As usual the 29th season of American Bach Soloists (ABS) will officially get under way in December with three performances of George Frideric Handel’s HWV 56 oratorio Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. This will be followed in 2018 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 2018 concerts.
Next month’s Messiah performances will feature three ABS debut appearances by soprano Suzanne Karpov, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, and baritone Hadleigh Adams. They will be joined by tenor Zachary Wilder. Both Cohen and Adams are former Merolini, and Adams was an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera. If my records are correct, this will be our first opportunity to listen to them in a historically-informed performance. Karpov, in turn, is an alumna of last summer’s ABS Academy. 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 13. Thursday, December 14, and Friday, December 15, 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 2018 concerts in San Francisco are as follows:
February 25, St. John Passion: As had been the case in 2013, ABS will begin its subscription series with Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 245 Passion setting based on the Gospel According to Saint John. The “leading role” vocalists from 2013 will return for reprise performances. Tenor Aaron Sheehan will again sing the Evangelist texts, and baritone William Sharp will sing the words of Christ. The performance will also feature the debut of alto Robin Bier, another alumna from last summer’s ABS Academy, who gave a particularly engaging performance last August in the American premiere of Handel’s HWV 73 serenata Parnasso in festa (Parnassus in celebration). The other vocal soloists will be soprano Hélène Brunet and baritone Jesse Blumberg.
April 8, Monteverdi: This program will present another “reprise,” this time of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 (Vespers for the Blessed Virgin, 1610). Monteverdi probably composed this for “audition” purposes when he was seeking a post in Venice. It sets the five psalms of a Vespers service and a setting of the Magnificat text for six vocal parts. Monteverdi also introduced “Concerto” settings between the psalm selections. Thus far the only soloist announced for this performance will be tenor Nils Brown.
May 13, Bach: Orchestra Overtures & Suites: This will be the only strictly instrumental program of the season. It will consist of Bach’s four orchestral suites, BWV 1066 in C major, BWV 1067 in B minor, BWV 1068 in D major, and BWV 1069 in D major. Each of these consists of an overture followed by a collection of movements based on dance forms; and each singles out solo work for instruments from the wind and/or brass families. Featured soloists will be flutist Sandra Miller, oboists Debra Nagy and Stephen Bard, bassoonist Dominic Teresi, and trumpeter John Thiessen.
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 $227, $176, and $89. Single tickets are $89, $69, and $35. As was the case last year, Messiah tickets may be added to the Shopping Cart along with any other purchases. Because Grace Cathedral is a much larger space, there are five prices for tickets: $125, $98, $69, $35, and $20. Each of the three performance dates has a hyperlink showing the different areas in the Grace sanctuary corresponding to the different price levels. Mousing over any of these areas shows which seats are available for sale.