Jeffrey Thomas
American Bach Soloists Artistic and Music Director Jeffrey Thomas

What a difference a vaccine makes. A year ago, SFCV was publishing grim cancellation and postponement notices every week. This month we’re scrambling to keep up with the new announcements about live, in-person concerts and festivals. Among the most welcome news is that from American Bach Soloists, which returns to form with a robust live-performance program for their annual ABS Festival. According to ABS Artistic Director Jeffrey Thomas, this year’s five-day festival will run from Aug. 1 through Aug. 7, with all performances in Herbst Theatre. (Please note that the highly regarded ABS Academy will not take place this summer. It is expected to return for summer 2022.)

This week Thomas provided SFCV an overview of what to expect:

Our ABS musicians are absolutely overjoyed to be reuniting with our audiences and with each other, so we’ve put together programs that celebrate much of what we’ve missed and can return to now. The first program, named after the Giants ballpark’s famous “Triples Alley,” features three concertos for three violins by Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi, so it’s all about collaboration and teamwork. The program concludes with a grand slam in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins.

We also missed the music of our beloved namesake, Bach, over the past year, so we will present “Bach and His World,” featuring great music by Johann Sebastian along with works by his greatest inspirations.

The festival closer is all about nature: While we were protecting each other by staying home, Nature thrived in ways that it hasn’t for a very long time. We’ll celebrate the beautiful sounds of birds and animals in a program called “The Garden of Harmony.” And there’s lots more, too: “Bach Transformations” offers music by the master and arrangements of the same works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, and Ysaÿe; and “The Devil’s Trill” brings virtuoso violin works by Tartini, Bach, and Handel front and center. We are truly elated to share music together again with our audiences.”

American Bach Soloists
American Bach Soloists in Grace Cathedral

Ticketing for the festival is planned to begin on June 15, but check the ABS website for the latest details. As of this writing, this is the planned program for the festival’s five concerts:

Sunday, Aug. 1 • Herbst Theatre • 4 p.m.
Triples Alley: Concertos for Three Violins by Bach, Telemann, and Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in F Major for Three Violins
George Frideric Handel: Concerto Grosso in G Minor
Georg Philipp Telemann: Concerto in F Major for Three Violins
Marco Uccellini: Sinfonia Nona a tre violini
Giovanni Battista Buonamente: Sonata a tre violini
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in B Minor for Four Violins
Johann Sebastian Bach: Concerto in D Major for Three Violins

Tuesday Aug. 3 • San Francisco Conservatory of Music • 7 p.m.
Bach Transformations: Music by Bach and arrangements by Rachmaninoff, Ysaÿe, and Liszt

Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita in E Major for Solo Violin (Prelude, Gavotte, Gigue)
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Transcription of Bach’s Partita in E Major for Solo Violin
Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonata in A Minor for Solo Violin “Jacques Thibaud” (Obsession – Prélude)
Johann Sebastian Bach: Suite in G Major for ‘Cello, arr. Friedrich Wilhelm Stade after Robert Schumann
Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata 12 “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
Franz Liszt: Variations on the Motif “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”

Thursday Aug. 5 • San Francisco Conservatory of Music • 7 p.m.
The Devil’s Trill • Bravura works by J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Handel, Tartini

George Frideric Handel: Trio Sonata in G Major
Giuseppe Tartini: Pastorale in A Major
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Trio Sonata in C Minor “Sanguineus and Melancholicus”
Giuseppe Tartini: Sonata in G Minor “Il trillo del Diavolo”
Johann Sebastian Bach: Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins

Friday Aug. 6 • Herbst Theatre • 7 p.m.
Bach and His World: Captivating works by Bach and the composers who inspired his genius

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber: Violin Sonata in E Minor
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Sonata for Three Violins
Dieterich Buxtehude: Sonata & Gigue in B-flat Major
Georg Philipp Telemann: Trio Sonata in E-flat Major from Musique de Table
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in G Minor for Viola da gamba and Harpsichord
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in G Major for Violin and Basso continuo
Johann Sebastian Bach: Concerto in F Minor for Harpsichord

Saturday Aug. 7 • Herbst Theatre • 7 p.m.
The Garden of Harmony: Music about birds, animals, and the harmony of nature

William Williams: Sonata “In Imitation of Birds”
Marco Uccellini: Aria Nona, “The Hen and Cuckoo Make a Fine Concert”
Robert Johnson: “Hark! Hark! The Lark!” and “Have You Seen the Bright Lily Grow?”
Thomas Arne: “When daisies pied”
Anonymous: “This merry pleasant spring”
Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Violin Sonata “Cuckoo”
George Frideric Handel: Organ Concerto “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale”
Charles Avison: Concerto Grosso in D Minor after Scarlatti “The Garden of Harmony”
José de Herrando: Sonata “El Jardín de Aranjuez en Tiempo de Primavera” (“The garden of Aranjuez in spring”)
Antonio Vivaldi: Concerto in A Major for Violin and Harpsichord (“The Nightingale”)

Looking Forward to 2022

ABS just announced plans for the winter and spring of 2022 with live performances in its Connoisseur Series. Thomas says about the events, “Our 2022 Connoisseur Series celebrates the human voice. Singers and singing were hard hit over the past year. Like so many others, we can hardly wait to hear vocal music again! From Bach’s imaginative and wonderfully quirky Missa in A Major, to a mesmerizing setting of the St. Matthew Passion by Johann Theile, and on to the golden repertoire of Italian madrigals and part of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, we’ll be welcoming back some of our audience’s favorite ABS vocalists along with some very exciting new voices.”

Details about venues, times, and ticketing are still to come, but here are the basic dates and programs:

Jan. 20–21, 2022: Sweet Harmony

George Frideric Handel: Water Music Suite in G Major
Johann Sebastian Bach: Missa in A Major
Johann Sebastian Bach: Trio Sonata from The Musical Offering
George Frideric Handel: Look Down, Harmonious Saint
George Frideric Handel: Concerto Grosso in G Major, Op. 3, No. 3

March 25–28, 2022: Passion and Joy

Johann Theile: St. Matthew Passion
Johann Sebastian Bach: Der Herr denket an uns, Cantata 196

Johann Pachelbel: Christ lag in Todesbanden
Dieterich Buxtehude: Jesu, meine Freude

April 20 – May 2, 2022: Pious and Profane

Giovanni Gabrieli:  Sonata XXI con tre violini
Claudio Monteverdi: Magnificat a 6 from Vespers of 1610 and Beatus vir
Biagio Marini: Sonata in Ecco con tre violini from Op. 8
Claudio Monteverdi: Altri canti di Marte (from Madrigals of Love) and Hor che’l ciel e la terra e ’l vento tace (from Madrigals of War)
Giovanni Legrenzi: La rossetta. Sonata a 3, Op. 8
Isabella Leonarda: Sonata Duodecima
Claudio Monteverdi: Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda

Did you enjoy the article?

Sign up to our weekly newsletter to receive the latest articles every Tuesday