American Bach Soloists Announce Two-Year Plan for Bay Area Performances

SEASONS FOCUS ON BACH, RETURNING TO ROOTS, BRILLIANT NEW TALENT, AND ADDITIONAL CONCERTS

2017-2018

  • Baroque Masterworks
  • Saint John Passion
  • Monteverdi Vespers of 1610
  • Bach’s Orchestral Suites (including recording)
  • Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral
  • Special Berkeley Pricing

2018 ABS FESTIVAL & ACADEMY

  • “The Glorious Court of Dresden”

2018-2019

  • 30th Season 
  • All-Bach Regular Concert Season starting in October 2018 
  • New Year’s Eve Concert in Herbst Theater
  • Additional Concert Set 
  • Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral
  • Six Brandenburg Concertos
  • Saint Matthew Passion
  • “Bach to the Beginning” – a Return to Presenting Bach Cantatas

2017-2018 – 29th Season

ABS’s 29th Season offers Musical Masterworks of the Baroque that have taken their places in the hearts of music lovers for all time.

American Bach Soloists, led by Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas, present their annual performances of Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah, in one of San Francisco’s most awe-inspiring, sacred spaces on December 13-15, 2017. ABS, Handel, and San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral are a winning combination and a highlight of the holiday season, year after year. Since 1998, ABS has presented Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral to more than 40,000 attendees. A Bay Area holiday tradition now in its 20th consecutive year, ABS’s performances of Handel’s timeless work attract music lovers from around the world and have become an essential part of the musical year for Northern California audiences. Voted “Best of the Bay” by the readers of San Francisco Classical Voice, the Bay Area Reporter observed, “For those who treasure Messiah, Thomas’ version is revelatory.” Maestro Thomas will conduct the period-instrument specialists of ABS, the renowned American Bach Choir, and an internationally acclaimed quartet of brilliant vocal soloists.

The new year brings four performances of Bach’s Saint John Passion, February 23-26, 2018. The great Passions of J. S. Bach remain unparalleled in their dramatic impact and universally experienced emotional effects. Bach took the genre to new worlds of expression, incorporating the Lutheran tradition of chorales with newer, Italianate operatic elements. The result is a powerful force of rhetoric that tells the Passion story reinforced by personalized illuminations. This is music that transcends cultural, religious, and theatrical boundaries between performers and audience members, drawing in listeners as historical participants. Maestro Thomas, one of the Baroque music world’s most celebrated Bach specialists, brings his unique and insightful perspectives to the podium in definitive performances that are profoundly beautiful and moving.

Like the most treasured works of art and spectacular architectural wonders, a handful of musical masterworks of the Baroque have taken their places in the hearts of music lovers for all time. Our 29th subscription season continues April 6-9, 2018 with Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine (also known as the “Vespers of 1610”), a monumental work that displays its composer’s brilliant assimilation of styles—old and new, sacred and secular—and his masterful command of a wide palette of musical structures including psalm settings, sacred concertos, hymns, motets, and sonatas, all bound together by Gregorian chant. Last performed by ABS in 2010, audiences can expect the American Bach Soloists to deliver an extraordinary performance of this celebrated masterpiece. Two additional works on the program—“In ecclesiis” and the Magnificat in 14 parts, both by Giovanni Gabrieli—make these performances a rich experience of splendid music from the world of the Italian Early Baroque.

Historians have noted that Bach’s music is intensely infused with the spirit of dance, whether expressing joy, felicity, sorrow, or devotion. The musical forms of dance were some of the most essential and permeating components of music from the Baroque era. Those clearly defined elements determined tempos, moods or affects, and the structural architectures of the vast majority of Baroque musical works, both with texts and purely instrumental. Bach’s Orchestral Suites celebrate not only the dance, but also the phenomenal technical abilities of his musicians. Bach titled them “Ouvertures” referring to the grand movement that opens each work, followed by a suite of dances, all requiring the most virtuosic instrumentalists. All four Orchestral Suites will be presented in these concerts May 11-14, 2018, full of exuberant sonority, captivating melody, and displays of virtuosity from ABS’s famous roster of “the best American specialists in early music” (The Washington Post).

The 29th Season reunites ABS with a treasured and recently reopened venue, First Congregational Church of Berkeley. We are happy to join other performing arts organizations in celebrating the refurbishment of the space—known for its remarkably excellent acoustics—and ABS wants to invite as many East Bay concert goers back to the superior concert experience at First Congregational by lowering ticket prices in Berkeley. Significant reductions in sections “B” and “C” represent ABS’s desire to celebrate the venue’s reopening, to celebrate ABS, and to celebrate the Berkeley community.


