A Lavish Banquet of Bach and Handel
I continue to be impressed with the vibrant, dramatic quality Valenzuela elicits from his choristers, who are few in number, but individually strong and vivid. Rather than amassing the typical oratorio chorus in which every singer is asked to blend with the other, he works with a dozen or so highly trained soloists to achieve a muscular sound that unlocks the true power of high Baroque music and complements the edgy timbre of period string instruments.
Bach Collegium has unique mission
“We are providing a valuable resource, not just to the music community but to the cultural landscape of San Diego,” Valenzuela said. “If we are not doing this music, the other ensembles who are long established, they aren’t going to do it. That’s not who they are.”
Venetian Baroque Splendor
Time travel is usually the province of science fiction, but Ruben Valenzuela, Music Director of the BachCollegium San Diego, is bold enough to defy convention and undertake time travel by means of an early music concert. His Venetian Vespers program on Friday (May 17) at La Jolla’s St. James-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church constructed a service of Marian Vespers as it might have been given in 1640 at the fabled St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
The “Messiah” Nobody Knows
At long last—the real Messiah—and given in an incarnation the composer might have actually recognized. The issue, of course, is not authenticity for its own sake, but rather an approach that allows the music to communicate as vividly as the composer intended. The success of the BachCollegium San Diego was unleashing the expressive power of Charles Jennens’ perceptively assembled libretto and Handel’s ravishing music in a way that made a work so familiar sound uncannily original and fresh.
Bach’s Lunch at First Lutheran Church of San Diego
Wednesday (Nov. 14) at noon, a downtown San Diego crowd—minus the shopping bags—filled the chapel of First Lutheran Church of San Diego for another mode of spiritual devotion, an early music concert by the BachCollegium San Diego. Under the astute but ever low-keyed direction of Ruben Valenzuela, a dozen choristers and instrumentalists presented an elegant offering of music by Bach and Buxtehude to a rapt audience.
Embassy Sponsors Series of Free Concerts
Sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, early music ensemble Bach Collegium San Diego offered three spectacular performances during the Baroque Music Festival in Concepcion, San Xavier, and Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Also, the group offered a farewell concert at the San Francisco Temple in the city of Tarija, where the audience gave them a standing ovation.
J.S. Bach and Contemporary Dance at UC San Diego
After this weekend’s collaboration (Feb. 3 and 4) with the dance troupe IMAGOmoves, Ruben Valenzuela’s Bach Collegium San Diego will never be accused of keeping early music sequestered in an ivory tower.
Bach Collegium Offers Motets Old and New, Nothing Borrowed or Blue
Not many choirs can move seamlessly from historically informed accounts of Tudor church music—the likes of Tallis, Sheppard and Parsons—to the piquant contemporary choral minimalism of John Tavener and Eric Whitacre, but Valenzuela has the deft touch and insight to make this happen.
Bach Collegium San Diego Performs the Mozart "Requiem"
A brilliant, ear-opening choral interpretation
With a mere 21 voices he evoked the might and sweep of a massive festival chorus: his heaven-storming “Kyrie,” for example, became an impassioned demand for mercy rather than a plea, and his “Dies Irae”—that choral fresco of the Last Judgement—unleashed a fury that could frighten even those who have no credence in an afterlife.
"Dido and Aeneas" Stuns in Rancho Santa Fe
So, here I am -- living in San Diego, always knowing about this Bach Collegium outfit -- and never going to their concerts. If I ever miss another one it will because I am out of town or dead. I am a devout Bach addict -- and this glorious Purcell afternoon in Rancho Santa Fe has won me over utterly. I have rarely been so suddenly and unexpectedly moved. That such talent is here for anyone to enjoy -- that such skill and care go into the presentation! What have I been thinking?
Bach Collegium San Diego Presents the "St. John Passion"
Valenzuela led a spartan crew: a chorus of eight professional singers who also took all the solo sections, the requisite tenor Evangelist, and 18 period instrumentalists. In Bach’s charged scenes of Jesus’ trial before Pilate and subsequent crucifixion, the Bach Collegium made a compelling case for the covert opera veiled within the churchly devotional. Abetted by Valenzuela’s brisk pacing and precise direction, they vividly captured the arch sparring between Jesus and Pilate, the fury of the crowd, and the sadism of the soldiers.
Bach Magnificat, Vivaldi Gloria
The second selection the orchestra performed was Bach's Magnificat in E-flat. I had already been amazed by the orchestra's power during their first piece and I expected to be just as awestruck by this selection; however, the orchestra did much more than merely impress me with this selection. This selection might very well be the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. The orchestra performed so skillfully during this piece that I was completely taken off guard. I learned much about myself during this selection such as the fact that I apparently have a love for classical music. This is something I never thought possible before, up to this point I had thought of classical music as quite boring. However, during this selection I was dazzled by the music, more so than I have been by any other music I have heard. Words can barely describe how amazed I was by the orchestra's performance of Magnificat, it was simply wonderful to hear all of the different instruments and singers work together to make one amazing harmony. Up until that point I was confused as to how instruments could have a "voice" or how music could have "color" but after hearing this selection I understood both of these concepts. The instrument isn't just a backup to the lyrics or a means of providing a beat to a song like I had previously thought. It has just as much of a voice and presence in the orchestra as a soloist singer. I also discovered what I believe to be musical color during this selection as the notes literally painted emotion in my mind as I listened.
