Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ABS: Bach's Hercules

American Bach Soloists photo IMG_20140223_155343_zpsc812ef5c-1.jpgSunday afternoon I heard the American Bach Soloists give smooth, pleasing performances of the Orchestral Suite in C Major, the Missa Brevis in G Major, & the birthday cantata Hercules at the Crossroads. An ensemble of 19 played the Orchestral Suite. Tempos were fast yet stately. Dominic Teresi's bassoon solos were brisk, & oboist Debra Nagy played expressively. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas led with small, minimal gestures & ended each movement with a feeling of uplift. The chorus & soloists were behind the orchestra for the Missa Brevis & the cantata, & the soloists also sang in the choruses. The 19-member chorus made a solid, unified sound, & their entrances & cut-offs were very together. I'd never heard the Hercules cantata before, but Bach recycled most of the numbers into the Christmas Oratorio, making me feel like I was wandering in & out of a Christmas concert.

Baritone Jesse Blumberg sang a virtuosic aria in the mass with a warm, even sound. He didn't get an aria in the cantata, but he sounded youthful & firm in his extended recitative at the end, & he colored his voice nicely. Tenor Derek Chester has a ringing, clarion voice & sang rapid runs with clarity & ease. He certainly communicated soaring flight in his tenor aria in the cantata. Soprano Kathryn Mueller has a strong, supple voice that is a little warbling. She sounded cute, even when portraying Vice in the cantata. Countertenor Ian Howell sounded open & free & sang flexibly. He enunciated the "ch" sound very distinctly in the cantata aria "Ich will dich nicht hören." Ms. Nagy accompanied him with a full-bodied tone in the echo aria "Treues Echo dieser Orten." Countertenor Dan Cromeenes supplied the impressively punctual off-stage echo, even though it was not at all apparent how he was being cued. The orchestra's 2 violists stood while accompanying the alto & tenor duet "Ich bin deine." Everyone on stage looked delighted to be there, & the perfomance had a slightly giddy atmosphere. Mr. Chester in particular appeared gleeful, whether singing or listening along.

American Bach Soloists photo IMG_20140223_171155_zps622f0ffb-1.jpgWhile the stage was reset for the Missa Brevis, ABS president Hugh Davies, a bass in the chorus, gave a cheeky speech, asking the audience for support beyond the ticket price, "whether you are a gambler, party animal or philanthropist." He concluded by proclaiming ABS's new tag line as "Music to enrich your soul & impoverish your wallet." It was well-begged. During intermission substantial refrehments were served in a downstairs reception room. A barking dog attended, & there was an outbreak of spontaneous singing.

§ Bach's Hercules
American Bach Soloists

Kathryn Mueller, soprano
Ian Howell, countertenor
Derek Chester, tenor
Jesse Blumberg, baritone

American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066
Missa Brevis in G Major, BWV 236
Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, BWV 213

February 23 2014, 4:00 pm
St. Mark's Lutheran Church

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