It’s incredible to think about how much music we’ve been playing, rehearsing, coaching, discussing, and sharing with each other in just four days of the ABS Academy. We’ve already had four rehearsals for the Bach Mass in B Minor. The enthusiasm of those 60+ wonderful young and fresh musicians is overwhelming. One of them said, “What’s happening here at the American Bach Soloists Academy is something pretty special. We had our first rehearsal tonight with the American Bach Choir of the Bach Mass in B Minor, and that had to have been one of the most amazing and fun rehearsals I have ever taken part in! The choir is incredible, and the baroque band sounds pretty darn good too if I do say so myself. This experience has been wildly fun so far and only looks to be getting better!”
The experience for our faculty and staff has been just as amazing. For me, as I move among all the classrooms from which the most beautiful sounds eek their way through the walls and under the doors, I’m overcome not only by how quickly these players and singers are making first-rate performances out of the music that they’re studying, but also by how gorgeous all this Baroque music really is. I know… that should be no surprise to me, of course. But, for example, earlier today I heard two tenors, two violinists, and two continuo players make absolutely beautiful sounds on two very challenging works by Buxtehude and Bruhns. I used to sing those pieces myself (decades ago, alas) and to hear them performed with such freshness and joy and, if truth be told, skill that far exceeded what I could bring to the same music when I was their age… well, it was the most wonderful feeling about that music that I could ever imagine. In our Academy participants we really have not the next generation, but rather the current new generation of musicians who love Baroque music and bring to it their desire to master the repertoire that we all love so very much. For all of my faculty colleagues, it is a thrill, an exquisite thrill to pass along our experience and knowledge to others.
Also during these past four days we’ve had three rehearsals for the spectacular Biber Salzburg Mass. At our first reading of it, the sounds were superb, and ask anyone who is participating in that glorious music and they’ll tell you how much of a thrill it is. And this morning we had our first orchestral reading of arias from Esther, joined by five of the principal characters. I think that — despite already knowing how remarkable all of Handel’s music is — it is still always the most gratifying surprise to hear his genius, his uncanny understanding of human characters, and his unparalleled facility for writing string parts revealed in yet another (mostly unfamiliar) masterpiece.
I could go on and on about how jam-packed our days and evenings are, about how rewarding it all is, and about the precious feeling of community that we all feel — “student” participants, faculty, and staff alike — during these two weeks when we’re lucky enough to be together for such an intense experience. But now it’s time to share all of that in the concert hall with you. Friday night’s concert of chamber works by Bach, Biber, Schmelzer, Schütz, Telemann, and Vivaldi presents just about all the faculty in some very unusual compositions, only one that might be easily recognizable. They are definitely intriguing works. The ABS artist faculty will soon put the final polishing touches on their music before we welcome you into the beautiful Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. It’s a very special place, and we’re grateful to the Conservatory staff for sharing it with us.