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Choral and Vocal
A MAJESTIC ABS MESSIAH ORATORIO RESOUNDS IN WEILL DEC. 18
by Joanna Bramel Young
Sunday, December 18, 2016
San Francisco’s American Bach Soloists (ABS) presented Handel’s incomparable oratorio Messiah, HWV 56, to a sold out Weill Hall Dec. 18. It was a celebratory afternoon. In the fashion ABS audiences have learned to expect, conductor Jeffrey Thomas brought out the best of orchestra, chorus and solo...
Choral and Vocal
EARLY CHRISTMAS SEASON TRIUMPH FOR 24 ANGELS IN WEILL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Weill Hall Nov. 27 was packed with an audience of young and old excitedly waiting for an early holiday concert by the Vienna Boys Choir, and this esteemed Choir is a five-hundred year institution which is based in a school of 100 choristers. Four touring groups divide their time between studying and...
Choral and Vocal
EASTER AND ASCENSION ORATORIOS SOAR IN ABS MARIN CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, April 22, 2016
Three baroque composers were brought together April 22 at the American Bach Soloists‘ offering of oratorios: Buxtehude, Johann Kuhnau and Bach. In Belvedere’s St. Stephen’s Church the ABS highlighted the sequence of influence for these three masters, displaying stunning choral singing, virtuoso in...
Choral and Vocal
CHANTICLEER SINGS TO THE MOON IN WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Saturday, April 16, 2016
The renowned male a cappella  Chanticleer choir presented an "Over the Moon" program April 15 at the Green Music Centers Weill Hall.  The audience, including many choral music cognoscenti, was entranced by a varied and enriching program spanning centuries and continents. The theme of the evening was...
Choral and Vocal
RUTTER REQUIEM PERFORMANCE ENNOBLES GOOD FRIDAY CONCERT AT INCARNATION
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 25, 2016
There is a lot to like in John Rutter’s Requiem. Composed in 1985, it’s arguably the most performed large choral work of recent times, and it was a labor of love for choral director Carol Menke’s musicians in a memorable Good Friday concert in Santa Rosa’s Church of the Incarnation. Splendid Requi...
Choral and Vocal
SEAMLESS ENSEMBLE AT MENKE-THOMPSON-ZAJAC CONCERT IN SCHROEDER
by Christa Durand
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Those who braved the storm March 13 to attend diva Carol Menke’s recital in the intimate Schroeder Hall were rewarded with a warm program of chamber music for voice, clarinet and piano.  Brahms’ E-Flat Clarinet Sonata, Op. 120, No. 2, opened the concert.  The interplay and communication between pia...
Choral and Vocal
HANDEL A FEAST AT ABS BELVEDERE CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, February 26, 2016
American Bach Soloists (ABS) once again enchanted a full house in Belvedere’s St. Stephen’s Church February 26 with an exciting, varied, virtuosic performance, this concert offering works solely by Handel. Germany-born Handel made his way to England after an extended stay in Italy, where he was ...
Choral and Vocal
NEW ABS MARIN SEASON A BACH FEAST
by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, January 22, 2016
Playing to a full house Jan. 22 at St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere, the American Bach Soloists launched its twenty-seventh season with a program of four Bach Favorites - two delectable instrumental compositions sandwiched between a pair of cantatas that ABS had performed in its very first concert....
Choral and Vocal
MEDITATIONS ON THE ARTIST
by Mark Kratz
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Schroeder Hall's vocal recital Jan. 17 centered on the life of the artist, and tenor Nicholas Phan described the recital as “meditations on the artist” that highlighted the concepts of hypersensitivity and a sense of child-like wonder that many artists experience. The entire first half of the rec...
Choral and Vocal
MAGNIFICENT BACH CHRISTMAS ORATORIO IN ABS ST. IGNATIUS CONCERT
by Joanna Bramel Young
Saturday, December 12, 2015
The American Bach Soloists presented Dec. 12 a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in San Francisco’s magnificent St. Ignatius Church. The church, built in 1912 and one of San Francisco’s largest, was nearly filled with legions of appreciative Bach and ABS fans. First heard in 1734 and standi...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
American Bach Soloists / Friday, April 22, 2016
Jeffrey Thomas, Director. Clara Rottsolk, soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; Zachary Wilder, tenor; Joshua Copeland, bass

Soprano Clara Rottsolk

EASTER AND ASCENSION ORATORIOS SOAR IN ABS MARIN CONCERT

by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, April 22, 2016

Three baroque composers were brought together April 22 at the American Bach Soloists‘ offering of oratorios: Buxtehude, Johann Kuhnau and Bach. In Belvedere’s St. Stephen’s Church the ABS highlighted the sequence of influence for these three masters, displaying stunning choral singing, virtuoso instrumental work, and distinguished vocal solos under the ever-deft guidance of conductor Jeffrey Thomas.

