ABS Festival
July 26 – August 9 2020

San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival
Tickets Available May 1st 2020

Our annual ABS Summer Festival now spans 15 days and includes stunning programs of sensational musical works, ventures into new and imaginative territory, and free public events to bring you closer to the excitement that surrounds our annual Academy, now in its 11th year. The focus on major works from the Baroque is always at the core of San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival, voted “Best of the Bay” by SFCV readers. Most events are held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco. In addition, a rare performance of Heinrich Biber's 53-part Salzburg Mass will be presented in the expansive acoustics of Grace Cathedral.

All-time favorites including  Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Henry Purcell's Dido & Aeneas will be presented along with the rarely performed opera, Rameau's Daphnis et Eglé, a program of Bach Virtuoso Concertos, and our Festival Opening Concert: a delightful program called "Hark! Hark! The Lark!" featuring music about birds—including Handel's organ concerto "The Cuckoo & The Nightingale"—along with other works full of mirth and merriment. Add to the mix a duo/duel concert called "The Devil's Trill" by violinists Tatiana Chulochnikova & Jacob Ashworth, and this year's Bach Explorations concert featuring transcriptions by Liszt, Ysaÿe, & Rachmaninoff!

Sunday July 26
Hark! Hark! The Lark!

Wednesday July 29
The Devil's Trill

Friday July 31
Biber's Salzburg Mass

Saturday August 1
Bach's Virtuosi

Sunday August 2 & 9
Mass in B Minor

Tuesday August 4
Bach Explorations

Thu/Fri August 6 & 7
Baroque Opera

August 3 – 7
Free Events

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Buy 5 and Save

Order one or more complete sets of tickets to each of these five Festival productions and 15% savings will be automatically applied at checkout:

Hark! Hark! The Lark! (July 26)
Biber's Salzburg Mass (July 31)
Bach's Virtuosi (August 1)
Bach's Mass in B Minor (August 2 or 9)
Baroque Opera (August 6 or 7)

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• Festival Programs •

All performances in the
San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall

except as noted

Hark! Hark! The Lark!

Sunday July 26 2020 4:00 p.m.

William Williams: Sonata “In Imitation of Birds”
Robert Johnson: Hark! Hark! The Lark! 
Anonymous: This Merry Pleasant Spring 
Robert Johnson: Have you seen the bright lily grow? 
Heinrich Biber: Sonata Violino Solo Representativa 
George Frideric Handel: Organ Concerto in F “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale” 
Maurice Green: Overtures in 7 Parts 
Thomas Arne: When Daisies Pied 
Henry Purcell: Fairest Isle 
George Frideric Handel: Endless pleasure, endless love 
Georg Philipp Telemann: Ouverture Burlesque 

Shawnette Sulker, soprano
Tomà Iliev, violin
Corey Jamason, organ
American Bach Soloists • Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

English Renaissance poets including William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson beautifully expressed the way nature can uplift our spirits and open our hearts. Shakespeare used images of birds, especially larks, to represent sweetness and freshness. Songs like "Hark! Hark! The Lark!" and "Have you seen the bright lily grow?" are entreaties to love.

Performed alongside Handel's "The Cuckoo & The Nightingale" concerto and Wiliams' sonata "In Imitation of Birds" you'll experience an homage to our happy avian friends. Biber's solo violin sonata represents the sounds of several animals including a frog, a cock and hen, a nightingale and cuckoo, a quail, and a hilarious depiction of a cat taunted by so many prey.

Telemann's rambunctious yet sentimental portrait of Commedia dell'arte characters rounds out our joyful opening concert of the 2020 Festival.

Eligible for "Buy 5 and Save"

The Devil's Trill

Wednesday July 29 2020 7:30 p.m.

