Program Book for "Water: A Musical Celebration of America’s Heartland and Heart"
Thomas Hampson, baritone
Vlad Iftinca, piano
Christie Finn, program notes and research
Program from this eventJuly 2011 “Water” Recital (PDF) (pdf / 1.32 MB)
Rivers must have been the guides which conducted the footsteps of the first travelers. They are the constant lure, when they flow by our doors, to distant enterprise and adventure, and, by a natural impulse, the dwellers on their banks will at length accompany their currents to the lowlands of the globe, or explore at their invitation the interior of continents.Henry David Thoreau
Introduction from the Program Booklet
Today’s recital celebrates the surging waters of America and their influence on the American experience and imagination. The recital was inspired by the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and the illustrious Burrichter/Kierlin Marine Art Collection and represents a confluence of aesthetic experiences: the music of our composers, the words of our writers, the paintings that surround us, and the presence of the Mississippi River itself.
The current exhibition in the museum, “America’s Great Rivers,” has served as a launching point for the concept of today’s concert and remains the focal point of this recital. Rivers are the great transporters of both body and mind; they also give us points of orientation to build upon. With a river, there’s always the place you’ve come from, the place you’re going to –and the fluid presence of the present. In their motion, rivers have created the contour of the American landscape, a geography that has been deeply influential for American artists of all genres. In gathering songs about America’s rivers, the complex influence of water on the American intellect and its broad impact became more and more apparent.
Physically and metaphorically, water has been powerful in mapping the American sense of home and the American imagination. Intriguingly, images of water can create a bridge between the tangible and intangible, the inner and outer world. So, in addition to songs about specific rivers, the recital also includes songs ranging from settings of Walt Whitman’s existential texts, like Ned Rorem’s “Gliding O’er All” and Michael Tilson Thomas’ “At Ship’s Helm,” to socially conscious songs, such as Margaret Bonds’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and Woody Guthrie’s “Roll On, Columbia.” Songs from the collections of English art songs and French chansons are also embraced in this recital. These songs of the European tradition reflect America’s devoted fascination with European art and landscape as well as the profound influence of American geography and art on European culture.
In this program booklet, you can read about today’s music and its cultural and historical significance while looking at paintings from the “America’s Great Rivers” exhibition, plus works from the permanent collection of the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and the Burrichter/Kierlin Marine Art Collection. Sometimes the location of the painting is an exactly match to the subject of the song, such as Ned Rorem’s song “The Lordly Hudson” and Jasper Francis Copsey’s View on the Palisades on the Hudson. However, oftentimes, the image and the text represent different places, but still share an atmosphere, mood, or subject. We hope that today’s auditory, visual, and textual narrative will inspire you to embrace a full sensory experience of the American relationship with water.
~ Thomas Hampson and Christie Finn (Program Notes and Research)