Monday, March 16, 2009

American Bach Soloists: Favorite Cantatas

Sunday 15 March 2009, 7:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church, San Francisco

American Bach Soloists

Yulia Van Doren, soprano
Jennifer Lane, alto
Jeffrey Thomas, tenor
William Sharp, baritone

Favorite Cantatas

J. S. Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140
J. S. Bach: Ich habe genug, BWV 82
J. S. Bach: Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78
J. S. Bach: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80

At ABS performances, the audience is asked to join in the final chorales. So at the start of the evening, Mr. Thomas gave us a chance to rehearse. This audience was more than up to the job, singing confidently in German! While I barely mouthed the words, the woman next to me sang in a lovely soprano voice.

This was a substantial presentation of 4 major cantatas. The hard-working ABS did it all one person per part & without a conductor. Although this approach is minimal, balances & ensemble were fine. I sometimes feel like I have to tolerate original instrument performances, but this evening the instruments were very well behaved & even pleasant-sounding. I liked Elizabeth Blumenstock's playing, especially her virtuoso turn in Wachet auf. According to the program, she played a violino piccolo, which looked like a toy. The musicians would stand when playing the obbligato parts.

The 4 vocal soloists were all good, though they each had a very different sound. Ich habe genug is an incredible, time-stopping piece of music, & I was grateful for Mr. Sharp's smooth & expressive singing. This is the music most likely to convert me to Lutheranism. Ms. Van Doren & Ms. Lane were cute, almost pert, in the duet in Jesu, der du meine Seele. Their number received a spontaneous round of applause.

I don't think one could argue much about the programming or the performances. It gave me a feeling of well-being to hear this repertoire done so capably. Only the house lights seemed a bit uncertain. They are supposed to come up during the final chorales so that the audience can read its music. However, during Ein feste Burg they came up during the wrong chorale, then quickly went down again, causing some confusion & then a few giggles.

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