George Frideric Handel: Trio Sonata for 2 Violins and Continuo in G Major
Giuseppe Tartini: Pastorale for Violin in Scordatura in A Major 
C.P.E. Bach: Trio Sonata in C Minor “Sanguineus & Melancholicus” 
Giuseppe Tartini: La sonata del diavolo in G Minor 
J.S. Bach: Concerto for 2 violins, strings & continuo in D Minor ("Double")

Tatiana Chulochnikova & Jacob Ashworth, violin 
American Bach Soloists

Few works evoke the expectation of demonic virtuosity in the same way as does Tartini's "Devil's Trill" sonata. The Venetian-born violinist and composer famously wrote about a dream in which the devil appeared to him, took up Tartini's violin, and played "with such great art and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy" that, upon awakening, he tried to recreate what he heard. The "Devil's Trill Sonata" was the outcome and it is notorious for its technical difficulty. ABS violinists Tatiana Chulochnikova and Jacob Ashworth take up the charge in this "duo/duel" concert of bravura works, each artist presented in solo works by Tartini and then collaborating in dazzling duet sonatas and concertos. So, "fasten your seatbelts" for a thrilling ride!

Biber's Salzburg Mass
in Grace Cathedral

Friday July 31 2020 7:30 p.m.

 Heinrich Biber: Missa Salisburgensis à 53
Heinrich Biber: Plaudite Tympana à 53 
Heinrich Biber: Sonata Sancti Polycarpi à 9 
Heinrich Biber: Sonatae Tam Aris Aulis Servientes I & XII 

American Bach Soloists
American Bach Choir
ABS Academy 

Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s 53-part polychoral extravagance for 9 different groups of instruments is considered to be the largest-scaled surviving work from the Baroque period.

First performed in 1682 in Salzburg’s spectacular cathedral by “choirs” of 10 trumpets, trombones, strings, cornettos, viols, recorders, oboes, continuo instruments, and two eight-part vocal ensembles—utilizing the acoustic and placement opportunities provided by the cathedral’s interior design—this rare performance will feature the combined forces of the American Bach Soloists and Academy members.

In 2013, ABS presented the North American premiere of Biber's Missa Salisburgensis. That performance was completely sold out, so this is a rare opportunity to hear a stunning display of sonority in an edifice perfectly suited to extraordinary musical experiences. Additional large works by Biber, one of the 17th century's most celebrated and demanding composers, will be performed. 

Eligible for "Buy 5 and Save"

Bach's Virtuosi

Saturday August 1 2020 7:30 p.m.

Suite for Unaccompanied Cello in G Major
Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord in B Minor
Sonata for Viola da gamba and Harpsichord in D Major
Concerto for Harpsichord in F Minor
Concerto for Violin in A Minor
Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor

Kenneth Slowik, violoncello
Sandra Miller, flute • Corey Jamason, harpsichord
William Skeen, viola da gamba
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin 
Debra Nagy, oboe • 
Robert Mealy, violin 
American Bach Soloists

Among the most technically demanding concertos and solo works from any era of music are those of Johann Sebastian Bach. Himself adept at performing on a variety of instruments, Bach didn't hold back on the difficulty of his instrumental showpieces. Whether it's the music or the performance that impresses most, these tours de force bring inspiring thrills to audiences. In this program—moving from the intimacy of one of Bach's cherished Suites for Unaccompanied Cello to the collaborative bravura of the Concerto for Oboe and Violin—ABS virtuosi will deliver rousing performances across a colorful variety of instrumental colors including those of the regal viola da gamba and the courtly flauto traverso.

Eligible for "Buy 5 and Save"

Bach’s Mass in B Minor

Sunday August 2 2020 7:30 p.m.
Sunday August 9 2020 4:00 p.m.

ABS Academy Festival Orchestra & Soloists
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas conductor

The 2020 Festival & Academy brings the 11th annual collaboration of the American Bach Choir with the ABS Academy Orchestra & Soloists in Johann Sebastian Bach’s consummate masterwork, the Mass in B Minor. Under the meticulous and insightful direction of Jeffrey Thomas, these performances bring eye-opening revelations of Bach’s score that draws upon 35 years of his compositions. In the tradition of musical pilgrimages, ABS audiences return year after year for what have been described as the most spiritual and moving performances of Bach's pinnacle composition to be heard anywhere.

Eligible for "Buy 5 and Save"

Bach Explorations:

Tuesday August 4 2020 7:30 p.m.