Point Loma Nazarene University Music Appreciation Student
Bach Collegium's "Solemn Vespers" of 1610
Valenzuela’s unwavering control of these forces, his judicious choice of tempos, his meticulous attention to period stylistic details, and his passion for the music made for an exciting and rewarding evening. From the vibrant, animated speech rhythms of the “Dixit Dominus” to the instrumental fury of “Lauda Jerusalem,” the sheer power of this music overwhelmed the senses. In the “Sonata sopra Sancta Maria,” lead sopranos Anne-Marie Dicce and Bianca Hall sent cascades of shimmering motifs from the side aisles of the nave into the full orchestral forces in the chancel, giving a tantalizing hint of how this piece might have sounded in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, with its many side balconies
Inspiring Monteverdi Performance
30 singers and instrumentalists, all under the guidance of music director Ruben Valenzuela. Scholarly but never pedantic, he helped bring out the score’s spirituality, sensuality and solemnity as well as the exuberant joy that was powered by Renaissance dance rhythms. As if conducting weren’t enough, Valenzuela also doubled as organist.
Bach Collegium San Diego Performs Handel's "Dixit Dominus"
Ruben Valenzuela's San Diego Bach Collegium has established an enviable record of vibrant, persuasive historically-informed performances of major works of the 18th century, including Handel's oratorios "Messiah" and "Theodora," as well as Bach's "B Minor Mass." He opened the Bach Collegium's seventh season Sunday (Nov. 1) at St. James Episcopal Church, La Jolla, with a performance of Handel's infrequently heard early cantata "Dixit Dominus" and a few instrumental preludes by Italian composers who influenced Handel while studying in Italy.
Getting a Handle on Handel
You don’t have to be a gambler to go for Baroque when it’s in the competent hands of Bach Collegium. Under the deft direction of Ruben Valenzuela, the Del Mar-based chorus and orchestra brought Handel’s rarely staged oratorio “Theodora” to the Balboa Theatre June 27 with splendid results.
Handel's "Theodora" by the Bach Collegium
The Bach Collegium has presented the piece in traditional concert form, but otherwise spared little effort in making this what must be as lavish and authentic a production as the one Handel premiered at Covent Garden in 1750. The twenty-eight piece orchestra, all playing on authentic or reproduction period instruments, the fine chorus of twenty-four voices, and the five professional vocal soloists perform in 18th century style under the expert direction of Richard Egarr, energetically conducting bestride his stool at the harpischord, whose continuo and recitative accompaniments are augmented by the great gawky theorbo (a kind of huge lute) of Daniel Zuluaga, and the gorgeous- sounding 1680 violoncello of William Skeen.
Bach Collegium reveals the thrills of Handel’s ‘Theodora’
Marvelously conducted by Richard Egarr, who doubled as harpsichordist, Saturday’s presentation featured a passionately proficient group of musicians who emphasized the baroque style without ever seeming stuffy or academic.
Casi una ópera
La orquesta barroca Bach Collegium de San Diego, concluyó su temporada 2008-2009 con la primera ejecución local, en versión de concierto, de Theodora, oratorio en tres actos de George Friedrich Handel, con libreto de Thomas Morell, que esta basado en una obra de Robert Boyle publicada el 1687 con el nombre de The Martyrdom of Theodora and Didymus.
Bach Collegium San Diego Presents the B Minor Mass
The size of his ensemble--some 28 singers (including four soloists) and 25 musicians playing period instruments--provided an elegant balance, allowing the well-produced choral sound to float over the orchestra, to be enriched by it (period instruments are so much gentler than their modern orchestral counterparts), but never competing with the orchestra for dominance. Equally important were Valenzuela's precise and articulate sense of phrasing and his downbeats that exploded upwards, keeping the choral motion lithe and propulsive.
San Diego Chamber Orchestra Goes Baroque
Now as cloying as this program may have appeared on paper, I must confess that it was surprisingly satisfying to hear, in great part because of the polished and consistently stylish playing of the chamber orchestra's instrumentalists and the equally refined and historically-informed singing of the Bach Collegium.
Handel's "Messiah" in period performance
What San Diego rarely experiences (has it ever?) is a serious, period-instrument performance done in the style and proportion that the composer himself might have actually recognized, one that uses 18th-century instruments (or copies thereof), Baroque pitch (A=415 rather than 440) and temperament, as well as choral and vocal conventions of the early 18th century, not the received choral and vocal styles/proportions of the 19th and 20th centuries, the ones we all know and many love. Enter Ruben Valenzuela and his plucky Bach Collegium San Diego, who staged a breath-taking and eye-opening (or should we say “ear-opening”) period instrument performance of “Messiah” Sunday evening at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
He's putting a new sheen on the old
Rallying to the early music cause, Joubert became an expert in historically informed interpretations as well as a member of the esteemed academy. Married to dancer-choreographer Yolande Snaith, the head of UCSD's dance department, he continues to concertize, record and tour with the English ensemble though the couple has lived in the San Diego area since 2002.
Bach Collegium at USD
Under the Collegium’s Music Director Ruben Valenzuela, a perfect subdued and exquisite sound was elicited from the supple small chorus of eight voices and the players of period instruments with their pure and softened timbres.