Press Release: ABS Announces 2016-2017 Season

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

“A Weekend in Paris” Explores Eighteenth Century
French Masterpieces in February
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus in March/April
Handel’s Italian Oratorio La Resurrezione in May
Handel's Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral with
Additional Performances in Davis and Rohnert Park

MARCH 28, 2016—SAN FRANCISCO, CA—American Bach Soloists (ABS) announce their 28th season, a showcase of peerless musical inspiration from the Baroque era in Europe. During the 2016-17 season, ABS Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas will lead his ABS forces of leading period-instrumentalists and historically informed singers, including three vocal soloists making their ABS debuts, through dazzling works by Bach, Handel, and five masters of the French Baroque.



Hélène Brunet ~ Emily Marvosh ~ Derek Chester ~ Mischa Bouvier

For the eighteenth consecutive season, ABS returns to San Francisco’s magnificent Grace Cathedral to present its annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, December 14-16, 2016. Thomas will direct the renowned American Bach Choir, ABS orchestra, and vocal soloists soprano Hélène Brunet, alto Emily Marvosh in her ABS debut, tenor Derek Chester, and baritone Mischa Bouvier in three performances of Handel’s beloved work in one of San Francisco’s most awe-inspiring, sacred spaces. Always a highlight of the holiday season in the Bay Area, ABS’s annual performances attract music lovers from around the world. Additional performances on December 10 at the Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts in Davis and on December 18 at The Green Music Center in Rohnert Park.



Nola Richardson ~ Stephen Brennfleck ~ William Sharp

ABS's 28th subscription season opens February 10-13, 2017, with “A Weekend in Paris,” a program of works by five masters of the French Baroque. With Jean-Baptiste Lully’s death in 1687 and the end of his monopoly on music in France, an explosion of musical creativity erupted in Paris during the eighteenth century from a new generation of composers. Marin Marais and Jean-Féry Rebel were both students of Lully, played under his direction in the King’s royal orchestra, and were among the first to emerge as faces of the “new music.” Thomas conducts the period-instrument specialists of ABS in a suite of dances from Marais’ 1709 opera Sémélé, including the lively Act II chaconne, and Rebel’s benchmark of French style, Les caractères de la danse. Jean-Joseph de Mondonville and Michel Corrette were significant participants in the next wave of French invention and elevated the Grand Motet to brilliant new heights, incorporating new cosmopolitan influences from abroad. The Italian style is especially evident in these works, as evidenced by Corrette’s Laudate Dominum, which includes an interpolation of Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons arranged for choir, vocal soloists, and orchestra. Finally, Thomas conducts ABS in a suite of dances from the opera Dardanus by the great genius of the French Baroque, Jean-Philippe Rameau. Haute-contre Steven Brennfleck, an ABS Academy alumnus, makes his ABS debut singing the mellifluous lines for high tenor that are so central to French music of the period. Soprano Nola Richardson, who the Washington Post applauded for her “astonishing balance and accuracy,” and baritone William Sharp, “a superbly communicative vocal artist” (Baltimore Sun), round out the assemblage of artists for this tour of works for the Opéra, Ballet, and Chapelle.


The American Bach Choir

Among the most compelling and mysterious of Bach's sacred works are his motets for double choir. From March 31-April 3, Thomas will lead the American Bach Choir and instrumentalists in Bach’s Motets for Double Chorus. Composed for special occasions, these mesmerizing and ethereal works rely on the human voice, in its multifarious splendor, to provide the color palette, melodic movement, harmonic textures, and, of course, the message of the text. Thomas and the American Bach Choir left the audience breathless when they last performed Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (BWV 225) and Fürchte dich nicht (BWV 228) at the 2012 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition. This presentation of Bach’s motets, including some frequently overlooked works only recently attributed to Bach, promises to be a banquet of sublime vocalism.


Mary Wilson ~ Meg Bragle ~ Guy Cutting ~ Jesse Blumberg

The ABS subscription season closes May 5-8 with performances of Handel’s La Resurrezione. Composed and first performed during the composer’s youthful sojourn in Rome, the 1708 work is a marvel of creative power and imagination. La Resurrezione, a truly operatic oratorio, scandalized the Vatican (opera was prohibited in Rome by Papal edict at the time) yet assured Handel’s place as the new master of Italian operatic style. Heaven and Hell—embodied in Lucifer and an Angel—battle for supremacy on earth through this dramatic telling of the emotions and convictions of Mary Magdalene and St. John the Evangelist. Thomas conducts an outstanding cast of Handelians in this brilliant work, which demands bravura performances from singers and instrumentalists alike. As the opposing divine forces, soprano Mary Wilson and baritone Jesse Blumberg assume the roles of the Angel and Lucifer. ABS Academy alumna Nola Richardson sings the role of Mary Magdalene, contralto Meg Bragle makes her ABS debut as Mary Cleophas, and tenor Guy Cutting, the 2014 recipient of The Jeffrey Thomas Award, sings the role of St. John.
Subscriptions On Sale April 22, 2016 - (415) 621-7900

Subscriptions $84–$217
Single Tickets $33–$85 ($28-$72 with a subscription)
Messiah Tickets $35–$118 ($29–$118 with a subscription)
December 14-16, 2016
Hélène Brunet, soprano
Emily Marvosh, contralto [debut]
Derek Chester, tenor
Mischa Bouvier, baritone
American Bach Soloists and American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Wednesday, December 14 2016 7:30 – Grace Cathedral,
Thursday, December 15 2016 7:30 – Grace Cathedral, SAN FRANCISCO
Friday, December 16 2016 7:30 – Grace Cathedral, SAN FRANCISCO
Additional performances:
Sunday December 10 2016 7:00 - Mondavi Center, UC Davis - Call (530) 754-ARTS
Sunday December 18 2016 4:00 – Green Music Center, Rohnert Park - Call (866) 955-6040

February 10-13, 2017
MARAIS: Suite from Sémélé
REBEL: Les caractères de la danse
MONDONVILLE: In Exitu Israel
CORRETTE: Laudate Dominum, after “Spring” by Vivaldi
RAMEAU: Suite from Dardanus
Nola Richardson, soprano
Steven Brennfleck, haute-contre [debut]
William Sharp, baritone
Friday February 10 2017 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, BELVEDERE
Saturday February 11 2017 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, BERKELEY
Sunday February 12 2017 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday February 13 2017 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, DAVIS
March 31-April 3, 2017
American Bach Soloists and American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday March 31 2017 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, BELVEDERE
Saturday April 1 2017 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, BERKELEY
Sunday April 2 2017 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday April 3 2017 7:00 pm – Davis Community Church, DAVIS
May 5-8, 2017
Nola Richardson, soprano – Mary Magdalene
Mary Wilson, soprano – Angel
Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano [debut] – Mary Cleophas
Guy Cutting, tenor – St. John
Jesse Blumberg, baritone - Lucifer
American Bach Soloists and American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Friday May 5 2017 8:00 pm – St. Stephen’s Church, BELVEDERE
Saturday May 6 2017 8:00 pm – First Congregational Church, BERKELEY
Sunday May 7 2017 4:00 pm – St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, SAN FRANCISCO
Monday May 8 2017 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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