American Bach Soloists Festival “BACH’S INSPIRATION”

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Contact: Jeff McMillan
(415) 621-7900 ext. 204
Festival Opens with Two-Part Concert Tracing Influences of
Italian, French, and North German Composers on J.S. Bach
Two Performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor
Led by ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas
Distinguished Artist Soprano Mary Wilson
Featured in Two programs
Handel’s Pastoral Ode L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato
in Concert with ABS Academy Soloists
Works by Bach, Vivaldi, Buxtehude, Frederick the Great,

Reincken, Bruhns, Kuhnau, and others

May 14, 2014—San Francisco, CA—The American Bach Soloists return to San Francisco’s Conservatory of Music July 11-20 for the 5th annual ABS Festival & Academy. Titled “Bach’s Inspiration,” the 2014 Festival—San Francisco’s Summer Bach Festival—will trace the influences of Italian, French, and North German composers on J.S. Bach’s life and music. From large-scaled masterworks for full orchestra, choir, and vocal soloists to intimate chamber works, musical delights and discoveries will fill the days and nights of the 2014 Festival.
_MG_0839Acclaimed for their “fine choral and instrumental ensembles and its magnificent vocal soloists” by San Francisco Classical Voice, ABS and Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Thomas are pleased to present an extraordinary Festival line-up of concerts, recitals, and free educational events for 10 days this summer. Works by Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Kuhnau, Frederick the Great, Alessandro Marcello, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Johann Adam Reincken, Nicolaus Bruhns, Georg Melchior Hoffmann, and Bach’s uncle, Johann Christoph Bach will be performed alongside masterworks by ABS’s namesake, Johann Sebastian Bach.
The 2014 Festival begins on July 11 with an opening night dinner at Dobbs Ferry Restaurant in San Francisco’s arts district and “Part I” of a two-part program titled after the Festival itself, “Bach’s Inspiration.” Exploring works the young Bach would have known or which contributed to his developing musical identity, Thomas and ABS will perform Es Erhub sich ein Streit by Johann Christoph Bach, Buxtehude’s cantata Jesu, meines Lebens Leben, and Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Bach’s immediate predecessor as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, Johann Kuhnau. Flutist Sandra Miller will be the soloist on Frederick the Great’s Concerto for Flute in C Major, a work by the King of Prussia who provided Bach with the subject on which his “Musical Offering” is based. Oboist Debra Nagy will be the soloist on Alessandro Marcello’s Concerto for Oboe in D Minor, a piece that Bach later transcribed for harpsichord (BWV 974). “Part I” will close with Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, Bach’s transcription and arrangement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. In Bach’s hands, the soaring operatic vocal lines of the Italian original became beautifully elaborate counterpoint. Joining Thomas and ABS for this fascinating work will be guest artists soprano Mary Wilson, this season’s Distinguished Artist, and countertenor Eric Jurenas, a rising star who recently wowed ABS audiences in Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Magnificat.
Festival-players“Bach’s Inspiration” continues with “Part II” on Saturday, July 12. Showcasing further influences upon Bach, the concert will open with Reincken’s Partita No. 1 in A Minor, Mein Herz ist bereit by Nicolaus Bruhns, Mit Fried und Freud ich far dahin and Klaglied by Buxtehude, and Georg Melchior Hoffmann’s thrilling and emotionally charged solo cantata Meine Seele rühmt und preist with tenor Derek Chester as soloist. After intermission, ABS will perform three mature works Bach, composed after he had absorbed all he could from his forebears, peers, and colleagues. Baroque trumpet virtuoso John Thiessen will be the soloist on Bach’s second Brandenburg Concerto, the heart-rending secular cantata Amore traditore will feature baritone William Sharp and harpsichord Corey Jamason as dual-soloists, and the fiendishly difficult trio sonata from the “Musical Offering” will be performed by the outstanding instrumentalists of ABS.
On Sunday, July 13, Thomas will direct the ABS Festival Orchestra and the American Bach Choir in the first of two performances of Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor. Considered by many to be the greatest composition in Western music, ABS’s Festival performances of the Mass are a cherished feature each summer as they allow the musicians and audiences to encounter or, as for many Festivalgoers, revisit this incredible work each summer. With outrageously talented soloists from the Academy, ABS’s highly regarded educational program which runs alongside the Festival, the annual performances of Jeffrey Thomas—“unsurpassable as a Bach interpreter” (SFCV)—demonstrate how the work can be a revelation whether heard for the first or the 50th time.
