the American people – has long been reflected in her rich tradition of poetry and song. The Music Division reaches beyond Capitol Hill to celebrate this great tradition with The Song of America Project, and the face of this project is renowned baritone Thomas Hampson. In collaboration with the Library of Congress , Hampson celebrates the American art song via a popular concert tour.
Last Thursday at the Coolidge Auditorium, The Library of Congress gave Thomas Hampson the Living Legend Award as part of a concert program that highlighted songs from his recent tours. Hampson is a leading interpreter of the songs of Gustav Mahler, and has dedicated much of the past year to a celebration of the Austrian composer. On July 7, 2010, the sesquicentennial of Mahler’s birth, Hampson kicked off the proceedings in Kaliste, Czech Republic, with a recital from the composer’s birth house and an orchestral concert televised worldwide.
The program at the Coolidge was led by Hampson’s masterful renditions from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. But the baritone also showed his range and the variety of art song with Samuel Barber’s settings of James Joyce, William Henry Davies, and Fredrick Prokosch. Finally, the program concluded with titles featured during the Song of America tour. This part of the program began appropriately enough with “My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free,” a composition by Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Compositions by Arthur Farwell, Aaron Copland, and Charles Ives rounded out the bill, as well as that most American of composers, Stephen Foster. Visit the Song of America page in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia for video of Thomas Hampson in recital, and find manuscripts, sheet music and recordings of chestnuts like Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer ” and other songs featured in the tour.
Portions of this post were adapted from program notes written by James Wintle, Music Reference Specialist. For the full program notes, click here. [pdf]