Tuesday, May 07, 2013

American Bach Soloists


I selected this picture because it looks like the interior of the Davis Community Church where I attended a concert of the American Bach Soloists conducted by Jeffrey Thomas.  This is my second visit after the Bach St. John Passion.  You will notice that they are a tiny group who crowd onto the small stage of the church.  You might also notice that there is no theorbo.  This alone makes them interesting in the world of original instrument orchestras.  Even the Metropolitan Opera orchestra performing Giulio Cesare had a theorbo.  Visible in the picture is the very small organ they use for Bach.

The concert had three sections.

Handel's cantata Silete vente for soprano, in this case Mary Wilson.

A group of Bach arias, sung by bass-baritone Mischa Bouvier.

Handel's Apollo & Daphne for soprano and bass.

I don't believe I have ever heard any of these pieces before, but they were all lovely, especially the Silete vente cantata.  Mary Wilson is very expressive in this repertoire.  Mischa Bouvier is also excellent.

My life over the last few decades has drifted to operatic performances with the attendant operatic melodrama.  Concert performances of vocal repertoire generally involve a quieter expressive style which can be in its own way equally enchanting.

My son is concerned about the continuo group for Baroque performance.  The continuo group is the group of musicians who play from the single figured bass score part.  Here the continuo group was constantly in flux.  Group one, if I recall correctly, used both harpsicord and organ and both cello and string bass.  For Bach we had only organ and cello.  This group included something new--an aria accompanied by only cello and organ, with the cello as a very active soloist.  This is logically not really a continuo group.

For Apollo and Daphne the harpsichord reappeared but not the organ.  This ensemble creates the impression of a group of soloists just as their name advises.  My feeling is that outside France this is probably authentic.  At one point the violins put their instruments in their laps and plucked them like guitars.  This was a more robust sound than the usual pizzicato. 

They are having a festival at the San Francisco Conservatory July 12-21 that includes 2 performances of the B Minor mass and a serious rarity--Missa Salisburgensis by Biber.  I understand that this piece would not fit into the Davis Community Church.

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