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Chamber
TURINA PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS SSU FACULTY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
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Chamber
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by Terry McNeill
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Symphony
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by Steve Osborn
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Choral and Vocal
ORGAN-CHOIR COMBO IN BACH CELEBRATION
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 21, 2023
Recital
FRENCH FLAVOR IN RARE FOUR-HAND RECITAL
by Judy Walker
Sunday, January 15, 2023
Choral and Vocal
POTENT HANDEL ORATORIO IN ABS' WEILL HALL HOLIDAY CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 18, 2022
Choral and Vocal
HALLELUJAH! MARIN ORATORIO IN HOLIDAY SPLENDOR CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, December 17, 2022
Choral and Vocal
SILVER ANNIVERSARY BACH RECITAL AT INCARNATION'S EVENSONG SERVICE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Symphony
JOY, LOVELY DIVINE SPARK!
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 4, 2022
Other
DINOVA PIANISM CHARMS SATED AUDIENCE AT J-B MARIN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 20, 2022
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
American Bach Soloists / Sunday, December 18, 2022
Jeffrey Thomas, Director. Soloists TBA

Jeffrey Thomas (r) in Weill Hall Dce. 18

POTENT HANDEL ORATORIO IN ABS' WEILL HALL HOLIDAY CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 18, 2022

Celebrated large ensemble visitors to Weill Hall have included the San Francisco Symphony and the American Bach Soloists (ABS), but neither of these prestigious groups have been heard here in many years. Schedules perhaps, or husky fees?

The San Francisco-based ABS rectified that hiatus with a sensational Dec. 18 holiday concert mostly of Handel, replete with virtuoso singing and instrumental performance.

In the Hall lit with red and green wall lights and 18 stage poinsettias, 700 mostly masked attendees heard conductor Jeffrey Thomas direct a long and demanding program with extended sections of the oratorio Messiah at the end of each half, with shorter works of Giovanni Valentini, Johann Pez and Charpentier as seeming support works. Some in the performing ensemble works masks.

Valentini’s Sinfonia per Il Santissimo Natale (Op. 12, No. 2) was a charming opener, showing the warm Weill acoustics with a half-second reverberation time and Mr. Thomas’ fluid and deft conducting style. Repeats were played differently and the volume changes from p to pp subtle over the nine-minute span.

The playing in the first of 12 parts of Handel was slow with rich bottom end string sound, Mr. Thomas in complete control of dynamics with sporadic short pauses before final chords. Even in fast sections the conductor never seems to be in a hurry, his podium authority so complete. The 30-member chorus, evenly balanced between four voice groups, sung superlatively all afternoon, the ensemble with being supported by cello and bass continuo playing, and the omnipresent organ continuo of Corey Jamason. Mr. Jamason has appeared countless times in this role with the ABS.

Soloists were first cabin and their voices projected well in the large hall, even the willowy countertenor of Areh Nussbaum Cohen. Maya Kherani’s bright soprano was just right for Handel, where the deep bass-baritone of Christian Pursell’s resonance bounced off Weill’s back wall. There was no brass or timpani until the Handel at the end of the second half.

Following intermission and Mr. Thomas’s pithy words from the stage regarding the ABS New Year’s Eve program in Herbst Hall, Johann Pez’ Concerto Pastorale was indeed pastoral, with alto recorder soloists Kathryn Montoya and Stephen Hammer. Much of the music was a courtly dance, the recorders mostly in unison save for different ornaments, and duos with violinist Tekla Cunningham and with cello and organ were lovely. It sounded in rapid scale passages like two flutes. Vibrato as always was minimal or absent.

Charpentier’s brief La Nuit opened the concert’s second half in a somber string passage that included funereal chimes, juxtaposed with Ms. Kherani’s incisive singing and firm organ support.

Fifteen more Handel Messiah sections closed the concert, each convincing and each splendidly performed. It was écht Handel, the sound so familiar from oratorios Semele, Theodora, Jeptha and countless others. Mr. Thomas’ control of section balances was elegantly efficient, the delicate ritards and occasional inner instrumental voices masterful. The conductor crafted the semi-fugal sections and counterpoint of the music to great effect, his soloists (especially Mr. Pursell) adding to the increasing sonic power near the end, the timpani and baroque trumpets loudly adding to the mix. A marvelous composition gloriously exhibited by inspired playing.

The musical impact was palpable and generated a tsunami of applause, multiple curtain calls, and individual musicians and choral sections being recognized by their magisterial leader.