Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Bach to Bach Weekend
San Francisco is blessed with a seemingly endless assortment of early music ensembles, including the California Bach Society, the American Bach Soloists , the San Francisco Bach Choir, and the Philharmonia Baroque. Most of these groups play with original instruments which takes some getting used to as a listener, but once you have done so, Bach and his contemporaries sound strange on modern instruments. Case in point: the performances by the San Francisco Symphony last weekend above under the Baroque and Renaissance music specialist Ton Koopman from The Netherlands, who is returning this week with another all-Bach program.
The Saturday evening concert started with the Orchestral Suite #4 by J.S. Bach in an energetic performance by a small ensemble, and was followed by the Cello Concerto in A Major by Johann Sebastian's third son, C.P.E. Bach, in a marvelous solo turn by Symphony cellist Peter Wyrick above.
After a jolly run through of C.P.E. Bach's swift little Symphony in G Major, the concert ended with one of J.S. Bach's most beautiful cantatas, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, featuring a soprano and trumpet soloist playing off of each other in the first and final movements. The soprano was the British Bach specialist Carolyn Sampson, who had my concert companion James Parr swooning in pleasure.
Mark Inouye, the Symphony's principal trumpet player above, was even more spectacular than usual. The sound of his modern instrument may have been inauthentic, but his playing was so fabulous and virtuosic that it didn't matter at all. Is there anything this guy can't do?
Also last weekend, there was a performance of J.S. Bach's monumental Mass in B Minor at the Calvary Presbyterian Church in Pacific Heights by the San Francisco Choral Society under conductor and artistic director Robert Geary. Sunday's matinee performance was not as good as expected from this ambitious and accomplished amateur chorus, as if they had bitten off more than they could chew.
The soloists (left to right above soprano Shauna Fallihee, alto Clifton Massey, tenor Brian Thorsett, and bass Nikolas Nackley) did not make much of an impression either, except for Thorsett whose beautiful high tenor is one of the reliable joys of local concerts. Maybe next time.