Concert to feature Bach Magnificat and ‘lost’ Lotti Mass

By April 30, 2011

Micscha-Bouvier, baritone. Courtesy photo

Micscha-Bouvier, baritone. Courtesy photo


What: American Bach Soloists, performing J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D Major and Antonio Lotti’s Mass for Three Choirs

When: 8 p.m. Monday, May 9

Where: Davis Community Church, 412 C St.

Tickets: $20-$50 general, $18-$45 students, available at http://www.americanbach.org or (415) 621-7900

First, a well-known standard: J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D Major, which has become one of the composer’s most popular choral works.

Then, a Mass by Antonio Lotti that was first performed around 1717, and then disappeared into obscurity for nearly 300 years, until it was brought back into the light by Harvard researchers in the 1990s.

That’s the program for the American Bach Soloists’ final concert of the 2010-11 season, to be presented at 8 p.m. Monday, May 9, at Davis CommunityChurch, 412 C St. in Davis.

The Bach Magnificat is based on a religious text that has attracted many composers over the centuries. Bach’s setting — written and revised in the course of several versions between 1723 and 1733 — is notable for “the brevity of each of its movements, perhaps necessitated by liturgical function, which lends itself perfectly to colorfully varied treatments,” according to conductor Jeffrey Thomas. “Each little section is a morsel of ingenuity and perfection.”

The result is a piece of about half a concert’s length that is enduringly admired.

“Returning to any of the ‘Top 10′ works by Bach — among which the Magnificat stands proudly — is always a great privilege and delight,” Thomas said. “There is always more to do, more to polish, and more to bring forward from the page to our audiences. It’s a never-ending source of joy for me and for all of our musicians.”

The Mass for Three Choirs by Antonio Lotti (1667-1740), by contrast, is a work familiar to only a few modern listeners. Lotti was born in Venice around 1667. By 1717, he was a hugely prolific success, having composed a good deal of music for the Basilica San Marco, the center of sacred music in Venice, as well as 17 operas. Lotti probably was more famous at the time than J.S. Bach, who was some 18 years younger.

In 1717, Lotti left Italy and spent two years in the German city of Dresden, taking with him a group of musicians that included the noted castrato singer Senesino (1668-1758). Scholars believe Lotti composed this Mass shortly after his arrival for some important occasion, possibly a royal wedding.

Lotti’s arrival in Dresden had musical implications: Soon, composer Georg Freidric Handel began writing arias that were sung by Senesino, and J.S. Bach — always curious about musical styles from other countries — was significantly influenced as well.

Lotti’s music is not performed nearly as often nowadays as Handel’s or Bach’s. The Lotti Mass for Three Choirs all but disappeared after its premiere. The piece was reintroduced after a surviving score was presented to Harvard University in 1995.

As a result of research by Harvard scholars, the Lotti Mass got its first performances in nearly three centuries during the late 1990s. The concert in Davis by the American Bach Soloists — who are also presenting the Lotti in San Francisco, Berkeley and Belvedere during the same week — represents the work’s the West Coast premiere.

“To offer this West Coast premiere of a Lotti work from the Baroque is tremendously exciting,” Thomas said. “The proces of ‘discovery’ that we will enjoy in our rehearsals and performances is priceless.”

Soloists for the concert are baritone Mischa Bouvier, winner of the 2010 Concert Artists Guild International Competition; mezzo Abigail Fischer; soprano Shari Wilson; and tenor Scott Mello and mezzo Danielle Reutter-Harrah, both of whom performed with the American Bach Soloists last summer in San Francisco in a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.

Jeff Hudson

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