Press Release - American Bach Soloists Celebrate 25th Season



Contact: Jeff McMillan
(415) 621-7900 ext. 204
25th SEASON IN 2013-14
Subscription Concerts Focus on an Outstanding All-Bach Series
An ABS Christmas and Handel’s Messiah at Grace Cathedral and
the UC Davis Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in December
2014 ABS Bach Festival titled “Bach’s Inspiration”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—September 5, 2013—The 2013-14 season marks the 25th annual series of concerts by the American Bach Soloists (ABS). To honor their illustrious accomplishments, and looking forward to the next twenty-five years, artistic and music director Jeffrey Thomas and ABS—“some of the greatest period-instrument players in the world” (San Francisco Classical Voice)—present a season celebrating the mastery of Johann Sebastian Bach. All of the 25th Season concerts will feature the celebrated American Bach Choir, which “sets the standard in choral singing” (SFCV). Rarely heard compositions of beauty and depth will be heard alongside more familiar masterworks, all performed to the highest standards by the best early music specialists, the credo of ABS since its founding in 1989. The celebratory season will also feature the continuation of several ABS traditions that audiences have come to love.
Music Director Jeffrey Thomas is particularly thrilled by the repertoire selected for the American Bach Soloists’ landmark 25th Season. “We have chosen works that show Bach at his most opulent and celebratory best. Some splendid secular orchestral works and the truly charming ‘Hercules’ cantata are matched up with cantatas, masses, and motets that are grand and glorious. Our audiences will enjoy superb soloists, the finest period-instrument specialists, and our superlative American Bach Choir. And the whole year of festivities will be crowned by our 2014 Festival that will feature some of my own personal favorites composed by Bach and his contemporaries. It’s going to be a sensational season!”
2013-14 opens in style with the annual ABS Gala at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere on September 21. This season’s Silver Soirée will be a festive kick-off event with an extraordinary concert program, fine wine and dining, and fundraising auction.
Following the greatest attendance marks in the history of this beloved tradition, ABS’s annual performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s awe-inspiring Grace Cathedral return on December 11 & 12. A third performance of the enduring masterpiece will be performed in the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis on December 15. An outstanding quartet of soloists—Shawnette Sulker, soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; Aaron Sheehan, tenor; and Mischa Bouvier, baritone—ensure that this year’s performances will again be the Bay Area’s top musical attraction in December.
ABS’s instantly sold-out 2012 Christmas concert at St. Stephen’s Church was such a tremendous success that another special program has been added to the schedule in the new season. On December 14, An ABS Christmas will feature holiday-themed works in the beautiful, candlelit space where ABS was born in 1989. Soprano Shawnette Sulker and virtuoso Baroque trumpeter John Thiessen will be the soloists on Bach’s thrilling cantatas Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (Cantata 51) and Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen (Cantata 248). A selection of Holiday Carols and works by Britten, Conte, Howells, Rutter, Vaughan Williams, & Whitacre sung by the American Bach Choir complete the program.
Three extraordinary concert programs featuring masterworks by ABS's namesake, Johann Sebastian Bach, form the heart and soul of the 2014 subscription season. In January, Maestro Thomas and ABS will present an all-Bach program including Tönet, ihr Pauken, (Cantata 214, featuring music that eventually became part of the “Christmas Oratorio”); Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067; the famous and always popular Magnificat, BWV 243; and Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir (Cantata 130), a fantastically extroverted cantata composed for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. Three of the works call upon especially heraldic trumpet ensembles, and the Orchestral Suite will feature baroque flutist Sandra Miller, whose playing is noted for its “mellow, quietly penetrating tone” and whose performances are described as “models of confidence and unbroken steadiness” (The New York Times). For this program, the audience will be invited to sing along on the final chorale of Cantata 130, bringing back a hallmark of ABS’s cantata performances over the years.
In February, the Bach celebration continues with the composer’s Missa Brevis in G Major, BWV 236; Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066; and Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, BWV 213 (“Hercules at the Crossroads,” a cantata comprised of arias and duets that were later utilized in Parts II, III, & IV of the “Christmas Oratorio”).
The April concerts, titled Bach’s Legacy, will feature motets and choral works by J. S. Bach, along with choral masterpieces by Mendelssohn and Brahms, two composers who were profoundly influenced by the Cantor of Leipzig and sought to emulate his style.
