There are still a little more than two weeks before the American Bach Soloists (ABS) Festival & Academy gets under way, but this is a good time to note that plans have already been set for the 2014–15 concert season. As usual that season will begin with the annual performances of George Frideric Handel’s HWV 56 Messiah in Grace Cathedral during the Christmas season. This year there will be three performances, all at 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, December 16 (yes, that is the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven; but Beethoven thought very highly of Handel), Wednesday, December 17, and Friday, December 19. This year the soloists will be Mary Wilson, soprano, Eric Jurenas, countertenor, Wesley Rogers, tenor, and Jesse Blumberg, baritone. All concerts will be conducted by Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas.
As in past seasons, all remaining San Francisco concerts will take place on Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the corner of Franklin Street). Dates and content for these three concerts will be as follows:
- January 25: The major work on the program will be a concert performance of Handel’s HWV 49 pastoral opera in two acts, Acis and Galatea. This is a setting of an English libretto by John Gay (probably best known as the creator of The Beggar’s Opera). Roles will be shared by a single soprano (Nola Richardson), two tenors (Kyle Stegall and Zachary Wilder), and a single baritone (Mischa Bouvier). The opera will be preceded by an “overture” by Johann Sebastian Bach, his BWV 1049 (“Brandenburg”) concerto in G major (the fourth).
- March 1: Once again Thomas has prepared a performance of Bach’s BWV 244 setting of the Passion text in the Gospel According to Saint Matthew. Tenor Wesley Rogers will return to sing again the words of the evangelist Matthew, while the words of Jesus will be sung by baritone William Sharp, who sang the “parallel role” in the BWV 245 “St. John” Passion setting in January of 2013. Remaining vocal soloists will be announced at a later date.
- May 3: This will be the concert that will feature a solo performance by cellist Gretchen Claassen, recipient of the 2015 Jeffrey Thomas Award. She will perform the A major cello concerto by the Neapolitan Leonardo Leo, one of six concertos this composer wrote for cello, strings, and continuo. This will be coupled with Nisi Dominus (if not the Lord), a setting of Psalm 127 sometimes described as a “concerto for voice” by Antonio Vivaldi, with countertenor Ian Howell as soloist. This pairing of the sacred with the secular will be reflected by the two Bach selections that will open the program, the BWV 169 cantata Gott soll allein mein Herze haben (only God has my heart) and the BWV 1069 orchestral suite in D major.
Subscription packages for the three concerts at St. Mark’s range from $69 to $168. This amounts to a 15% savings over the purchase of single tickets, which will go on sale on July 1. Messiah tickets may be added to subscriptions at prices between $23 and $83, also a 15% savings over the purchase of single tickets. Discounted single tickets are available for seniors and students with ID. Further information may be found in the season brochure, which may be requested through a Web page. Further information may be found at the ABS Web site or by calling 415-621-7900.