Saturday, January 30, 2016
Bach's Greatest Hits with ABS
The American Bach Soloists began their repertory season this year with a tour last weekend of churches in Belvedere, Berkeley, and San Francisco performing a program called "Bach Favorites." This miraculously did not include a Brandenberg Concerto. Instead, there were two church cantatas and a pair of works for guest violinist Tatiana Chulochnikova in a completely charming afternoon at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco last Sunday.
The concert started with a rehearsal by conductor and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas of the audience who were being asked to sing as extra chorus members for the final chorale of Wachet! Wachet! betet! betet! Wachet!.
We were directed to a printed score in the program, but I abstained from vocalising, not on account of shyness so much as I can't sing on pitch to save my life.
The small, original instruments orchestra played splendidly all afternoon, surpassed only by the American Bach Choir that included alto Celeste Winant below.
The first cantata was stormy and intended to frighten the sinners in the pews, with the opening chorus translated as "Watch! pray! pray! watch!/Be ready/all the time,/until the Lord of glory/brings this world to an end."
The concluding cantata of the afternoon, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, was much sweeter and featured the soloists soprano Mary Wilson, tenor Derek Chester, countertenor Jay Carter, and my favorite voice of the afternoon, baritone Mischa Bouvier above (with Carter on the left).
In between the cantatas, Jeffrey Thomas Award winner Tatiana Chulochnikova played a violin transcription of the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor for organ. This music never fails to prompt a flashback to waves of color crashing into my LSD-buzzed, teenaged brain while watching Disney's Fantasia with Stokowski's gargantunan transcription for full orchestra on the soundtrack. Tatiana played the piece cleanly, with a restrained sense of virtuosity.
She returned for the Concerto for Violin in E Major, and it was a lovely performance by all, including perennial original instrument violin principal Elizabeth Blumenstock above.