August 1 – 7 2021
"The Garden of Harmony"

San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival

Our ABS musicians are absolutely overjoyed to be reuniting with our audiences and with each other, so we’ve put together programs that celebrate much of what we’ve missed and can return to now.

Triples Alley

Concertos for three violins by Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi
Sunday August 1 • 4:00 p.m. • Herbst Theatre

The opening program, named after the Giants ballpark’s famous “Triples Alley” features three concertos for three violins by three great Baroque composers: Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi. The concert—all about teamwork and collaboration—includes a grand slam in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins.


Signature works by Bach and their transformations by Rachmaninoff, Ysaÿe, Schumann, and Liszt
Tuesday August 3 • 7:00 p.m. • Herbst Theatre

This summer's "Bach Explorations" concert called "Transformation" features music by Bach and transcriptions of the same works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, and Ysaÿe.

The Devil's Trill

Bravura works for violin virtuosi
Thursday August 5 • 7:00 p.m. • Herbst Theatre 

“The Devil’s Trill” brings virtuoso violin music front and center in a concert of tour de force works by Bach, Handel, and Tartini featuring some of ABS's most exciting performers.

Bach & His World

Captivating music by Bach and the composers who inspired his genius
Friday August 6 • 7:00 p.m. • Herbst Theatre

We've missed the music of our beloved namesake, Bach, over the past year, so we will present “Bach & His World,” featuring captivating works by Johann Sebastian and the composers who inspired him.

The Garden of Harmony

A sensational program of music about birds, animals, and the harmony of nature
Saturday August 7 • 7:00 p.m. • Herbst Theatre

This special season of ABS's Summer Festival closes with performances of the marquee event, "The Garden of Harmony," a sensational program of music about birds, animals, and the harmony of nature. While we were sheltering to protect each other, nature flourished in ways that it hadn't for many years. This concert celebrates that inspiring part of our shared experiences.

Festival Artists

The focus on the best of the Baroque performed by ABS's brightest stars is always at the core of San Francisco's Summer Bach Festival, voted “Best of the Bay” by SFCV readers. Events are held at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

Watch Video Previews of Festival Concert Programs

Triples Alley

Sunday August 1 2021 4:00 p.m.
Herbst Theatre

Antonio Vivaldi • Concerto in F Major for 3 Violins
George Frideric Handel • Concerto Grosso in G Minor 
Georg Philipp Telemann • Concerto in F Major for 3 Violins 
Giovanni Battista Buonamente • Sonata a tre violini
Marco Uccellini • 
Sinfonia Nona a tre violini 
Johann Pachelbel • Canon & Gigue in D Major
Antonio Vivaldi • Concerto in B Minor for 4 Violins 
Johann Sebastian Bach • Concerto in D Major for 3 Violins 

American Bach Soloists • Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

This concert will end by 6:00 p.m.

Jeffrey Thomas will conduct the Festival Opening Concert featuring an assembly of many of ABS's brightest star performers in this concert named after the location in the Giants Ballpark that leads to triple-base hits! Three concertos for three violins by three composers—Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi—will feature violinists YuEun Gemma Kim, Tatiana Chulochnikova, Tomà Iliev, Cynthia Keiko Black, Elizabeth Blumenstock, Jacob Ashworth, and David Wilson

This program's focus on teamwork and collaboration continues with additional works for 3 violins, extending back to the 17th-century genius of Marco Uccellini and Giovanni Battista Buonamente then forward again to Pachelbel's time-honored and perennial favorite, Canon & Gigue.

The Concerto Grosso was one of the primary and most often employed musical formats during the Baroque era, much the same as the symphony became identified with the Classical era. Handel brought a unique richness of color to his concerti grossi, and the work performed on this program is one of his most imaginative and exquisite examples of the genre. 

The pinnacle hit in baseball is a grand slam, so our musical representation of that is found in Vivaldi's exciting Concerto for 4 Violins!


Tuesday August 3 2021 7:00 p.m.
Herbst Theatre

Johann Sebastian Bach • Partita in E Major for Solo Violin (Prelude, Gavotte, Gigue)
Sergei Rachmaninoff • Suite from Bach’s Partita in E Major for Solo Violin 
Eugène Ysaÿe • Sonata in A Minor for Solo Violin “Jacques Thibaud” (Obsession – Prélude) 
Johann Sebastian Bach • Suite in G Major for Solo Violoncello, arr. Stade after Robert Schumann 
Johann Sebastian Bach • Movements from Cantata 12 “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”
Franz Liszt • Variations on the Motif “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” 

Rachell Ellen Wong, violin
Steven Bailey, piano
Noah Strick, violin
Gretchen Claassen, violoncello
Kenneth Slowik, piano

This concert will end by 8:30 p.m.

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.

This summer's offering—"Transformation"—presents works by Bach, in their original forms, followed by brilliant transcriptions by two composers 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.

Violinist Rachell Ellen Wong will present Bach's original version of the E Major violin partita movements that inspired Rachmaninoff, and Noah Strick will perform Eugène-Auguste Ysaÿe's solo violin fantasy, "Obsession," an amazing composition that combines Bach's partita with the ancient chant, "Dies irae." Bach's famous Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Violoncello will be heard in its incarnation arranged by Robert Schumann and Friedrich Wilhelm Stade performed by Gretchen Claassen and Kenneth Slowik.

