Happy New Year! For many, the beginning of a new year presents the opportunity for a fresh start and perhaps a new set of goals. One common resolution is, of course, to focus on fitness. Joining a gym or exercise class is certainly worthwhile, but how about giving Bach a spin? Adding more J.S. Bach to your life during 2016 just might be the recipe for a “new you” in the year ahead. ABS is here to help! We have a wonderful season of works by J.S. Bach ahead, beginning January 22-25 with “Bach Favorites,” a balanced program of two extraordinary cantatas from the composer’s first year in Leipzig and two virtuosic works for violin featuring the 2016 Jeffrey Thomas Award recipient, Tatiana Chulochnikova.
The program will open with Cantata 70, Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! The text of the cantata is about the Day of Judgment, and the opening words, “Watch, pray, pray, watch!”, communicate with urgency that the listener must remain vigilant and prepared because the Second Coming will happen swiftly. Cantata 70 was a featured work at the very first ABS concert and now, 27 years later, Jeffrey Thomas and ABS return to this masterpiece, one of Bach’s most dramatic and moving sacred works from his first Cantata Cycle in Leipzig.
Four brilliant vocal soloists will join ABS for “Bach Favorites.” Soprano Mary Wilson needs little introduction as she has been a featured artist with ABS on many memorable occasions. Following each performance of “Bach Favorites,” Wilson will appear in the lobby of each venue to sign Blu-ray and DVD copies of the new ABS film, “Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral,” and the CD “Mary Wilson Sings Handel.” Countertenor Jay Carter, who appeared with great distinction in last season’s performances of St. Matthew Passion, will perform Bach’s alto solos on the program. Tenor Derek Chester, the outstanding Evangelist in last season’s St. Matthew Passion performances, and baritone Mischa Bouvier, a standout as the giant Polyphemus in Handel’s Acis and Galatea last year, round out the quartet. Along with the American Bach Choir and instrumentalists of ABS, all under the baton of Jeffrey Thomas, this program brings together a grand assemblage of leading Bach interpreters and is THE place to start your year off with more Bach!
Next, violinist Tatiana Chulochnikova will hold the spotlight in a performance of the famous Toccata & Fugue in D Minor, in her transcription for solo violin. A thrilling performer with outstanding technique and extroverted style, Chulochnikova’s performance will surely exhibit some fireworks. Do not miss this opportunity to hear why this young artist was awarded the Jeffrey Thomas Award this year and why she is one of the most exciting young violinists to emerge in the Early Music community in recent years.
Chulochnikova will open the second half of “Bach Favorites” with a performance of the composer’s beloved Violin Concerto in E Major. From its familiar opening measures to its moving and expressive second movement and exhilarating finale, there are many reasons why this concerto is a favorite of music lovers everywhere. Read our interview with Chulochnikova where she discusses her personal connection with the work and how the performances with ABS will be the realization of a long-held dream.
The closing work on the program is Bach’s Cantata 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben. As with Cantata 70, this work has its moments of drama and intensity, but Cantata 147 is notable for the sheer beauty of its music. The work opens with a solo trumpet, which is soon joined by the orchestra to form a richly textured ensemble sound that moves along with typical Bachian complexity and buoyancy. Then, as if that were not enough to grab the listener’s attention, the voices begin to enter, first sopranos, then altos, tenors, and finally basses, in a brilliant vocal fugue. Each group of singers executes elaborate runs on the word “Leben” (or “Life”) within this framework, as if to communicate that the faithful must pledge themselves to God with their hearts, mouths, and deeds, but most of all with their lives. The work has many stunning arias and musical highlights, but it is the chorus “Jesu bleibet meine Freude” (frequently translated as “Jesus, joy of man’s desiring”) that is perhaps most cherished by Bach’s admirers. The gentle, floating character of the melody, along with its forward-leaning momentum, can be heard in our video announcement (below) for “Bach Favorites.”
Tickets are available to the four performances of “Bach Favorites” around the Bay Area and in Davis. Reserve your seats today and begin 2016 with Bach and ABS!