Festival-oratorioAnother beloved tradition of the ABS Festival & Academy is the performance of a Baroque opera or oratorio to open the second weekend of performances. On Friday July 18, Thomas will direct the ABS Festival orchestra in a concert performance of Handel’s L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Verses by John Milton and Charles Jennens provide a libretto which inspired Handel to new heights of humanist expression in this utterly sublime work composed between the two sacred choral masterworks, Israel in Egypt and Messiah. Calling upon his unrivaled ability to express emotions, he created a kaleidoscopic musical romp through the pleasures of Happiness, Melancholy, and—ultimately—Moderation. Featuring instrumentalists and singers from the 2014 Academy playing alongside their mentors from the ABS Faculty, this lavish panoply of more than 30 arias and choruses will surely be a night to remember.
The 2014 Festival’s Distinguished Artist concert on July 19 features the sensational coloratura soprano Mary Wilson. Echoing the theme of Bach’s Inspiration, Ms. Wilson will perform a work that celebrates the “Italian side” of Bach, his charming secular cantata Non sa che sia dolore. Vivaldi’s music was a great source of inspiration for Bach’s own compositions and Ms. Wilson will perform the Italian composer’s virtuoso motet In Furore iustissimae irae. Vivaldi’s Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins and Bach’s rearrangement of Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in D Major as bravura work for harpsichord will also be performed. Ms. Wilson has won the admiration of ABS audiences performing the music of one of Bach’s peers, George Frideric Handel. On this program she will perform Handel’s breathtaking thriller from his Italian sojourn, Tra le fiamme.
Festival-studentsThe Academy, ABS’s elite program for training the next generation of early music virtuosi, will again form a significant component of the Festival. Now in its sixth season, the Academy offers advanced conservatory-level students and emerging professionals the unique opportunity to study and perform Baroque music in a multi-disciplinary learning environment with a faculty made up of members of ABS. Assigned occasional performance duties during the festival, all Academy participants enjoy the spotlight in three “Academy-in-Action” programs from July 14-16 when they are featured performing the works by Bach and other Baroque masters. This year, the “Academy-in-Action” will showcase the participants in an array of musical gems and challenging masterworks, including Bach’s Concerto for Three Harpsichords in C Major and Telemann’s Völker Ouverture in B-Flat Major.
In addition to the main stage concerts, the ABS Festival offers free lectures, master classes, and special events for those who want to learn more about this extraordinary music, its techniques and instrumentation, and the cultural contexts from which the composers and their works emerged. In the July 12 public colloquium entitled “Baroque Instruments and Performers, Then and Now: Creating a New Fusion of Styles and Tastes,” Academy faculty and participants will explore the national styles of instrument building and performance practice that made the Baroque era an always-evolving melting pot of musical flavors and cultures. Public lectures by Academy faculty during the second week present a variety of topics: Kenneth Slowik “Bach: ‘The Greatest Musical Orator That Ever Existed’”; Robert Mealy “The Presence of the Past: Bach’s Relations to his Musical Ancestors”; Corey Jamason “Postmodern Bach: French and Italian Styles Absorbed, Transformed, and Made Entirely New”; Jeffrey Thomas “All Things in Moderation: A Look at Handel’s Oratorio Texts from Dryden, Hamilton, Jennens, & Milton”; and Debra Nagy “Musical and Dramatic Performances of the Passion Story—Before Bach.” Also during the second week, the ABS Academy opens its doors from July 15-19 for public master classes. These sessions allow audiences to witness the artistic transformations that occur when teacher and student work together on the highest levels of technique and interpretation.
Festival Passes (8 concerts): $127-$252.
Single tickets: $10-$64, discounts available for students (with current student ID).
For tickets or information, please visit or call 415-621-7900
All events at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco. Located in the heart of the city’s Civic Center and close to the War Memorial Opera House and Davies Symphony Hall, The San Francisco Conservatory of Music can be easily reached by public transportation, especially BART and MUNI. The Conservatory is a wheelchair accessible facility.
Press images, soloist bios, and other links are available in our online Press Room at
American Bach Soloists Faculty
Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin & viola
Max van Egmond, voice
Corey Jamason, harpsichord
Steven Lehning, violone & contrabass
Judith Malafronte, voice
Robert Mealy, violin & viola
Sandra Miller, flute
Debra Nagy, oboe & recorder
William Sharp, voice
Kenneth Slowik, viola da gamba & violoncello
William Skeen, violoncello
John Thiessen, trumpet
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Mary Wilson, soprano *Distinguished Artist
America Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
Schedule of Events
July 11-20, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
5:00 pm Opening Night Gala Dinner at Dobbs Ferry (409 Gough Street)
8:00 pm “Bach’s Inspiration – Part I” (Tickets $25-$64)
JC BACH: Es erhub sich ein Streit
BUXTEHUDE: Jesu, meines Lebens Leben
KUHNAU: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
FREDERICK THE GREAT: Concerto for Flute in C Major - Sandra Miller, flute
MARCELLO: Concerto for Oboe in D Minor – Debra Nagy, oboe
JS BACH: Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden – Mary Wilson, soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor
Saturday, July 12, 2014
2:30 pm Public Colloquium (FREE): “Baroque Instruments and Performers, Then and Now: Creating a New Fusion of Styles and Tastes”
8:00 pm “Bach’s Inspiration – Part II” (Tickets $25-$64)
REINCKEN: Partita No. 1 in A Minor
BRUHNS: Mein Herz ist bereit
BUXTEHUDE: Mit Fried und Freud ich far dahin & Klaglied
HOFFMANN: Meine Seele rühmt und preist
JS BACH: Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047 – John Thiessen, trumpet
JS BACH: Amore traditore, BWV 203 – William Sharp, baritone; Corey Jamason, harpsichord
JS BACH: “Musical Offering” Trio Sonata, from BWV 1079
Sunday, July 13, 2014
7:00 pm BACH: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 (Tickets $25-$64)
Monday, July 14, 2014
8:00 pm “Academy-In-Action I” (Tickets $10)
Chamber works including Bach’s Concerto for Three Harpsichords in C Major
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
3:00 pm Master Class Series: Harpsichord (FREE)
5:00 pm Lecture Series: Kenneth Slowik “Bach: ‘The Greatest Musical Orator That Ever Existed’ (FREE)
8:00 pm “Academy-In-Action II” (Tickets $10)
Chamber works including Telemann’s Völker Ouverture in B-Flat Major
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
3:00 pm Master Class Series: Violin & Viola (FREE)
5:00 pm Lecture Series: Robert Mealy”The Presence of the Past: Bach’s Relations to his Musical Ancestors” (FREE)
8:00 pm “Academy-In-Action III” (Tickets $10)
Chamber Works including Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets in C Major
Thursday, July 17, 2014
3:00 pm Master Class Series: Violoncello, Viola da gamba, Violone, & Contrabass (FREE)
5:00 pm Lecture Series: Corey Jamason “Postmodern Bach: French and Italian Styles Absorbed, Transformed, and Made Entirely New” (FREE)
Friday, July 18, 2014
3:00 pm Master Class Series: Winds & Brass (FREE)
5:00 pm Lecture Series: Jeffrey Thomas “All Things in Moderation: A Look at Handel’s Oratorio Texts from Dryden, Hamilton, Jennens, & Milton” (FREE)
8:00 pm HANDEL: L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (Tickets $25-$50)
Saturday, July 19, 2014
3:00 pm Master Class Series: Voice (FREE)
5:00 pm Lecture Series: Debra Nagy “Musical and Dramatic Performances of the Passion Story—Before Bach” (FREE)
8:00 pm Distinguished Artist Series: Mary Wilson, soprano
HANDEL: Tra le fiamme
BACH: Non sa che sia dolore, BWV 209
BACH: Concerto in D Major for Harpsichord Solo (after Vivaldi: Violin Concerto in D Major), BWV 972
VIVALDI: Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins
VIVALDI: In furore iustissimae irae
Sunday, July 20, 2014 – Festival Closing
2:00 pm BACH: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
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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