Friday, September 18, 2009

Thomas Hampson and Vlad Iftinca to give recital of German and American Songs

by Rodney Punt

Even in these budget-challenged times, the LA Opera devotes some of its resources to the art of song, and thanks be for that. American mega-baritone Thomas Hampson with piano collaborator Vlad Iftinca returns to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Saturday, October 3 at 7:30 pm, for a survey of two contrasting song traditions, those of Germany and the USA. When an artist of Hampson's caliber comes to town with comparable talent as his pianist, a song recital can be an enlightening experience, as many remember from his last recital a few seasons ago at UCLA's Royce Hall.

Hampson has significant ties to Southern California, having studied in his formative years at Santa Barbara's Music Academy of the West. While much of his career has been spent in Europe, with a long domicile in Austria, in recent years he has returned to his roots in the States. Always supplementing his formidable opera presence with concert and recording work in Lieder (German art songs), he is now one of the most important proponents of American song as well.

The Romanian-born pianist Iftinca has worked with several New York-based singers in recent years. As a staff pianist at the Metropolitan Opera and a coach with the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, he is also active in developing young singing talent, as well as collaboration with other pianists, notably in recordings of works for four hands.

If opera is the macrocosmos of vocal music, song is its microcosmic counterpart. The current production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen depicts externalized action on an cinematic scale. By contrast, a recital of Lieder conveys human emotions through internalized musical snapshots. Most songs last no longer than three or four minutes; singer and pianist take their places on the stage before us unadorned with theatrical setting or movement. The chromatic musical palate of song is every bit as rich as opera, but where the latter comes in dazzling Technicolor, the palate of song with piano accompaniment registers with us more like the equally beautiful flickering colors of an opal.

The LA Opera has been kind enough to provide the program selections to LA Opus in advance of the recital
The German first half surveys the Lieder tradition from its near beginnings with the incomparable Franz Schubert, through the emotionally charged atmosphere of Franz Liszt’s progressive Romanticism, and on to two of its final exponents, Richard Strauss and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The program includes three gems of Schubert (An die Leier, Das Fischermädchen, Der Doppelgänger), three rarely heard songs of Liszt (Im Rhein im schönen Strome, Es rauschen die Winde, Die drei Zigeuner), a single song of Korngold (Pierrot’s Tanzlied from Die tote Stadt), and four late Romantic offerings from Strauss (Himmelsboten, Freundliche Vision, Traum durch die Dämmerung, Heimliche Aufforderung). What Schubert had begun in Vienna, Korngold summed up in Hollywood, as the most famous composer of the Golden Age of American film, though the song above was from his Vienna days before emigration to our shores.

The program shifts gears for its second half with mostly single song selections of no less than 11 American composers, “A Panorama of American Song” according to the program, including a rarely sung Stephen Foster piece (Open Thy Lattice, Love) two crowd-pleasers from Aaron Copland (The Dodger, The Boatmen’s Dance), a Charles Ives selection (Charlie Rutlage), and one by a former resident of our own L.A. West Adams district, the late and beloved William Grant Still (Grief).

Further program info can be found on Hampson’s website, and particularly the song projects page, which has several essays on American song. For tickets, contact the LA Opera's website.

Don't miss the opportunity of hearing Thomas Hampson at the peak of his artistic powers with a pianist in sympathetic partnership with him. Whatever your mood when you arrive, the variety of songs to be offered from these fine musical artists should guarantee some will chime with your state of mind - or shift it to a higher level !


Anonymous said...

saw him at the Bowl and he was wonderful!

Rodney Punt said...

Dear Anonymous:

We were out of town for the Mahler 'Songs of a Wayfarer' at the Bowl but all reports, including yours, were full of praise. Hope you can make this upcoming recital.