Bach: Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E Major
Rachmaninoff: Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E Major arranged for piano 
Ysaÿe: Violin Sonata No. 2: I. “Obsession” 
Bach: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Sagen: Opening Chorus and Chorale 
Liszt: Variations on the Motif "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen"  

Steven Bailey, piano
Noah Strick, violin

The 2019 Festival introduced a new series called "Bach Explorations" that included Bach & Bluegrass and Jazz Bach. The concerts were such a hit that the ABS Festival has now adopted "Bach Explorations" as an important direction in our programming.

The summer's offering—"Transformation"—presents works by Bach, in their original forms, followed by brilliant transcriptions by two composeres noted for their enthralling piano works, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Franz Liszt. Noted for his recording of "The Art of the Opera Transcription" featuring music by Liszt, ABS keyboard continuo musician Steven Bailey will bring his renowned meticulousness to exciting performances of the Bach transcriptions, and ABS violinist Noah Strick will present both Bach's original version of the E Major violin partita along with Eugène-Auguste Ysaÿe's solo violin fantasy, "Obsession," which combines Bach's partita with the famous chant, "Dies irae."

• Baroque Opera •
Rameau's Daphnis et Eglé
Purcell's Dido and Aeneas

Thursday August 6 2020 7:30 p.m.
Friday August 7 2020 7:30 p.m.

Rameau: Daphnis et Eglé
Rebel: Les Plaisirs champêtres 
Purcell: Dido and Aeneas 

ABS Academy 

The royal Château de Fontainebleau was the site of extravagant entertainments produced by the court of King Louis XV. In the early 1750s, the Querelle des Bouffons ("Quarrel of the Comic Actors")—a philosophical battle concerning the relative merits of French and Italian opera—erupted and led Jean-Philippe Rameau to address the controversy in the form of a one act pastorale héroïque about Daphnis, a shepherd, and the shepherdess Eglé, who believe they are merely friends until Cupid reveals to them that they are in love with each other. Although the work was actually never performed for the King, the ABS Academy brings it to our Festival audiences complete with more than 20 dance airs.

Purcell’s powerful musical drama, Dido and Aeneas, is about fate and destiny, both historical and personal. The ambitious Trojan Prince, Aeneas, leaves his betrothed Queen of Carthage abandoned and resigned to a lovelorn death. Dido is a woman tragically destined for her ultimate end. She is unable to connect to the people around her, lacking trust in them and in herself. Belinda, her sister and confidante, is the eternal care-giver, always there to help her sister and others, but all too familiar with Dido’s reluctance to trust and accept her love. Nothing can stop the inexorable course of events and emotions which will follow. Purcell's score captures a full range of moods from boisterous sailors' songs and beguilingly enchanting music for witches, to a heart-rending final chorus. “Fate” is Dido’s last word.

Academy participants are featured in both of these performances.

Eligible for "Buy 5 and Save"

Free Academy Events

The American Bach Soloists Academy—the educational component of the ABS Summer Bach Festival—offers advanced conservatory-level students and emerging professionals unique opportunities to study and perform Baroque music in a multi-disciplinary learning environment.

  • Academy-In-Action "Baroque Marathons" - ABS Academy musicians perform chamber works from the Baroque and arias and duets with instrumental ensembles from the great cantatas of Bach in this series of two “Academy-in-Action Baroque Marathon” concerts. (Free)
  • Lecture Series - Join the members of the American Bach Soloists Academy for a series of enlightening and informative public lectures presented by the Academy faculty on a wide range of subjects centered on Festival themes. (Free)
  • Master Class Series - The ABS Academy opens its doors to the public to witness the artistic transformations that make Master Classes so tremendously exciting, as performers and their mentors share their knowledge and insights. (Free)
  • "Coffee House Concert" - Informal performances by ABS Academy participants borrow from an “open mic” concept that provides a forum for musicians and observers alike to enjoy a relaxing and unpredictable evening that is sure to please. The Conservatory’s Café Crème will be open to offer hot and cold beverages for purchase that can be enjoyed in the Conservatory’s Salon concert space. (Free but exclusively for "Friends of the Academy")

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