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'I have never actually hosted such an event in Europe,' Hampson said in Munich. 'The idea was born after I did a two-part German television documentary of Schubert's Winterreise, where I not only performed all the Lieder but also commented on each one. This was very successful and when I was asked to host this event, I decided to give it a go, although it is a little problematic doing it all in German since German is not my first language.'

Hampson also spoke of the technical difficulty of going immediately from singing to his hosting duties and vice versa.

'I enjoy this challenge enormously, despite the intrinsic difficulties involved in such a task,' he said. 'I feel an inherent need to bring the wonders of classical music closer to audiences everywhere. In today's time, which is characterised by so much trouble, music is an art form that truly transcends all differences and unites people from all backgrounds. Music does not distinguish between races or nationalities. My hobbies are poetry and symbolism because music is filled with symbolism, just like poetry is. And that is why music related to the real kind of life that is going on underneath our masks. I feel that we are all essentially the same. We all have fears, we all love someone, and we all have problems. What you see on the outside is not really what is going on. There is so much happening beneath the surface and especially classical music can unite us all in getting beyond what is visible to the eye. That is why it is so sad that classical music as an art form is getting increasingly less attention in today's fast-paced lived modern life. I hope people enjoyed this combination of my hosting and singing. We may have found yet another way to bring the wonder of classical music closer to the hearts of a wider audience.'

Although he has never had any formal acting or hosting training, Hampson feels that his love for music and his inborn need to share it with others is as good a qualification as any. Since the American is in the enviable position that everyone likes him, he was a great success as a host, as could be expected. With just the right mixture of humour, authority and stage presence, he was able to make the audience hang on every word. Capable of nearly accent-free German, the baritone displayed his language talents even further when he recited a passage from Pushkin in Russian, followed by its German translation. The concert-goers' enthusiastic reception of their entertaining host left no doubt that Hampson captivates his public, whether he is singing or not.

Thomas Hampson. Photo courtesy of Angelika Roessler, Abendzeitung München
Thomas Hampson. Photo courtesy of Angelika Roessler, Abendzeitung München

'When I talk about a music piece, I really want people to understand what makes it special. My audience is very important to me and I want them to feel the beauty of each piece as deeply as I do. For instance, I am a big Mahler fan. For me, Mahler can do no wrong. And one of my most wonderful experiences was at a small music festival in Attersee, Austria, last year, where I performed Mahler songs and then spoke at length about the composer and his music. Classical music is very much alive and still greatly relevant to us. I am at my happiest if I can truly build a bridge between the past, where the composers lived, and our modern time.'

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Copyright © 18 April 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


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