Programs for the 23rd concert season of the American Bach Soloists (ABS) under Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas have been announced and tickets are now on sale. As usual, the season will begin with a pair of performances of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral on December 15 and December 16, both at 7:30 PM. Vocal soloists Mary Wilson (soprano), Ian Howell (countertenor), Charles Blandy (tenor in his ABS debut), and Jesse Blumberg (baritone) will join the American Bach Choir and the ABS period instrument specialists, all under Thomas’ direction. This will be the only concert of the season presenting music by a composer other than Johann Sebastian Bach.
The remaining three concerts in the season program will provide an impressive diversity of Bach’s vocal and instrumental achievements, both sacred and secular. All San Francisco performances will take place on Sunday evenings at 7 PM at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street). The programs for the specific dates are as follows:
- February 26: This program will consist of a single work, the BWV 244 setting of the Passion text in the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Thomas has elected to use a rarely performed manuscript from the 1740s, which offers fascinating details not encountered in the usual performances, including the use of soloists for the dramatic ensemble scenes and different voice part assignments for some of the arias. In addition the instrumentation includes the lautenwerck, a hybrid synthesis of lute and harpsichord, as part of the continuo. Tenor Wesley Rogers will return for a reprise performance of the Evangelist and will join baritone Joshua Copeland, ABS Young Artist Competition winner, singing the role of Christus. The other vocal soloists will be soprano Cecilia Leitner, making her ABS debut, countertenor Jay Carter, alto Danielle Reutter-Harrah, tenors Derek Chester and Aaron Sheehan, and baritones Jesse Blumberg and Robert Stafford, all performing with the American Bach Choir and the Pacific Boychoir.
- April 1: This will be an all-concerto program. The featured soloists will be oboist John Abberger, violinists Andrew Fouts and Katherine Kyme, and harpsichordists Corey Jamason and Leon Schelhase. The concertos to be performed will be BWV 1060R in C minor for oboe and violin, BWV 1043 in D minor for two violins, BWV 1061 in C major for two harpsichords, BWV 1064R in D major for three violins, and BWV 1048 in G major, the third “Brandenburg” concerto.
- May 6: Easter will be celebrated with the BWV 249 oratorio for Easter Sunday, Kommt, eilet und laufet. This will be preceded by two of Bach’s most familiar cantatas, BWV 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden, and BWV 80, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Two soloists will be giving debut performances with ABS, soprano Kathryn Mueller and tenor Jon Lee Keenan. They will be joined by alto Judith Malafronte and baritone Mischa Bouvier.
As usual the concert season will be followed by the American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy, which will take place that the San Francisco Conservatory of Music beginning on July 12 and running through July 22. Here, again, there will be an annual event, the performance of the BWV 232 B minor mass setting. In addition, the Festival concerts will include two dramatic works, Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Pigmalion, a one-act opéra-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Subscriptions are available for both the entire four-concert series and the set of three concerts at St. Mark’s. Subscription packages range from $51 to $189, and single tickets are on sale at prices between $18 and $72. Discounted single tickets are available for seniors and students with ID. Requests for either a season brochure or ticket purchases may be made through electronic mail to [email protected] or by calling 415-621-7900. Further information may be found at the ABS Web site, which includes a page for making ticket purchases online.