The first half of next month will see the ninth annual American Bach Soloists (ABS) Festival & Academy, which combines unique opportunities to study and perform Baroque music in a multi-disciplinary learning environment (the Academy) with a little over a week’s worth of historically-informed concert programming (the Festival). Once again the base of operations will be the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), with selected performances given at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Members of the Academy Faculty will augment their pedagogical duties by joining forces with the American Bach Soloists and Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas to participate in Festival concerts. The title of this year’s Festival will be The Glorious Court of Dresden, with the following program schedule:
Friday, August 3, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church: The opening program will have the same title as the Festival, The Glorious Court of Dresden. The program will survey five instrumental ensemble compositions that would have been performed by that court’s orchestra, the Hofkapelle Dresden. The composers to be represented on the program will be Johann Joachim Quantz, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Johann Georg Pisendel, Jan Dismas Zelenka, and Johann David Heinichen. Featured soloists will be flutist Sandra Miller and violinist Robert Mealy.
Saturday, August 4, 8 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church: To Dresden With Love will present the music of composers, who did not live in Dresden but were connected in one way or another. The featured work will be Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 215 secular cantata Preise dein Glück, gesegnetes Sachsen (praise your good fortune, blessed Saxony), written to celebrate the anniversary of August III, Elector of Saxony, as King of Poland. The program will begin with Antonio Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus setting, whose manuscript was only recently discovered in Dresden. Performance of these pieces will feature the American Bach Choir and soloists Clara Rottsolk (soprano), Judith Malafronte (contralto), Matthew Hill (tenor), and William Sharp (baritone). Instrumental selections will include a violin concerto that Antonio Vivaldi wrote for Pisendel, with Elizabeth Blumenstock as soloist, and an overture by Francesco Maria Veracini.
Sunday, August 5, 7 p.m., St. Mark’s Lutheran Church and Sunday, August 12, 2 p.m., SFCM: Every summer the Festival gives two Sunday performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 232 setting of the complete Ordinary of the Latin Mass, best known as the “Mass in B minor.” The first of these will take place in the evening at St. Mark’s and the second in the afternoon at SFCM. Both performances will feature instrumental and vocal solos performed by Academy students.
Thursday, August 9, and Friday, August 10, 7:30 p.m., SFCM: Last year the major project of the Festival involved two performances of all of the incidental music that Henry Purcell composed for John Dryden’s five-act spectacle King Arthur. This year the project will involve a “musical drama” by George Frideric Handel, which was designated “after the manner of an Oratorio.” This is his HWV 58 three-act Semele. Once again the vocal soloists will be Academy students, singing with the ABS Academy Festival Orchestra, whose members are both students and faculty of the Academy.
Saturday, August 11, 8 p.m., SFCM: Baroque Masters will showcase the virtuoso ABS instrumentalists. Composers will again include Bach and Zelenka, along with Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Johann Pachelbel. The program will also feature the farewell performance of bass-baritone Max van Egmond, who has been a Academy faculty member since the Academy was first launched. Egmond will sing Bach’s BWV 158 cantata, Der Friede sei mit dir (peace be with you).
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church is located at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the intersection with Franklin Street. The address of SFCM is 50 Oak Street, which is a short walk from the Van Ness Muni Station. Prices of single tickets range between $35 and $105. The ABS Web site has a single Web page from which tickets for all concerts may be ordered individually. Tickets are accumulated in a Shopping Cart prior to payment. Those whose Shopping Cart includes all five of the above Festival productions will be entitled to a 15% subscribers discount.
In addition to the Festival concerts, the Academy will offer several events to the public, all of which are free of charge. Most important will be the two Baroque Marathon concerts at SFCM at which the Festival students will perform the works they have prepared with coaching from the Academy faculty. These will take place on Monday, August 6, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively. There will also be a series of Master Classes, all taking place at 3 p.m., scheduled as follows:
- Tuesday, August 7: harpsichord and organ
- Wednesday, August 8: violin & viola
- Thursday, August 9: low strings
- Friday, August 10: winds and brass
- Saturday, August 11: voice
On the scholarly side there will be a public colloquium held on the afternoon of Saturday, August 5, beginning at 2 p.m. The colloquium title will be The Glorious Court of Dresden & A Performer’s History of the Early Music Movement. During the week that follows, there will also be a series of lectures, all beginning at 5 p.m. Speakers and topics will be as follows:
- Tuesday, August 7: Robert Mealy on “A Band of Virtuosi: The Dresden Court Orchestra of Augustus the Strong”
- Wednesday, August 8: Steven Lehning on “Am I in Tune? Tuning and Temperaments”
- Thursday, August 9: Corey Jamason on “Hasse, Bordoni, and the World of Dresden Opera”
- Friday, August 10: Kenneth Slowik on “Handel’s Semele: Terror, Astonishment, and the Joy of this Earth”
- Saturday, August 11: Jeffrey Thomas on “Bach’s Cantatas & the Lutheran Chorale: A Miraculous Alliance”