Our next concert set features the ABS debut of Steven Brennfleck, a much sought after tenor and haute-contre. An alumnus of the 2015 ABS Academy, Steven has performed at many of the country’s premier venues, including Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood. ABS caught up with Steven to hear some of his thoughts about his time at the Academy and tonight’s program.
How did your participation in the ABS Academy help to shape your career?
My experience as a member of the ABS Academy was motivating and richly rewarding. As musicians, the most important parts of our instrument we train are our ears! The Academy, through its intensive, immersive approach, helped me learn more of what to listen and strive for when approaching Baroque repertoire. Another great advantage, particularly for singers, is that we were in a situation where we were learning alongside our instrumental colleagues, which helped us understand the all-important skill of collaboration.
What are you most looking forward to about making your debut with ABS as a featured soloist?
Aside from being back in beautiful San Francisco, I look forward to working with Jeffrey and the magnificent orchestra he puts together. There can often be a gulf of experience between singers and instrumentalists, but Jeffrey, a singer himself, always creates such a sense of collaboration and community to the extent that one feels a sense of ensemble in the truest sense.
Do you have an affinity for Baroque music, or the French Baroque in particular?
I do and I always have. I started off as a pianist and organist and I had very wise teachers who emphasized the importance of playing Bach—lots of it! The articulation, attention to detail, and clarity that is necessary to perform Bach well instilled a great deal of musical discipline into my development. My first real venture into the world of French Baroque was at the ABS Academy in 2015 in Marais’ Sémélé, and I am happy to have the opportunity to dive in again with these two stellar pieces.
In these upcoming concerts, you have been cast in haute-contre roles, characterized by their demandingly high tessitura and range. Does your vocal preparation for an haute-contre part differ at all from that of a more traditional tenor part?
Not too significantly. The music is beautiful and transportive, but it’s not exactly difficult to learn. The challenge of course is the high range of the haute-contre repertoire which generally centers at or above the staff. The amount of vocal weight with which I approach the music has to be just right to not sound colorless or detached, but still sound easy and not tax the voice too much.
Are there any specific challenges in your pieces that the audience might be interested to hear about? Or perhaps anything they should keep an ear out for?
Always the text painting! Listen for how the composers set specific words, particularly with melismas, to emphasize or bring out certain characteristics of their meaning. The interplay between the voice and solo instruments is always fascinating as well.
A WEEKEND IN PARIS
Friday February 10 2017 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE
Saturday February 11 2017 8:00 pm
First Presbyterian Church, 2407 Dana Street, BERKELEY
(note new venue for the 2017 Season)
Sunday February 12 2017 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell Street, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday February 13 2017 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS