The Bay Area’s community-based early music booster celebrates its 45th season with a return to live music featuring a stellar lineup of Baroque and early music specialists. In a season it is describing as “Looking Back, Moving Forward,” the San Francisco Early Music Society presents six ensembles in a series of concerts, special events, and a concurrent digital season dubbed “Snapshots.”
Four concerts will be movable feasts, with live performances in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Palo Alto on consecutive nights. The two special events are one-night-only affairs. Each of the concerts will be videorecorded and presented in the Snapshots series, which also features interviews, bonus tracks, and other exclusive insights into the artists and their music.
In talking about the upcoming season, Executive Director Derek Tam told SFCV, “As can be expected, we’re excited to welcome patrons back to live performances! From rising stars like Tabea Debus and Profeti della Quinta, to beloved local groups such as The Paris Quartet and Agave Baroque, as well as national luminaries like Quicksilver and Aulos Ensemble, it’s a season that promises to enchant.
“We're particularly eager to build on our virtual offerings with ‘Snapshots.’ During the acute phase of the pandemic, our community expanded nationally and internationally, and our digital season is an easy and affordable way to whet your appetite for early music.”
Here’s an overview of the upcoming events. Follow the links for more details about the individual programs, locations, times, and tickets. Series subscriptions are available on the SFEMS season webpage.
Oct. 22–24: The Paris Quartet
The inaugural concert features the renowned Bay Area ensemble exploring the evolution of the trio into the quartet via the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, François Couperin, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Dec. 3–5: Aulos Ensemble with Julianne Baird
Soprano Julianne Baird joins forces with the five members of Aulos in in a Christmas-themed program of 16th through 18th century favorites in Aulos’ own transcriptions. These include Alessandro Scarlatti’s Christmas Cantata, French noëls, musettes and rigaudons by François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau, and more. This festive concert marks a farewell for the Aulos, which has announced its retirement following this season.
Jan. 14 (Special Event): Quicksilver Baroque
Described as “early music rock stars,” Quicksilver Baroque kicks off the new year with music from 17th-century Vienna, featuring the “sumptuous and emotionally extravagant” music of Antonio Bertali, Johann Joseph Fux, Johann Caspar Kerll, Giovanni Legrenzi, Johann Rosenmüller, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, and Romanus Weichlein. One night only.
Jan. 29 (Special Event): Profeti della Quinta
Switzerland-based Profeti della Quinta makes its Bay Area debut with a concert tracing the evolution of the madrigal from the highly expressive polyphony of Cipriano de Rore to the experimental, and sometimes outright bizarre, stylings of Luzzasco Luzzaschi, Carlo Gesualdo, and Scipio Lacorcia. The concert will also include “revolutionary” madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi, which shaped the incoming Baroque era and laid the groundwork for the musical dramas and early opera that would soon follow. One night only.
Feb. 25–27: Agave Baroque
In “Bach: All in the Family,” the local favorites explore the rich legacy produced by the Bach family over the course of two centuries, “from French-style orchestral suites, a vivacious Italianate concerto, to hearty German-style music.”
Apr. 8–10: Tabea Debus and Alon Sariel
Recorder virtuoso Tabea Debus and lute wizard Alon Sariel pursue the mystery of music that lingers in the ear long after hearing it in a concert titled “Ode to an Earworm.” They’ll explore the phenomenon by way of the eminently hummable tunes of George Frideric Handel, Arcangelo Corelli, Henry Purcell, John Dowland, Claudio Monteverdi, and more.