Thomas Hampson Premieres Jennifer Higdon's Civil Words

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Every Tuesday this spring, we're re-broadcasting concerts from the Carnegie Hall Live 2014-15 season. Tune in June 16 at 9 pm a recital by the American baritone Thomas Hampson, joined by Wolfram Rieger on the piano. The program, which Hampson calls "War Cries and Lamentations," traces a story about war themes, reflected in songs by Strauss, Mahler, Vaughan Williams, Bernstein, Ives and more, as well as the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon's song cycle Civil Words (set to Civil War texts).

Hampson begins the program with a series of five Strauss songs before delving further into wartime themes with Mahler's "Revelge," a declaration of the uselessness of aggression; then Hindemith's "O, nun heb du an, dort in deinem Moor," a Walt Whitman setting; and onto Charles Ives's Three Songs of War.

Selections on African-American themes and Leonard Bernstein's "To What You Said" from Songfest round out the evening.

Civil Words, by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon, reflects on the meaning of the Civil War and was commissioned by Carnegie Hall especially for this program.

WQXR's Jeff Spurgeon co-hosts the broadcast with the soprano Angela Meade

We asked you to share your thoughts during the concert on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CHLive. Below is a collection of your tweets and photos.

Performers

  • Thomas Hampson, Baritone
  • Wolfram Rieger, Piano

Program

Note: Songs preceded by an * have not been approved for the streaming audio archive.

  • R. STRAUSS "Heimliche Aufforderung," Op. 27, No. 3
  • * R. STRAUSS "Freundliche Vision," Op. 48, No. 1
  • R. STRAUSS "Mein Herz ist stumm, mein Herz ist kalt," Op. 19, No. 6
  • R. STRAUSS "Sehnsucht," Op. 32, No. 2
  • R. STRAUSS "Ruhe, meine Seele," Op. 27, No. 1
  • ZEMLINSKY "Mit Trommeln und Pfeifen," Op. 8, No. 3
  • MAHLER "Revelge"
  • HINDEMITH "O, nun heb du an, dort in deinem Moor," Op. 14, No. 2
  • VAUGHAN WILLIAMS "Joy, Shipmate, Joy!"
  • * VAUGHAN WILLIAMS "A Clear Midnight"
  • HINDEMITH "Sing on There in the Swamp"
  • IVES "Tom Sails Away"
  • IVES "The Things Our Fathers Loved"
  • IVES "In Flanders Fields"
  • JENNIFER HIGDON Civil Words (World Premiere, commissioned by Carnegie Hall) (* The first and last of the five songs are not available for archived streaming)
  • BURLEIGH "Ethiopia Saluting the Colors"
  • * BONDS "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"
  • BERGER "Lonely People"
  • BERNSTEIN "To What You Said" from Songfest

AUDIO: Jennifer Higdon on Civil  Words


AUDIO: Hampson Speaks With Host Jeff Spurgeon:


→ Angela Meade's Top 5 Bel Canto Arias

More About This Program

By Brian Wise

Opera fans know that Thomas Hampson can find his way around the major repertoire, be it Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Wagner or Berg.

But the American baritone, who was long based in Europe and now lives in New York, channels some of his greatest enthusiasms into building song recital programs. Case in point: "War Cries and Lamentations," the theme of this Carnegie Hall recital with pianist Wolfram Rieger.

The program is loosely tied to multiple anniversaries – notably, the centennial of the end of World War I and the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery – with songs by a dozen composers, from Mahler to Leonard Bernstein.

"I'm very preoccupied with American history and cultural history," Hampson told host Jeff Spurgeon in a recent interview. "I find that song is one of the greatest identifiers of cultural history. Seeing culture through the eyes of poets and the ears of composers is what really drives me in my work in song."

Hampson has previously created ambitious, multi-platform projects like "Song of America," developed with the Library of Congress and broadcast as a 13-week public radio series, and "I Hear America Singing," with concert programs on texts by Walt Whitman and other American writers.

The centerpiece of this latest effort is Civil Words, a five-song cycle by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon and featuring texts by Abraham Lincoln, Thaddeus Oliver and William and Cullen Bryant, among others. The set begins, however, with five songs by Richard Strauss, included because last year was the composer's 150th birth anniversary. (Strauss largely avoided addressing war themes in his songs, instead preferring topics of love and loss.)

Hampson proceeds in semi-chronological fashion with the drummer boy's plaint of Mahler's "Revelge'; two songs by Vaughan Williams (who served in World War I); a Walt Whitman setting by Hindemith in tribute to Abraham Lincoln; and Charles Ives' Three Songs of War. Songs by three African-American composers (including two settings of poetry by Langston Hughes), and Bernstein's "To What You Said" cap the evening.

Hampson admits that he agonized over this program a good deal, and for a while had two versions in his mind before settling on the finished concept. "A program like this could easily become finger wagging and I don't believe in finger wagging," Hampson told Spurgeon. "It's more like turning the kaleidoscope and different perspectives on the individual."