The Devil's Trill

Thursday August 5 2021 7:00 p.m.
Herbst Theatre

George Frideric Handel • Trio Sonata in G Major
Giuseppe Tartini • Pastorale in A Major 
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach • Trio Sonata in C Minor “Sanguineus & Melancholicus” 
Giuseppe Tartini • Sonata in G Minor “Il trillo del Diavolo” 
Johann Sebastian Bach • Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins 

Jacob Ashworth, violin
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Tatiana Chulochnikova, violin
Tekla Cunningham, violin
Tomà Iliev, violin
YuEun Gemma Kim, violin
Rachell Ellen Wong, violin
Gretchen Claassen, violoncello
Corey Jamason, harpsichord

This concert will end by 8:30 p.m.

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 concert of bravura works, each artist presented in solo compositions by Tartini. Elizabeth Blumenstock, YuEun Gemma Kim, and Rachell Ellen Wong will perform a pair of famous duos. Handel's Trio Sonata in G Major is replete with familiar tunes from his operas Athalia, Parnasso in festa, Radamisto, and Alcina. C.P.E. Bach's extraordinary Trio Sonata in C Minor was composed for the court of Frederick the Great and portrays a conversation between a "sanguine man" and a "melancholic," but positive optimism wins out!

The concert's finale is Bach's exciting Concerto in D Minor for 2 Violins performed by Tekla Cunningham and Tomà Iliev. So, "fasten your seatbelts" for a thrilling ride!

Bach & His World

Friday August 6 2021 7:00 p.m.
Herbst Theatre

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber • Violin Sonata in E Minor
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer • Sonata a tre violini 
Georg Philipp Telemann • Trio Sonata in E-flat Major from “Musique de Table”
Dieterich Buxtehude •
Sonata & Gigue in B-flat Major 
Johann Sebastian Bach • Sonata in G Minor for Viola da gamba and Harpsichord 
Johann Sebastian Bach • Sonata in G Major for Violin and Basso continuo 
Johann Sebastian Bach • Concerto in F Minor for Harpsichord 

Jacob Ashworth, violin
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Tekla Cunningham, violin
YuEun Gemma Kim, violin
Kenneth Slowik, viola da gamba
Gretchen Claassen, violoncello
Steven Lehning, violone
Corey Jamason, harpsichord

This concert will end by 9:00 p.m.

We have missed performing Bach for our audiences! But we're "Back with Bach" in this program that features two elegant chamber works and a wonderful Concerto for Harpsichord performed by Corey Jamason. Two invigorating Allegro movements surround a breathtakingly beautiful central Largo, music that Bach also used in his cantatas.

The concert begins with a retrospective of the musical inspirations Bach found in his composer predecessors including a dramatic sonata by Biber performed by legendary violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock. Other composers whom Bach held in highest esteem are Buxtehude, Schmelzer, and the prolific Telemann who composed one of the greatest collections of courtly "table music" to be performed at feasts and banquets. His Trio Sonata in E-flat Major and Schmelzer's delightful Sonata for 3 Violins, along with Buxtehude's entrancing Sonata & Gigue in B-flat Major will be performed by an ensemble including YuEun Gemma Kim, Jacob Ashworth, and Steven Lehning.

Internationally distinguished viol player Kenneth Slowik will perform Bach's Sonata in G Minor for viola da gamba and harpsichord, and Tekla Cunningham will be joined by 'cellist Gretchen Claassen in Bach's sweetly melodious Sonata in G Major.

The Garden of Harmony

Saturday August 7 2021 7:00 p.m.
Herbst Theatre

William Williams • Sonata “In Imitation of Birds”
Marco Uccellini • Aria Nona, “The hen & cuckoo make a fine concert” 
Robert Johnson • “Hark! hark! the Lark!” & “Have you seen the bright lily grow?” 
Thomas Arne • “When daisies pied” 
Anonymous • “This merry pleasant spring” 
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer • Violin Sonata “Cuckoo“ 
George Frideric Handel • Organ Concerto “The Cuckoo & the Nightingale” 
Charles Avison • Concerto Grosso in D Minor after Scarlatti “The Garden of Harmony” 
José de Herrando • Sonata “The Garden of Aranjuez in Spring”
Antonio Vivaldi • Concerto in A Major for Violin and Harpsichord (“The Nightingale”) 

Nola Richardson, soprano
Corey Jamason, organ
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
Tekla Cunningham, violin
YuEun Gemma Kim, violin
Rachell Ellen Wong, violin
American Bach Soloists • Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

This concert will end by 9:00 p.m.

Poets throughout the ages have 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 and will celebrate the return of the human voice to our concert stage when performed by soprano Nola Richardson—praised for her "singing with beautiful tone" by The New York Times—who will also bring her "lushly polished...exemplary, impassioned singing" (San Francisco Classical Voice) to "When Daisies Pied" by Thomas Arne and William Shakespeare. 

With Handel's evocative and joyful organ concerto, "The Cuckoo & The Nightingale," performed by Corey Jamason, and Williams' sonata "In Imitation of Birds" you'll experience an homage to our happy avian friends. The musical sounds of hens, cuckoos, nightingales, and other garden animals abound in delightful compositions by Uccellini, Schmelzer, Vivaldi, and the imaginative Spanish violinist and composer, Jose de Herrando. Tekla Cunningham will bring her "unutterably sweet and rich" (Classical Sonoma) style to Schmelzer's clever "Cuckoo" sonata, and YuEun Gemma Kim will transport the sounds of Madrid's Aranjuez Gardens to San Francisco's beautiful Herbst Theatre. 

The Festival's closing concert finds a truly rousing finale in Rachell Ellen Wong's performance of Vivaldi's "Nightingale" violin concerto, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, which is sure to bring the house down!

Read the Program Booklet

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