American Bach Soloists are proud to announce the winner of the second annual Jeffrey Thomas Award. Violoncellist Gretchen Claassen, a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Juilliard School, and a three-time ABS Academy participant, is precisely the serious and committed artist that the award was designed to encourage. From promising student to emergent professional, her development as a musician has been clear from her fine performances in both modern and historically informed contexts. As a participant in the ABS Academy, Ms. Claassen has distinguished herself as a historically informed ‘cellist of the first rank. Her performances in the ABS Festival, most notably as principal ‘cellist in Handel’s Ariodante (2011) and Rameau’s Pigmalion (2012), have met the high standard expected by ABS and its audiences. More recently she performed with ABS in Handel’s Messiah at Grace Cathedral and the Mondavi Center in December 2013.
As a recipient of this award, given once per year at the discretion of ABS Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas to an exceptionally promising early music performer, Ms. Claassen will receive a cash prize and an invitation to perform as a soloist with American Bach Soloists during the 2014-15 Season. She will be featured during ABS concerts in May 2015 performing Leonardo Leo’s Concerto for Violoncello in A Major.
Ms. Claassen began her musical training in Arizona and then at the Juilliard School of Music where she studied ‘cello performance with Bonnie Hampton. She has studied chamber music with members from the Juilliard String Quartet, Cleveland Quartet, Calder Quartet, and the Chiara Quartet and has participated in several distinguished music festivals including the Kneisal Hall Chamber Music Festival and American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy. Her avid interest in historically informed performance began while pursuing graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where her teachers included Jennifer Culp and Elisabeth Reed. While at the SFCM, she received an Artist Certificate in Chamber Music and was a two-time winner of the Baroque Concerto Competition. In addition to ABS, she has performed with several Bay Area musical organizations including Archetti, Wildcat Viols, Karl Cronin and the Americana Orchestra, and she is a founding member of the Cello Street Quartet and period ensembles MUSA and the Alchemy Trio.