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Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Symphony
MARIACHI MEETS ORCHESTRA AT THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Choral and Vocal
RARE MOZART COUPLING COMPLETES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON IN SCHROEDER
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, May 28, 2022
EXOTIC RUSSIAN MUSIC FEATURED IN MV PHIL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Thursday, May 19, 2022
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PREMIERES DAUGHERTY SKETCHES OF SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 8, 2022
Chamber
BRAHMS-ERA TRIOS HIGHLIGHT OAKMONT CHAMBER CONCERT
by Nicholas Xelenis
Thursday, May 5, 2022
Chamber
CHAMBER GEMS OF BRAHMS IN TRIO NAVARRO'S SCHROEDER CONCERT
by Judy Walker
Sunday, May 1, 2022
Recital
UNIQUE ELEGANCE IN GALBRAITH GUITAR RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Friday, April 29, 2022
Symphony
VSO'S ELEGANT PASTORAL SYMPHONY SHINES IN EMPRESS RETURN
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Choral and Vocal
A SPIRITUAL FAURE REQUIEM IN GOOD FRIDAY CANTIAMO CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Friday, April 15, 2022
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW

BACH'S MASS A BRILLIANT SUCCESS IN BELVEDERE

by Joanna Bramel Young
Friday, January 16, 2009

American Bach Soloists, based in Belvedere, performed J.S. Bach’s Mass in B Minor January 16 to a full house in St. Stephen’s Church. Known for its colossal dimensions and encyclopedic stylistic variety, the great Mass intersperses compelling choral sections with vocal solos highlighted by beautiful and engaging instrumental accompaniment. The use of period instruments, including strings, oboes, natural horn (corno da caccia), natural trumpets, flutes, bassoons, tympani and chamber organ ensured a faithful display of the riches of the original work, developed in part from Bach’s own earlier compositions in the genre. Unfortunately, he never heard the Mass performed during his lifetime, but 36 years after his death his son C.P.E. Bach conducted parts of it in 1786.

The choir was relatively small, 22 singers, so that the impeccable quality of the ABS’ voices stood out. Sopranos Ellen Hargis and Abigail Haynes Lennox, alto Judith Malafronte, tenor Derek Chester and baritone Joshua Copeland were the principals, adding their highly-polished voices to the choir which sang from behind the orchestra. At times it was difficult to hear the soloists, positioned as they were, but it was unavoidable in St. Stephens space. In this church with its formidable grey concrete walls it’s preferable to sit as close to the performers as possible.

Early in his increasingly distinguished career, Jeffrey Thomas was a superb tenor soloist, but now focuses on conducting, and this evening he called forth deeply moving performances from the large forces. The great opening Kyrie, with paired oboes d’amore, was magnificent. In the Gloria, first violinist Katherine Kyme demonstrated her expertise with brilliant ornamentation complimenting soprano Ellen Hargis’s part, while baritone Copeland, working flawlessly with the corno da caccia and bassoons, offered an inspired “Quoniam Tu Solus Sanctus”. This was followed by a rousing fortissimo choral vivace “Cum Sancto spiritu”, showing the great flexibility of the choral singers. The clarity and precision of the chorus is probably unrivaled in our area, and perhaps in a much larger territory.

This chorus sang as one, the gifted soloists combining with the rich colors of the period instruments to create a memorable evening’s sonic experience. An informative pre-concert lecture on the work offered fresh insights to the more curious attendees, enhancing the magic of Bach’s masterful composition.