MUSIC: Picking lotus and talking Rott
Thursday 30 March 1995
The detail of Hampson's artistry emerged in "Is my team ploughing?", a dialogue between a dying man and a younger friend. As the first recalled "the harness jingle", Hampson barely whispered; as the youth prepared to answer the dying man's last question, he inserted the slightest exhalation of breath, as of resigned toleration. His art is in the notes, and between them.
With his bold accompanist, Wolfram Rieger, crouched over the piano like Gary Oldman's Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, Hampson sang Mahler (Kindertotenlieder and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen) with great intensity. In the third of the wayfarer's songs, he achieved a rapturous diminuendo on the word "Sonnenschein". Then, bending at the waist like a soul singer, he voiced a frightening vehemence for "I have a gleaming knife in my breast". With accompaniment stripped back to piano, these songs become starker, more private. Hampson's power was measured in the length and depth of the silence after his last song. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to break the spell.
Two days later at the Barbican, Hampson was one of the "dream team" soloists for Das Lied von der Erde, the second leg of the LSO's Mahler series. Mezzo and tenor usually tackle this cycle, but Mahler was equally happy with the baritone option. The Canadian tenor Ben Heppner brought Wagnerian steel to the drinking song, yet also found a yielding quality to describe the spring blossom. Still, Hampson dominated, smiling teasingly as he contemplated young girls picking lotus blossoms, then serenely ecstatic in the long final farewell - a telling contrast to Michael Tilson Thomas, bobbing and weaving to coax ever more beautiful sounds from the orchestra.
The concert had opened with brief extracts from works by Hans Rott, a fellow-student of Mahler's at the Vienna Conservatory who died at the age of 26. As Tilson Thomas said in a brief introduction, there is "lyrical, pastoral enchantment" in Rott's music, and the Scherzo from his Symphony proved indeed to be a "mighty movement" - Mahler himself admired the Symphony, borrowed from it, and said that he and Rott were "fruits from the same tree". The LSO made much of Rott's brassy blasts and revelled in his writing for strings, from the most lustrous grandiloquence to the tiniest shudder of a single plucked string. Mahlerian indeed.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway in dense fog
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, TV review: Alexa Chung impresses, but Chris Moyles makes Paul Hollywood gag
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Seth Rogan's pot fumes delay hacked Sony boss’s office move
India's Daughter: BBC Four documentary provokes outrage on Twitter
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin