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American Bach Soloists to conclude 25th season with a prospective view

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The final concert for the 25th consecutive season of American Bach Soloists (ABS) is entitled Bach’s Legacy. After a series of programs focusing entirely on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, the season will conclude with an all-choral program examining his influence upon later composers in the three centuries following his death. That prospective survey will begin, naturally enough, with the composer often credited with reviving interest in Bach’s music, Felix Mendelssohn. Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas will lead the American Bach Choir in a performance of Mendelssohn’s Opus 79 collection of six motets set for an eight-voice a cappella chorus.

The other nineteenth-century composer on the program will be Johannes Brahms. Brahms was such an ardent admirer of Bach’s music that he became a faithful subscriber to the Bach-Gesellschaft when, in 1851, they released the first volume in their project to publish Bach’s complete works. Sadly, Brahms did not live to see the completion of this project when the 46th volume was published in 1900. Brahms will be represented by his Opus 109 set of three motets, Fest- und Gedenksprüche, scored for double a cappella chorus and performed, again, by the American Bach Choir.

The program will take a major stylistic turn in the twentieth century with the performance of Knut Nystedt’s “Immortal Bach.” Composed in 1987 and scored for five independent four-voice choirs, this is a deconstructed variation of Bach’s BWV 478 setting of the hymn “Komm süßer Tod” (come sweet death), in which each of the choirs sings at a different tempo, beginning and ending and different points in the overall duration of the performance. The final “influenced” work will take us into the 21st century with Sven-David Sandström’s interpretation of another hymn set by Bach, “Komm, Jesu, komm.”

That hymn forms the basis for the BWV 229 a cappella motet, one of three Bach compositions that will begin the program. The other two will be the BWV 226 motet “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf” (the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness) and the BWV 131 cantata Aus der Tiefen rufe, Herr, zu dir (from the deep, Lord, cried I to Thee). This will be the only selection for which the choir will be joined by the ABS period instrument orchestra, and it will begin the program.

The San Francisco performance of this concert will take place on Sunday, April 27, at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner with Franklin Street). Single tickets range from $25 to $64, with discounts available for seniors and students with ID. Tickets may be purchased in advance through hyperlinks on the event page of the ABS Web site or by calling 415-621-7900.

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