California Bach Society is a 30-voice chamber choir whose repertoire extends far beyond the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Every season they present four concerts whose overall range covers a broad scope of music from both the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The fall of 2015 will mark the beginning of the group’s 45th anniversary season, and it will provide an excellent opportunity to celebrate the richness of that overall scope.
All concerts will be conducted by Artistic Director Paul Flight. Performances in San Francisco will take place on Fridays at 8 p.m. Specific dates and programs will be as follows:
October 16, A Bohemian Masterpiece: The masterpiece in question will be the Mass setting composed by Jan Dismas Zelenka in 1739, known as Missa votiva. Zelenka composed 23 Mass settings and almost as many individual movements, all in service to the Catholic Elector of Saxony. His service began in 1710, and he was appointed Church Composer in 1735. The music for this particular setting was scored for chorus, soloists, and orchestra and is a powerful mixture of operatic bravura and stunningly expressive counterpoint.
December 4, Joyeux Noël!: For this year’s Christmas concert, programming will shift from Zelenka’s Saxony to France. The historical scope will be broader than usual, going all the way back to Gregorian chant and forward to twentieth-century Christmas motets composed by Francis Poulenc and Pierre Villette. Composers situated between these extremes will include Jean Mouton, Henri Dumont, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, and Hector Berlioz.
February 26, Oratorios & Dialogues: This program will be about the emergence of dramatic forms in music during the middle of the seventeenth century. Three composers will be featured. The oldest of these will be Giacomo Carissimi with his miniature sacred opera, consisting of solo arias alternating with choral commentaries, Jonah and the Whale. This will be followed by La Reniement de Saint Pierre by Charpentier, who was Carissimi’s pupil. The title refers to Peter’s denial of Jesus as part of the Passion narrative. The final selection will continue that narrative with Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene at the entrance to his tomb. Heinrich Schütz’ Weib, was weinest du? (woman, why are you crying) sets the dialogue between Jesus and Mary recorded in the Gospel of John and was scored for four voices and continuo.
April 22, Singet dem Herrn: The major works on this program will be three of the motets by Johann Sebastian Bach. These will include two double-choir motets, the BWV 225 “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied” (sing to the Lord a new song) and the BWV 226 “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf” (the spirit comes to the aid of our weakness). The program will also include Bach’s most elaborately structured motet, the multi-movement BWV 227 Jesu meine Freude (Jesu my joy). Between these motets the ensemble will sing some of Bach’s most elaborate and serene chorale settings.
All San Francisco concerts will take place at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church at 1111 O’Farrell Street, just west of the southwest corner of Franklin Street, with one exception. The December Christmas concert will be held at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 1187 Franklin Street, one block to the north and on the same side of the street. Tickets are now on sale for both subscriptions and single concerts. There is also a discount for purchasing a three-concert subscription, although the discount is less than that for all four concerts. There is a single Web page for all ticket purchases, which reviews all of the options in detail and will process all orders with a $3 handling fee.