Bach, who wrote only three oratorios, brought the oratorio form to a new, more exhilarating and compelling level. In his engaging pre-concert lecture, violonist Steven Lehning told that the oratorio was developed during a time in Italy when the Pope closed opera houses; so composers and librettists decided to create a different form, which skirted the prohibition on opera but still involved soloists, choruses and instrumentalists.

It is widely reported that twenty-year-old Bach walked nearly 200 miles to Lubeck to hear Buxtehude’s Abentmusiken concerts. Appropriately, Buxtehude’s oratorio “Today triumphs God’s son” opened the program, followed by Bach’s Easter Oratorio “Come, rush and run.” “Today triumphs” began with a sparkling trumpet fanfare, with orchestra and timpani. The two natural trumpets (extremely difficult to play well) at first suffered some performance glitches amid generally solid playing and subsequently were a joy to hear, thanks to trumpeters Kathryn James Adduci, Dominic Favia and William Harvey. In fact, they deserve particular recognition for their brilliant playing of difficult music throughout the evening. Vocal soloists were Clara Rottsolk, soprano; Eric Jurenas, countertenor; tenor Zachary Wilder; and Joshua Copeland, baritone. All provided considerable pleasure to a rapt audience. To this reviewer, the opening Fanfare and Chorus, and the closing Alleluja, with orchestra, trumpets, and timpani were the most enjoyable parts of Buxtehude’s gem.

The Easter Oratorio followed with the added colors of recorders, flute, oboes, and oboe d’amore. After the opening featuring joyous trumpets and oboes with orchestra, the mood was suddenly altered by a soulful Adagio performed on solo flute supported by softly played strings and continuo. Flutist extraordinaire Sandra Miller enthralled the audience with her gentle, deeply moving lyricism.

Ms. Rottsolk, in her aria with flute and continuo accompaniment, supplied another surpassing high point. Her exquisite voice has an amazing range, from pure high notes that filled the church to burnished deep tones. The intertwining ornaments between soprano and flute were masterfully done. Mr. Wilder, in the aria “Gentle shall my sorrow be just a slumber,” was joined by two alto recorders, played (as was the tradition in the eighteenth century) by the oboists Debra Nagy and Stephen Bard. The recorders and soft strings played phrases that murmured like a babbling brook beneath Mr. Wilder’s supple, clear, warm tones.

Mr. Jurenas’s high alto voice was also intensely evocative in the aria ”Tell me, tell me quickly by where I can find Jesus.” Accompanying him were Ms. Nagy on oboe d’amore, and strings. The flowing, seemingly endless, sixteenth notes of the oboe d’amore and the vocal melody wound around each other in Bach’s mournful phrases-- “For without you my heart is lonely and cast down.”

The joyful ending of the Easter Oratorio, with the Chorus “Praise and thanks be forever, Lord, your hymn to glory!” is truly grand. Chorus, soloists, three trumpets, two oboes, timpani, and strings all joined to declare to the world to “Open, oh Heavens...the Lion of Judah advances in triumph!”

Kuhnau’s oratorio “Your Heaven rejoices from on High,” was written for a Feast of the Ascension. Again, it was scored for trumpets, timpani, recorders, vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra. The opening Symphony and Chorus rang with the bright resonance of the entire ensemble, trumpets playing brilliant fanfares to the words “The Lord of glory comes!” Mr. Jurenas and Mr. Copeland sang a hauntingly beautiful duet, with Mr. Lehning on the huge violone and Corey Jamason playing the organ, calling “Help me also, Jesus ... through penitence, faith, love and suffering.” The two voices and continuo moved as one. The countertenor aria “Jesus, if I only have you,” sung with affecting tenderness by Mr. Jurenas, was paired with two recorders and continuo, the soft recorders possibly representing “the angelic hordes.”

The final work of the evening, Bach’s monumental Ascension Oratorio, brought the audience to its feet one more time. It began with a rousing chorus, “Praise God in his riches,” with all stops pulled out, illustrating the fact that Bach’s works surge with a distinctive underlying drive that is less evident in his contemporaries’ compositions. The trumpets shone in their rhythmical dance-like phrases. In the countertenor aria “Ah, just stay, my dearest Life,” the strings played in unison with Mr. Jurenas’s aching, passionate phrases in one of the most unforgettable arias of the evening.

The final sensational Chorale of the Ascension Oratorio ended the evening with full orchestra and jubilant trumpets, asking the Savior to “Come, present yourself now!” An extended standing ovation testified that everyone had experienced another unforgettable evening with ABS.