Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ABS Festival: Mass in B Minor

American Bach Soloists Festival, 07.22.2012 Performance of Bach's Mass in B-minor at last concert of American Bach Soloists Festival.This final performance of the American Bach Soloists Festival on Sunday afternoon was packed. The overflow sat in the balcony facing the conductor & in extra seats set out close to the stage. There was an orchestra of about 30 & a chorus of 26, plus 6 soloists. The opening chords were soft-edged & the Kyrie gently lilting, as was the performance in general.

I enjoyed hearing soprano Nola Richardson, who has a wonderfully pure, youthful voice which is strong yet floating. ABS switched sopranos on us during the intermission, & in the 2nd half we heard Julianna Emanski, whose voice is clear & firm. Mezzo Margaret Fox made wicked eye contact with the audience during her Laudamus te, which was even a bit slinky. Countertenor Brennan Hall bewilderingly has the stature & build of a bass. His voice is forceful & rooted, & he sang the Agnus Dei with conviction. Tenor Gene Stenger has a crisp, gleaming sound with a clear center of pitch. Baritone Aaron Harp's high range is especially pleasing. He briefly got ahead of the orchestra during his Quoniam to solus sanctus, & he stood on a different side of the conductor for each of his arias.

The obbligato soloists stood up when playing. Maureen Murchie played jaunty violin solos in the Laudamus te, & all the woodwinds sounded perfectly clean. The violin section used mutes during the duet Domine Deus. Paul Avril played the valveless horn with amazing accuracy. For the Benedictus, the tenor stood in the orchestra next to flute soloist. The chorus sang securely & blended with the orchestra. I liked the tenors' spirited & almost scrappy entrances in the Cum Sancto Spiritu.

The entire performance felt well-prepared & could have gone straight to CD. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas paused meaningfully between the Crucifixus & the Et resurrexit. The concluding Dona Nobis Pacem was solemn & had a feeling of culmination. The audience respectfully did not applaud right away but let the silence linger until Maestro Thomas had completely lowered his arms to his sides. They then gave the performers a warm standing ovation. My concert companion reported seeing a man cry & later admitted to getting teary-eyed himself.

§ American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
Masterworks Series

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232

American Bach Soloists Academy Orchestra
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor


Christe eleison
Nola Richardson, soprano
Margaret Fox, mezzo-soprano

Laudamus te
Maureen Murchie, violin
Margaret Fox, mezzo-soprano

Domine Deus
Leighann Daihl, flute
Nola Richardson, soprano
Gene Stenger, tenor

Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris
Johannes Knoll, oboe d'amore
Brennan Hall, countertenor

Quoniam to solus sanctus
Paul Avril, horn
Kelsey Schilling & Tom Hill, bassoon
Aaron Harp, baritone

Et in unum Dominum
Julianna Emanski, soprano
Brennan Hall, countertenor

Et in Spiritum Sanctum Dominum
Debra Nagy & Kristin Olson, oboe d'amore
Kelsey Schilling, bassoon
Aaron Harp, baritone

Jo Brand, flute
Gene Stenger, tenor

Agnus Dei
Brennan Hall, countertenor

Sunday July 22, 2012, 2pm
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

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