We are excited to announce the 2014-15 season, which will include five performances of Handel’s Messiah and three subscription concert weekends featuring Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, and the solo cantata Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, along with Handel’s Acis and Galatea, works by Vivaldi, and Leonardo Leo’s Concerto for Violoncello in A Major featuring the 2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award winner, Gretchen Claassen. Packed with Baroque masterpieces and rarities, under the careful and inspired direction of Jeffrey Thomas, the new season promises musical delight and discovery.
The season kicks off in December with five performances of Handel’s enduring masterwork, Messiah, given in three venues. Beginning on Sunday December 14, Thomas will conduct the ABS period-instrument orchestra, the American Bach Choir, and an outstanding quartet of soloists at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis, followed closely by three performances in San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral, and the ensemble’s debut at the Donald & Maureen Green Music Center in Rohnert Park. The soloists for all five performances will be ABS favorites soprano Mary Wilson, tenor Wesley Rogers, baritone Jesse Blumberg, as well as countertenor Eric Jurenas who astounded audiences in last year’s performances.
Messiah VIDEO Project
ABS’s presentation of Messiah in Grace Cathedral has been a beloved annual tradition and a perennial sell-out event for sixteen years. To share this magical experience with an even broader audience and to preserve it for future generations, Emmy Award winning Zamacona Productions will record this season’s performances utilizing seven High-Definition cameras, which will allow for release on local and national television stations, as well as DVD and BluRay.
Bach & Handel
The subscription season opens January 23-26, 2015, with “Bach & Handel,” an attractive pairing of masterworks by two musical giants. First, Thomas directs his renowned orchestra through Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G Major. The balance of the program will be devoted to Handel’s 1718 pastoral, Acis and Galatea. Buoyant, witty, and generously stocked with charming melodies, Acis and Galatea is one of Handel’s most popular operatic works. Thomas conducts a trio of charismatic artists in this story of love and jealousy. Soprano Nola Richardson and tenor Kyle Stegall will portray the ill-fated young lovers and baritone Mischa Bouvier will sing the role of the jealous and murderous giant Polyphemus.
Bach’s St. Matthew Passion
From February 27-March 2, 2015, ABS will revisit Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. ABS has become closely associated with this masterpiece. 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. SFCV 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 this season, 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 soloists tenor Wesley Rogers as the Evangelista and William Sharp as Christus.
Bach & Vivaldi
The subscription season concludes May 1-4 with “Bach & Vivaldi.” Balancing vocal and instrumental works, the program includes the solo cantata Gott soll allein mein Herze haben (“God alone shall have my heart”) performed by countertenor Ian Howell. The Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, Bach’s virtuosic tour through French dance forms will showcase the magnificent orchestral forces of ABS. Howell will again be featured in Vivaldi’s psalm setting, Nisi Dominus, often described as a concerto for voice. It was written for an extraordinary soloist in his Venetian ensemble at the Ospedale della Pietà. Another highlight will be the opportunity to hear the 2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award recipient, Gretchen Claassen, performing Leonardo Leo’s Concerto for Violoncello in A Major.
Subscription renewals for the 2014-15 season go on sale March 1 with new subscriptions available on April 21. Single tickets for Messiah and subscription series concerts will go on sale July 1. For tickets or more information about the new season, please visit americanbach.org.
MEET THE SOLOISTS
A cherished ABS collaborator since 2007, Jesse Blumberg most recently appeared in Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral in 2012 when SFCV observed, “Baritone Jesse Blumberg took the listeners deep into the valley of darkness, which only made the softly gleaming shaft of ‘Light’ he found there more transforming.”
Mischa Bouvier attended the ABS Academy in 2010 and has since developed an impressive and diverse career as recitalist, concert singer, and operatic artist. His most recent collaborations with ABS included Handel’s Messiah and Apollo & Dafne when he was praised by SFCV for his “rare vocal and interpretive gifts.”
Grethchen Claassen, winner of the 2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award, is precisely the type of performer the award was designed to encourage: hard working, talented, and deserving of wider recognition. Ms. Claassen is a three-time ABS Academy participant.
Ian Howell has been praised by The New York Times for “his clear and attractive timbre.” Mr. Howell’s debut recording was ABS’s 1685 and the Art of Ian Howell featuring a program of arias by Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti.
A 2011 Academy participant, Eric Jurenas has emerged as a favorite ABS artist, most notably in his performance of Handel’s Messiah in Grace Cathedral in 2013. Opus Colorado said “I don’t ever recall hearing a countertenor who had the incredible power as Eric Jurenas, not to mention his breath control.”
A 2012 and 2013 participant at the ABS Academy, Nola Richardson has been praised by The Washington Post for her “astonishing balance and accuracy, lavishing crystalline diction on everything she touched.”
Wesley Rogers’ “Evangelist” from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion is a role for which he has been praised as “flawless” (SFCV) and “intense… with a loud ringing voice” (Not For Fun Only).
William Sharp has performed with ABS for more than two decades and is featured on ABS recordings of Bach cantatas, St. Matthew Passion, Mass in B Minor, and Handel’s Messiah.
Kyle Stegall is an Academy alum who impressed many ABS Academy goers in 2013 with the clear quality of his voice and beautiful lyricism. He will make his ABS season debut.
Mary Wilson is an extraordinary artist and beloved favorite of ABS audiences. Ms. Wilson is “a fresh-voiced singer and a direct communicator,” observed the San Jose Mercury News, “she loops and embellishes, executing Handel’s tricky flights with seemingly little effort.”