Monday, May 09, 2011

ABS: Lotti & Bach

ABS NapkinAn unusually full house turned up for American Bach Soloists's concert of Lotti & Bach last night at St. Mark's. There were also twice as many performers as I usually see at their shows. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas wished us a Happy Mother's Day & announced the up-coming almost-all-Bach season. Mention of the St. Matthew Passion elicited a small burst of applause. Mr. Thomas also pointed out in the audience Murray Somerville, the man who led the American premiere of Lotti's Mass for 3 Choirs at Harvard. I hope Mr. Somerville was not upset by the merriment taking place in seats next to him before the start of the concert.

Lotti's Mass is a collection of short, contrasting movements. It's very contrapuntal, & almost every movement uses a different configuration of voices. I liked the Christe eleison, with 3 trios of singers set against a larger chorus. It would have been cool to have the 4 choirs in different parts of the church. The trumpet solo at the beginning of the Gloria was clear & clean. Violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock played a sweetly imploring solo in the Domine Deus.

ABS's performances are immaculate. Mr. Thomas sometimes conducts with a pinkie finger. As with the Lotti, the Magnificat was highly proficient. The chorus of 20 sang with unity & precision. I mistook soprano Shari Wilson's low, liquid voice for that of an alto. Mezzo Danielle Reutter-Harrah has a rapid warble in her higher range. Alto Abigail Fischer sounded low, & her voice sounds like it comes through a very narrow space. Tenor Scott Mello was fluid & buoyant in his aria. I enjoyed bass Mischa Bouvier, who is warm & fuzzy in both sound & presence.

The orchestra played incisively & in tune. I was surprised by the slurred articulations in the 1st movement of the Magnificat. Debra Nagy played a nice oboe d'amore obbligato in Quia respexit, with just a touch of rubato. The flute duet in Esurientes implevit bonis was light & pleasant, & the audience laughed at the piece's final, comically plump, pizzicato. The audience was very attentive, applauded enthusiastically for each work, & gave the concert a standing ovation. While they were extremely quiet during the music, they were very loud at the dessert reception during intermission.

SFMike & The Opera Tattler have weighed in on the event as well.

§ American Bach Soloists
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Shari Wilson, soprano
Danielle Reutter-Harrah, mezzo-soprano
Abigail Fischer, mezzo-soprano
Scott Mello, tenor
Mischa Bouvier, baritone

Antonio Lotti, Missa a tre cori ("Mass for Three Choirs")
Johann Sebastian Bach, Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243

Sunday 8 May 2011 7:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church

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