Next month the 28th season of American Bach Soloists (ABS) will officially get under way with its annual performances of George Frideric Handel’s HWV 56 oratorio Messiah in Grace Cathedral. This will be followed in 2017 by the annual series of three concerts, whose San Francisco performances will take place on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Single tickets for all performances are now on sale, along with subscriptions for the 2017 concerts.
Next month’s Messiah performances will mark the ABS debut of contralto Emily Marvosh. She will be joined by soprano Hélène Brunet, tenor Derek Chester, and baritone Mischa Bouvier. Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas will conduct the leading period-instrumentalists of the ABS ensemble, joined by the historically informed singers of the American Bach Choir. All performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14. Thursday, December 15, and Friday, December 16, respectively. Grace Cathedral is located at the top of Nob Hill at 1100 California Street, between Taylor Street and Jones Street. Dates and program content for the 2017 concerts in San Francisco are as follows:
February 12, A Weekend in Paris: This program will feature five masters of the French Baroque through selections that are both sacred and secular, as well as both instrumental and vocal. All of the music comes from the eighteenth century, meaning that it represents the generation of composers that followed the death of Jean-Baptiste Lully, who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV. The program will present two of Lully’s students, Marin Marais with an instrumental suite from his 1709 opera Sémélé and Jean-Féry Rebel with a ballet suite entitled Les caractères de la danse.
The sacred music selections will present two composers who advanced the “state of the art” of the grand (i.e. multiple-movement) motet. This genre constituted Lully’s major contribution to music at the royal chapel; and one of the grand motets by Jean-Joseph de Mondonville won him the post of Maître de musique de la Chapelle. Mondonville composed only seventeen of these motets between 1734 and 1755, but only nine of them have survived. The program will include the last of the surviving motets, In Exitu Israel (when Israel left Egypt). The other sacred selection will be Michel Corrette’s Laudate Dominum (praise the Lord), whose music will be familiar to most of the audience, since it involved repurposing the “Spring” concerto from Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons cycle of violin concerts. The American Bach Choir will be joined by haute-contre Steven Brennfleck, making his ABS debut, along with soprano Nola Richardson and baritone William Sharp. The program will then conclude with an instrumental suite of dances from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Dardanus.
April 2, Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus: This program will be devoted entirely to the American Bach Choir divided into two interacting SATB choirs. The selections will include four of the “standard” compositions classified as motets in Wolfgang Schmieder’s catalog of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (sing to the Lord a new song, BWV 225), Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf (the Spirit helps us in our weakness, BWV 226), Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir (fear not, for I am with you, BWV 228), and Komm, Jesu, komm (come, Jesus, come, BWV 229). The program will also include the three-movement pasticcio motet that includes music by both Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann, Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt (praise the Lord in all lands). This piece holds the distinction of being listed in both the Telemann catalog and Schmieder’s catalog. In the latter case the piece is in the third appendix, listed as BWV Anh. 160, while the TWV number is 8:10. Other selections have not yet been announced.
May 7, Handel’s La Resurrezione: The program for Easter will consist entirely of Handel’s HWV 47 oratorio, La resurrezione (the resurrection). This is a narrative oratorio in which all soloists assume the roles of characters in the liturgical drama being presented. Mezzo Meg Bragle will make her ABS debut singing the role of Mary of Ciopas. Richardson will return to sing the role of Mary Magdalene. The Angel at the tomb will be sung by soprano Mary Wilson, tenor Guy Cutting will take the role of John the Evangelist, and baritone Jesse Blumberg will sing the part of Lucifer. Once again the American Bach Choir will join ABS, all under the baton of Thomas.
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street.
There are a variety of options for purchasing tickets, all of which are available online through a single Tickets Web page on the ABS Web site. Subscriptions to the three 2017 concerts are being sold for $217, $164, and $84. Single tickets are $85, $64, and $33. In the past there have been subscription offers that included Messiah. This time all ticket purchases are collected in a single Shopping Cart, so Messiah tickets must be added to the Cart along with any other purchases. Because Grace Cathedral is a much larger space, there are four, rather than three, prices for tickets: $118, $95, $68, and $35.