The American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy—known as San Francisco’s Summer Bach Festival—will bring the 25th Season celebrations to an exciting close as ABS musicians and members of the 5th annual Academy present the 2014 Festival, titled “Bach’s Inspiration.” Bach was greatly influenced by the works of Vivaldi, Buxtehude, and members of his own highly esteemed family of composers. As a young boy, he would seek out scores of compositions by others and, simply through the act of making manuscript copies, glean important insights into the techniques utilized by their composers. Later in life, he would transcribe concertos by the immensely successful Antonio Vivaldi, arranging them for keyboard alone, and through this process he studied Vivaldi’s methods of organizing a musical work into repeatable fragments of melodic and harmonic material. That “architectural” device would become the primary mechanism for Bach’s own language of musical rhetoric. He idolized the Danish composer Dietrich Buxtehude, so much so that he traveled more than 250 miles on foot to hear concerts given by Buxtehude in the North German city of Lübeck, extending a leave from his employer without permission for more than two months. Bach also greatly revered the compositions of his own family members who had already well established the family’s reputation as the most important musical dynasty in Germany.
By performing a broad array of works by those who influenced Bach the most—including concertos and vocal works by Vivaldi and Pergolesi, cantatas and chamber music by Buxtehude, liturgical works by Bach’s forebears, and even music by Frederick the Great, who inspired Bach’s Musical Offering—and presenting works by Bach that clearly show their derivations from those musical stimuli, the American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy will offer a unique position of discovery of the contexts and magnificent results of Bach’s egoless veneration of the artistic values of his world.
The 2014 Festival will open on Friday, July 11, and continue through Sunday, July 20. Works to be performed include Bach’s Concerto for Three Harpsichords and Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (arranged by Bach). The Distinguished Artist Series will feature the sensational coloratura soprano Mary Wilson and the Masterworks Series will be anchored by the always highly anticipated annual performances of Bach’s towering Mass in B Minor and more than a dozen free master classes, public colloquia, and lectures.
Subscriptions range from $64 to $243.

Single Ticket prices range from $20 to $94.
Tickets for the 2014 Festival available February 1, 2014.
For more information, visit or call 415-621-7900.
Saturday, September 21, 2013, 5:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE
Musical program including works by J.S. Bach, Rameau, Clerambault, & Handel
Nola Richardson, soprano
Kyle Stegall, tenor
Christopher Matthews, flute
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin
William Skeen, violoncello
Corey Jamason, harpsichord
Steven Lehning, violone
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 7:30 pm
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, SAN FRANCISCO
Thursday, December 12, 2013, 7:30 pm
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, SAN FRANCISCO
Sunday, December 15, 2013, 4:00 pm
Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, Mrak Hall Drive, DAVIS
Shawnette Sulker, soprano
Eric Jurenas, countertenor
Aaron Sheehan, tenor
Mischa Bouvier, baritone
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Saturday, December 14, 2013, 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE
BACH: Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51
BACH: Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen, BWV 248
Plus Holiday Carols and works by Britten, Conte, Howells, Rutter, Vaughan Williams, & Whitacre
Shawnette Sulker, soprano
John Thiessen, trumpet
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday, January 24, 2014, 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE
Saturday, January 25, 2014, 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, BERKELEY
Sunday, January 26, 2014, 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday January 27, 2014 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS
BACH: Tönet, ihr Pauken, BWV 214
BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067
BACH: Magnificat, BWV 243
BACH: Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, BWV 130
Clara Rottsolk, soprano
Eric Jurenas, countertenor
Guy Cutting, tenor
William Sharp, baritone
Sandra Miller, flute
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday, February 21, 2014, 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE
Saturday, February 22, 2014, 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, BERKELEY
Sunday, February 23, 2014, 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday February 24, 2014 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS
BACH: Missa Brevis in G Major, BWV 236
BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066
BACH: Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen (“Hercules at the Crossroads”), BWV 213
Kathryn Mueller, soprano
Ian Howell, countertenor
Derek Chester, tenor
Jesse Blumberg, baritone
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday, April 25, 2014, 8:00 pm
St. Stephen’s Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, BELVEDERE
Saturday, April 26, 2014, 8:00 pm
First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, BERKELEY
Sunday, April 27, 2014, 4:00 pm
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 1111 O’Farrell, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday April 28, 2014 7:00 pm
Davis Community Church, 412 C Street, DAVIS
BACH: Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, BWV 131
BACH: Ich lasse dich nicht, BWV Anh. 159
BACH: Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229
BACH: Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226
MENDELSSOHN: Sechs Sprüche
BRAHMS: Fest- und Gedenksprüche
SANDSTROM: Komm, Jesu, Komm
NYSTEDT: Immortal Bach
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday, July 11 through Sunday, July 20, 2014
San Francisco Conservatory of Music, SAN FRANCISCO
Works including:
PERGOLESI: Stabat Mater (arranged by Bach)
BACH: Concerto for Three Harpsichords, BWV 1064
VIVALDI: Concerto for Four Violins
BACH: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069
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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