American Bach Soloists held the 1st concert of their summer Festival & Academy, which runs at the SF Conservatory of Music through August 16th. The event opened Bayreuth-style, with a trumpet fanfare proclaimed from the topmost level of the lobby 15 minutes before the performance. In keeping with this year's theme, the program consisted of dance suites by 3 composers of the French high Baroque.
Conductor Jeffrey Thomas briefly introduced the scenario of Jean-Féry Rebel's Les Élémens, which depicts nothing less than the emergence of the universe. Maestro Thomas had the string section play the motives representing water, air, fire & earth so that we could recognize them later. The piece begins with a shockingly dissonant chord, which sounds nothing like the 18th century, though the rest of the music was conventional.
The orchestra of about 25 gave a flawless, well-prepared performance which could go straight to CD. The violins' phrasing was precise & emphatic. The woodwinds sounded lovely. The flute & piccolo were clean, woody & never breathy. I enjoyed the oboe solos, which were consistently smooth, clear & even. The bassoons had a distinctive, mellow sound that was less flatulant than their modern equivalent. The brass instruments blended nicely, & the orchestral balances seemed right. There were more fine woodwind solos, especially from the oboe, in the suite by Aubert, & the violins played rapid 16th note passages with impressive synchronization. Maestro Thomas was a calm conductor. He led with small, undemonstrative gestures, & tempos were straight & unrushed.
§ Versailles & The Parisian Baroque - Part I
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor
Concert de trompettes pour les festes sur le canal de Versailles
Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726)
Les Élémens, Symphonie Nouvelle
Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747)
Concert de symphonies, Suite II in D Major, Op. 9, no. 2
Jacques Aubert le Vieux (1689-1753)
Ouverture & Suite from Naïs, Opéra pour la Paix
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
2015 American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
Friday August 7 2015, 8p
San Francisco Conservatory of Music