With the ninth annual American Bach Soloists (ABS) Festival & Academy about to get under way at the end of this week, this is a good time to review the many ways in which ABS will be celebrating the coming season, which will be its 30th. The season will be marked by three significant themes. All of the programming for the concert season will consist of music by Johann Sebastian Bach. However, the theme of the sixteenth annual gala will be Versailles; and there will be a special New Year’s Eve concert that will feature Baroque operatic music performed by two leading vocalists.
As was the case last year, the season will begin at the end of next month with the gala, whose title will be Sparkle 2018: Versailles. [updated 9/1, 3:35 p.m.: Once again the evening will feature a concert, probably about an hour in duration, conducted by Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas. The program will offer a brief survey of compositions by Jacques Aubert de Vieux, François Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Jean-Féry Rebel. Solo performances will be given by soprano Nola Richardson, violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, flutist Sandra Miller, Steven Lehning on gamba, and Corey Jamason at the harpsichord. Prior to the concert, cocktails will be served after check-in, along with Baroque dancing performed by members of both San Francisco Renaissance Dancers and Dance Through Time. The concert will be followed by a silent auction during which cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served. Baroque dance lessons will also be offered. Dinner will then follow with a live auction to be held between courses. Details about the items to be auctioned may be found at the 2018 Auction Catalog Web page.] Black tie will be optional and guests are encouraged to wear period dress.
Sparkle 2018 will be held on Saturday, September 29, with check-in beginning at 5 p.m. The concert will take place at 5:30 p.m., followed by cocktails at 6:30 p.m. The dinner will begin at 7:30 p.m. The venue will be the James Leary Flood Mansion, located in Pacific Heights at 2222 Broadway. Valet parking will be provided, and shuttles from both Marin and the East Bay will be available.
A Web page has been created with all options for tickets, sponsorships, and donations. Basic admission is $295. It is also possible to register a table with seating for ten at levels of $2950, $5000, and $10,000. There will be no charge for the shuttles, but reservations are necessary and may be placed through the same Web page. The Marin shuttle will leave from Strawberry Village, and the East Bay Shuttle will leave from the Rockridge BART Station. Each shuttle will hold 150 riders. Registration will close on Friday, September 14. Further information may be obtained by calling 415-621-7900.
Traditionally, the ABS subscription series does not begin until after New Year’s celebrations. However, this season will offer four all-Bach programs beginning in October. As in the past, all San Francisco performances will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church beginning at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. Programming for these concerts will be as follows:
October 21: The title of the program will be Off to the Hunt!; and two of the three selections will feature the “natural” horn, which consists of a single coiled tube with no valves. Bach frequently referred to this instrument as a corno da caccia (hunting horn); and he featured it in his secular BWV 208 cantata, often called the “Hunting Cantata.” The vocal soloists will be sopranos Hélène Brunet and Julie Bosworth, tenor Derek Chester, and baritone Mischa Bouvier. Two of these horns also have solo parts in his BWV 1046 in F major, the first of his “Brandenburg” concertos. The remaining work on the program will be the BWV 1048 “Brandenburg” concerto in G major, scored for three violins, three violas, and three cellos, all with solo parts, along with a continuo.
February 17: The program for Bach to the Beginning will reflect back on the emphasis on performing Bach’s cantatas when ABS was first founded in 1989. Four cantatas will be performed:
- BWV 10: Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (my soul magnifies the Lord)
- BWV 78: Jesu, der du meine Seele (Jesus, You, who are my soul)
- BWV 80: Ein fest Burg its unser Gott (a mighty fortress is our God)
- BWV 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (awake, calls the voice to us)
Vocal soloists will be soprano Nola Richardson, countertenor Jay Carter, tenor Zachary Wilder, and baritone Tyler Duncan.
March 24: ABS and the American Bach Choir will revisit their past performances of BWV 244, Bach’s setting of the Passion text from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Baritone William Sharp will return to sing the words of the Christ. The Evangelist text will be sung by tenor Guy Cutting. For the other solo parts, Brunet will return for the soprano parts, along with soprano Katelyn Aungst. The other soloists will be altos Agnes Vojtko and Nicholas Burns, tenors Steven Brennfleck and Matthew Hill, and baritone Jesse Blumberg.
May 5: The season will conclude with the four “Brandenburg” concertos that were not performed at the beginning of the season: BWV 1047 in F major, BWV 1049 in G major, BWV 1050 in D major, and BWV 1051 in B-flat major. This will require the participation of many soloists. Those soloists will include John Thiessen (trumpet), Stephen Bard (oboe), Aldo Abreu (recorder), violinists Tatiana Chulochnikova, Carla Moore, and Jude Ziliak, and violists Clio Tilton and Ramón Negrón Pérez. Miller will also return for flute parts, and Jamason will be on harpsichord.
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 four concerts are being sold for $302, $234, $176, and $119. Single tickets are $89, $69, $52, and $35.
During the holiday season, there will once again be three performances of George Frideric Handel’s HWV 56 oratorio Messiah. This will be Blumberg’s other appearance during the season, singing the baritone solos. The other vocal soloists will be soprano Mary Wilson, countertenor Eric Jurenas, and tenor Aaron Sheehan.
All performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 12, Thursday, December 13, and Friday, December 14, respectively. As usual, the venue will be Grace Cathedral, located at the top of Nob Hill at 1100 California Street, between Taylor Street and Jones Street. Ticket prices range between $35 and $125. Tickets for any of the performances may be purchased from that same single Web page on the ABS Web site. 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.
Finally, there will be a special concert to ring in the New Year. Entitled A Baroque New Year’s Eve at the Opera, it will feature countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, who will be joined by soprano Wilson. The program will feature vocal work by both Handel and Bach, as well as Christoph Willibald Gluck and Antonio Vivaldi.
This program will begin at 4 p.m. on Monday, December 31. The performance will take place in Herbst Theatre, which is on the ground floor of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. Ticket prices are $125 (Premium Orchestra), $90 (Orchestra and Boxes), $65 (side Orchestra and Dress Circle), $50 (rear seats in center Orchestra and Dress Circle and front seats in Balcony), and $42 (remaining seats in all sections). Tickets may be purchased online through a City Box Office event page, which includes a floor plan that shows the number of seats available in the different sections.