2018 Festival & Academy – San Francisco’s Summer Bach Festival

The 9th annual ABS Festival & Academy will take place August 3-13, 2018 in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and San Francisco’s Saint Mark’s Lutheran Church. Each summer festival focuses on a different aspect of the world of Baroque music, and for 2018 ABS Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas has chosen the music of Germany with a particular emphasis on The Glorious Court of Dresden, known for the extraordinary quality of music that was composed for the Electors and Kings of Saxony who upheld the highest artistic and cultural standards for their subjects. Its splendid Baroque and Rococo architecture brought the city its nickname as the “Jewel Box,” and a distinguished roster of performers and composers made it one of Europe’s most important musical capitals. A full array of free events—including public master classes, lectures, concerts, and colloquia—complement the performances by American Bach Soloists in two exceptionally fine venues.


2018-2019 – 30th Season

For the ensemble’s 30th Season celebrations, and Maestro Jeffrey Thomas’s 30th year at the helm, ABS is excited to announce additional concert sets including a restructured season plan that opens in October, rather than the organization’s traditional season start in December.

Concerts will again be held in the four cities of San Francisco, Belvedere (where ABS was founded), Berkeley, and Davis. Following the organization’s annual Gala, held on September 29 2018 in the opulent James Leary Flood Mansion in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, the opening concerts of the 30th Season will take place October 19–22, 2018. The opening program begins with Two Brandenburg Concertos: Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major brings the Baroque Horn to the foreground in some of Bach’s most robust instrumental music, and Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major for three groups of string instruments match violins, violas, and ‘cellos in a rally of friendly competition, a tour-de-force tournament of virtuosity. The program will conclude with Bach’s joyful secular “Hunting” cantata, Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd! (“What pleases me is the lively hunt!”).

Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral will be presented for the 21st consecutive year on the three evenings of December 12-14, 2018. Perennially a sold-out event, audience members from far and wide attend this Bay Area favorite that features the superb American Bach Choir and the period-instrument specialists of ABS, in one of their largest configurations, under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas.

New for ABS’s 30th Season will be A Baroque New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2018. This special event, presented in San Francisco’s recently renovated and beautifully restored Herbst Theatre—a cornerstone and jewel among the city’s most prestigious venues—will feature one of the most exciting new vocal talents, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen. The 2017 Metropolitan Opera National Young Artists Award Winner and ABS Academy alumnus (and former Merola Opera Program participant and future San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow) will be featured in arias and other works along with a delightful program of instrumental music by Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel.

Concerts February 15-18, 2019, “Bach to the Beginning”, will represent a renewed focus by the organization on the invaluable gems found in Bach’s cantatas. When ABS was founded in 1989, it’s mission included a primary focus on that repertoire of more than 200 works, each containing exquisite and dramatic music that often calls upon the virtuosity of individual members of an ensemble—singers and instrumentalists alike—to display their talents in the expression of each mini-drama that is at the heart and soul of the cantatas by Bach. For both cantata devotees and those new to this music, the passion and soul-searching impetus found in these works is compelling, beautiful, and exciting.

ABS and Thomas, “unsurpassable as a Bach interpreter” (San Francisco Classical Voice), have become closely associated with Bach’s masterpiece, the Saint Matthew Passion. Their emotionally stirring performances are unforgettable. The experience of their 2012 performances of an early version of the work made a profound impact on audiences and critics alike. “I am so grateful I was there,” one patron excitedly proclaimed. San Francisco Classical Voice remarked that the work, “when cleansed of much historical baggage, shone as new. Thanks to Thomas and ABS for such a profoundly beautiful, moving evening.” Returning to the work’s more familiar form March 22-25, 2019, Thomas will direct the Passion with his accustomed focus on transparent textures, direct expression, and intense intimacy. ABS and the American Bach Choir will be joined by ten superb vocal soloists.

