Press Release: American Bach Soloists Celebrate BACH, VIVALDI, & LEO

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Contact: Jeff McMillan
(415) 621-7900 ext. 204

Jeffrey Thomas Leads a Trio of Works by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus, and
a Cello Concerto by Leonardo Leo
Countertenor Ian Howell Sings Bach and Vivaldi
2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award Recipient Gretchen Claassen Performs
Leo’s Concerto for Violoncello in A Major
American Bach Soloists: Bach, Vivaldi, & Leo
Friday, May 1, 2015 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, BELVEDERE
Saturday, May 2, 2015 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, BERKELEY
Sunday, May 3, 2015 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday, May 4, 2015 7:00 pmDavis Community Church, DAVIS
Tickets: $27-$66 / / (415) 621-7900
March 25, 2015—SAN FRANCISCO, CA—The 26th subscription series of American Bach Soloists (ABS) comes to a close May 1-4, 2015 with Bach, Vivaldi, & Leo in three Bay Area venues and in Davis. Featuring vocal and instrumental works by Johann Sebastian Bach and two Italian masters, the program will showcase the brilliant musicians of ABS in an engaging assembly of Baroque genius and inspiration.
BVLSOLIMusic Director Jeffrey Thomas and the period-instrument specialists of ABS will perform a trio of works by Johann Sebastian Bach. Unlike his fellow German composers who wrote dozens of works based on the model of the French Ouverture followed by a series of dance movements, Bach composed only four Orchestral Suites. The layered textures and bold harmonic richness of his Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069, established a lofty standard of sophistication in the genre. Two sparkling soloists, Elizabeth Blumenstock and rising Baroque violinist Cynthia Black, will perform the solo parts in Bach’s beloved Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043. Cynthia Black, a recent ABS Academy graduate and featured soloist with leading groups such as Apollo's Fire, makes her ABS debut with these performances. Countertenor Ian Howell will be the vocal soloist for Bach’s cantata, Gott soll allein, mein Herze haben, BWV 169 (“God alone shall have my heart”). Hailed by the New York Times for his “fully supported and consistently expressive" voice, Howell’s artistry is well-known to ABS audiences from recent triumphs in Handel's Messiah, his Distinguished Artist recital during the 2012 ABS Festival & Academy, and the recording 1685 & The Art of Ian Howell.
From the music of Bach, ABS will move on to the works of two great Italian composers, Antonio Vivaldi and Leonardo Leo. Bach was heavily influenced by Vivaldi and transcribed the Italian master’s violin works in order to absorb their beautiful and soaring melodies. ABS, with Howell returning as vocal soloist, will perform Nisi Dominus, a sacred work that Vivaldi originally composed for an extraordinary vocal soloist in his Venetian ensemble at the Ospedale della Pieta. Set to the text of Psalm 127, the extensive nine-movement work traverses a wide range of tempi and moods, including a larghetto “Gloria” movement that is solemn and brooding followed by the bravura aria, “Sicut erat in principio,” and an equally spirited “Amen”
Known for his comic operas and sacred music, Naples-born composer Leonardo Leo also wrote a series of cello concertos during the 1730s while under the patronage of the Duke of Maddaloni, an accomplished cellist. In the ABS premiere of Leo’s Concerto for Violoncello in A Major, Gretchen Claassen, the 2015 recipient of The Jeffrey Thomas Award, will be featured as violoncello soloist. A two-time winner of the Baroque Concerto Competition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and three-time ABS Academy participant, Claassen is a versatile artist who has performed with leading early music groups and is a founding member of the Cello Street Quartet and period ensembles MUSA and The Alchemy Trio. Her performance of the Leo concerto will be her debut as a soloist with ABS.
ABS established The Jeffrey Thomas Award in 2013 to honor and encourage emerging early music professionals of remarkable merit. Given annually at the discretion of ABS Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas, the recipient is awarded a cash prize and invited to perform as a soloist with ABS.
A free, pre-concert lecture–“Insights”–by harpsichordist Corey Jamason will begin one hour prior to each performance.
Single tickets: $27-$66
For tickets or information, please visit or call (415) 621-7900
BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069
BACH: Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043
BACH: Gott soll allein, mein Herze haben, BWV 169
VIVALDI: Nisi Dominus
LEO: Concerto for Violoncello in A Major
Ian Howell, countertenor
Elizabeth Blumenstock & Cynthia Black [debut], violins
Gretchen Claassen, violoncello [2015 recipient of The Jeffrey Thomas Award]
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday, May 1, 2015 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, BELVEDERE
Saturday, May 2, 2015 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church, BERKELEY
Sunday, May 3, 2015 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday, May 4, 2015 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, DAVIS
The American Bach Soloists engage and inspire audiences through historically informed performances, recordings, and educational programs that emphasize the music of the Baroque, Classical, and Early Romantic eras. Founded in 1989, the ensemble has achieved its vision of assembling the world’s finest vocalists and period-instrument performers to bring this brilliant music to life. For more than two decades, Jeffrey Thomas has brought thoughtful, meaningful, and informed perspectives to his performances as Artistic and Music Director of the American Bach Soloists. Fanfare Magazine proclaimed that “Thomas’s direction seems just right, capturing the humanity of the music…there is no higher praise for Bach performance.”


Renowned for his experience, knowledge and sensitivity for the music of the Baroque, Jeffrey Thomas’s preparation of the major works of the repertory such as Bach’s Mass in B Minor, St. Matthew Passion, and Handel’s Messiah have led to inspired, definitive performances that have become synonymous with the ensemble he has led with such distinction, American Bach Soloists. San Francisco Classical Voice said, “Jeffrey Thomas is still pushing the musical Baroque envelope.” Before devoting all of his time to conducting, he was one of the first recipients of the San Francisco Opera Company's prestigious Adler Fellowships. Cited by The Wall Street Journal as “a superstar among oratorio tenors,” Mr. Thomas's extensive discography of vocal music includes dozens of recordings of major works for Decca, EMI, Erato, Koch International Classics, Denon, Harmonia Mundi, Smithsonian, Newport Classics, and Arabesque. He is a Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis, where he holds the Barbara K. Jackson Chair in Choral Conducting. Mr. Thomas currently hosts two shows on one of the nation's premiere classical music radio stations, KDFC, the most recent major commercial classical station in America to make the transition to public radio. Through worldwide streaming audio, he brings his experience and love for baroque and choral music to a global audience. [more...]
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