The 30th Season will conclude May 3-6, 2019 with the remaining Four Brandenburg Concertos, Nos. 2, 4, 5, and 6, each one featuring the renowned Bach specialists of ABS. The second concerto brings together the disparate solo forces of trumpet, oboe, violin, and recorder in perfect interplay as only Bach could have achieved; the fourth concerto is a legendary tour de force for violino principale and two recorders; the fifth is supremely elegant in its scoring for gentle flauto traverso, violin, and concertato harpsichord, including the extravagant and even hair-raising cadenza for harpsichord; and in the sixth concerto, Bach pits the old against the new as a pair of violas da gamba and violone take on their more “modern” counterparts, a pair of violas and violoncello, in repartee that is both rich in sonority and enlightening in its glimpse at a priceless moment in history.

For artist photographs and other press resources, please visit americanbach.org/press.


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2017-2018 – 29th Season

Handel’s MESSIAH IN GRACE CATHEDRAL

Wednesday, December 13 2017, 7:30 p.m. • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Thursday, December 14 2017, 7:30 p.m. • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Friday, December 15 2017, 7:30 p.m. • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

$20–$125

Suzanne Karpov soprano (debut)
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen countertenor (debut)
Zachary Wilder tenor
Hadleigh Adams baritone (debut)
American Bach Soloists & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

“What safeguards the tradition are performers as engaged and provocative as Jeffrey Thomas and the American Bach Soloists.” – Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

Bach’s SAINT JOHN PASSION

Friday, February 23 2018, 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, February 24 2018, 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, February 25 2018, 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.
Monday, February 26 2018, 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis

$25–$89

Aaron Sheehan, Evangelista tenor
Jesse Blumberg, Christus baritone
Hélène Brunet soprano
Robin Bier alto (debut)
Steven Brennfleck tenor
American Bach Soloists & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

“When I heard the American Bach Soloists perform the St. John Passion in Belvedere Friday, the unashamed earnestness of their presentation was a powerful example of how persuasive and even seductive this music can be when under the care of great performers.” – ​Jonathan Rhodes Lee • San Francisco Classical Voice

Monteverdi’s VESPERS OF 1610

Friday, April 6 2018, 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, April 7 2018, 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, April 8 2018, 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.
Monday, April 9 2018, 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis

$25–$89

Nils Brown tenor
Katelyn Aungst (debut) & Julie Bosworth (debut) sopranos
Nicholas Burns (debut) & Jay Carter countertenors
Steven Brennfleck tenor
Bryan Jolly baritone (debut) & William Meinert bass (debut)
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

“It was a stunning performance … Mr. Thomas’ deep knowledge of the work gave him the ability to draw both subtleties and the rich sonorities to bring out the sheer majesty of Monteverdi … The large audience was transfixed.” – Classical Sonoma

Bach’s ORCHESTRAL SUITES

Friday, May 11 2018, 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, May 12 2018, 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, May 13 2018, 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F ​
Monday, May 14 2018, 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis

$25–$89

Debra Nagy oboe
Dominic Teresi bassoon
Sandra Miller flute
John Thiessen trumpet
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

“The dotted rhythms of the Ouverture came off with a jaunty elegance … sparkled with variety as it charmed and beguiled from beginning to end.” – Steven Winn • San Francisco Classical Voice

2018 ABS FESTIVAL & ACADEMY 

“The Glorious Court of Dresden”

Bach’s Mass in B Minor
Free Public Lectures, Master Classes, Colloquia, and “Baroque Marathon”

Friday, August 3 2018 through Sunday, August 13 2018
San Francisco Conservatory of Music & St. Mark’s Lutheran Church

2018-2019 – 30th Season

Bach: TWO BRANDENBURGS & THE HUNTING CANTATA

Friday, October 19 2018, 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, October 20 2018, 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, October 21 2018, 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.
Monday, October 22 2018, 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis

American Bach Soloists & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Handel’s MESSIAH IN GRACE CATHEDRAL

Wednesday, December 12 2018, 7:30 p.m. • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Thursday, December 13 2018, 7:30 p.m. • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
Friday, December 14 2018, 7:30 p.m. • Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

American Bach Soloists & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

A BAROQUE NEW YEAR’S EVE

Monday, December 31 2018, 4:00 p.m. • Herbst Theatre, S.F.

Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen countertenor
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Bach: CANTATAS “Bach to the Beginning”

Friday, February 15 2019, 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, February 16 2019, 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, February 17 2019, 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.
Monday, February 18 2019, 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis

American Bach Soloists & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Bach: SAINT MATTHEW PASSION

Friday, March 22 2019, 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, March 23 2019, 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, March 24 2019, 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.
Monday, March 25 2019, 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis

American Bach Soloists & American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Bach: FOUR BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS

Friday, May 3 2019, 8:00 p.m. • St. Stephen’s Church, Belvedere
Saturday, May 4 2019, 8:00 p.m. • First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday, May 5 2019, 4:00 p.m. • St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, S.F.
Monday, May 6 2019, 7:00 p.m. • Davis Community Church, Davis

American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

The American Bach Soloists are pleased to announce the 2018 Jeffrey Thomas Award recipient: violinist JUDE ZILIAK

Jude ZiliakThe Jeffrey Thomas Award is granted annually at the Artistic Director’s discretion to honor, recognize, and encourage exceptionally gifted emerging professionals in the field of early music who show extraordinary promise and accomplishment. Inaugurated in 2013, the Jeffrey Thomas Award was created by the American Bach Soloists in celebration of their first 25 years of presenting performances in Northern California, across the United States, and around the world, and ABS Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas’s tenure of inspired leadership.

Jude Ziliak—the recipient of the 2018 award—is a violinist who specializes in historical performance practices. His dedication to the Baroque violin family extends from performing on the lira da braccio to premiering new pieces for period instruments.

Mr. Ziliak has been a member of the American Bach Soloists since the beginning of the organization’s 25th season in 2013, having first come to the attention of ABS and Jeffrey Thomas as a participant in the 2012 ABS Academy. In New York City, he is a member of the Renaissance music ensemble named Sonnambula and the Clarion Music Society. He has also performed with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Festival dans les Jardins de William Christie, the Four Nations Ensemble, Cantata Profana, Musica Angelica, Trinity Wall Street Baroque Orchestra, Gotham Chamber Opera, Concert Royal, New York Baroque Incorporated, New Vintage Baroque, and many other period ensembles throughout the United States and internationally. He has served as concertmaster under conductors Richard Egarr at the Britten-Pears School, Jordi Savall with Juilliard415, Andrew Litton at the National Orchestral Institute, and for R.B. Schlather’s pioneering production of Handel’s Alcina at WhiteBox Art Center in New York. With Sonnambula, he took part in the first complete recording of the music of Leonora Duarte.

Mr. Ziliak is also an independent scholar and a dedicated educator and is on the faculty of the Lucy Moses School and Special Music School (P.S. 859), New York’s public school for musically gifted children, where he has established a Baroque performance program with the support of an outreach grant from Early Music America. In 2017 he taught at the Madison Early Music Festival at the University of Wisconsin.

Jude ZiliakJude Ziliak studied the modern violin with Bayla Keyes at Boston University, Dona Lee Croft at the Royal College of Music, and Kenneth Goldsmith at Rice University. He then completed specialized studies in Historical Performance at The Juilliard School, where his teachers were Monica Huggett and Cynthia Roberts. He was an inaugural recipient of the English Concert’s American Fellowship, which recognizes early-career performers “who appear likely to make significant contributions to the field of early music.” Raised in Sewanee, Tennessee, Mr. Ziliak resides in New York City with his wife, gambist Elizabeth Weinfield.

Now a regular member of ABS, Mr. Ziliak has already appeared in more than 50 performances of 15 concert programs. His next featured role will be as soloist in Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major for Violin and Two Orchestras at the 2017 Annual ABS Gala. Additionally, he will serve as concertmaster for ABS’s upcoming recording of Bach’s Four Orchestral Suites.

The Jeffrey Thomas Award takes its place within the organization’s already robust and long history of rewarding young talent. In 1998, the American Bach Soloists established their International Young Artists Competition as a way to foster emerging musicians who wish to pursue a career in early music. In 2006, the competition was named the American Bach Soloists & Henry I. Goldberg International Young Artists Competition, in memory of Dr. Henry I. Goldberg, who served as Board President for the ensemble from 2002 until September 2005. In addition, the First Prize was named in honor of the inestimable legacy of Laurette Goldberg, a leading force in the Bay Area’s early music community for many years. To ensure the broadest scope in this endeavor, from year to year the competitions focused on different instruments, attracting musicians from around the globe. The first competition, in 1998, was for harpsichord. In subsequent years, violin, flute, oboe, and vocalists took the spotlight. In 2010, competition award funds were offered as a Goldberg Prize to three promising participants of the American Bach Soloists ACADEMY, an advanced training program for emerging professionals and accomplished students of Historically Informed Performance Practice. In 2011, the Competition and special prizes were suspended in favor of funding scholarships for the Academy.

Read More about the Jeffrey Thomas Award