Press: Live Performance Reviews

[reverse chronological]

“Led by its founder, Daniel Abraham, the Bach Sinfonia launched its 20th season with a marvelous and technically sure account of J.S. Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor, BWV. 232."
“The versatile vocal soloists also sang in the chorus, with the orchestra playing delicately sounding baroque-period instruments”
“With sensitively tuned gestures, Abraham summoned his musicians to voice the music’s dramatic span of human emotions raised to ethereal heights by a composer who sought to reach beyond human capabilities. And both singers and instrumentalists were up to this marvelous assignment . . . .”
“Alto Deborah Rentz-Moore combined vigor, elegance and wonderfully clean vowels in her solos. Sopranos Shannon Mercer and Emily Noel, tenor Sumner Thompson and bass John Taylor Ward sang with finely calibrated precision and heart-rending expressivity. Flutist Kathie Stewart and hornist Paul Hopkins played with a well-balanced blend of mellow sonorities, control and unflagging technical expertise.”

—Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
Review of “Late Great Bach: The Mass in B Minor” (October 2014)

“. . . Sinfonia played very well under the tight control of music director Daniel Abraham.”

—David Cannon, MoCo Vox
Review of “A Baroque Holiday Festival” (December 2013)

“. . . when seven Baroque trumpeters (plus a trombone player, a timpanist, and an organist) took the stage . . . under the auspices of the Bach Sinfonia, it was a rare occasion indeed. . . . the players with early trumpet repertoire . . . showed that they can tussle with this beast of an instrument and get it to make a rousing and accurate noise.”
“The concerto for all seven trumpets and timpani that closed the evening has been attributed to Johann Ernst Altenburg . . . . Anyone would want to be associated with its splendorous, expansive writing as it was rendered on Saturday: seven brilliant-sounding trumpets in a small space, textures of the shimmering bright sound shifting harmonically and spatially between banks of trumpets, the timpani driving the action. It was exactly what you want to hear when you come to a concert titled ‘100 Feet of Brass.’”

—Andrew Lindemann Malone, DMV Classical
Review of “100 Feet of Brass” (October 2013)

“What emerged instantly from Sunday’s Bach Sinfonia program of exuberant Latin American baroque music was the powerful urge to move.”
“Choral diction and phrasing were so clear that words sounded like dialogue.”
“…electric energy.”

—Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
Review of “¡Nuevo Mundo Barroco!” (May 2013)

“Abraham led his 16-member chorus and period instrument chamber orchestra in a splendid reading of these works, balancing scholarly know-how with sheerly beautiful sound, pungent drama and cogent delivery…. luminous and focused.”

“The Mozart was simply electrifying…”
“…the superb soloists were luminous and well-matched as the emotional cast of the work moved between solemnity or disquieting death to unbounded ecstasy.”
“For the Salieri setting, Abraham highlighted its supreme songfulness while never missing the powerful unisons between voices and instruments that fortify even the most terrifying moments. He also gently underscored the buoyant dancelike sections and fleet counterpoint that intermittently spring up between the more somber areas of the Mass.”

—Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
Review of “’Til Death Do Us Part: The Requiems of Mozart & Salieri” (October 2010)

“Some people make art more freely and spontaneously when they’ve considered each and every possibility of how to make the art before finally setting on their path. On the evidence of many Bach Sinfonia concerts, but particularly Saturday’s performance of the complete motets of Johann Sebastian Bach at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Performing Arts Center, the Sinfonia’s music and artistic director Daniel Abraham is one of those people. Here, careful consideration of all the questions about and facets of those works led directly to some really astonishing performances.”
“…a sixteen-voice chorus enunciated super-clearly (you didn’t need to look at the program at all to follow the German text) yet easily filled the hall when called upon.”
“…the Voci stayed fresh and lively throughout the concert.”
“…Abraham conducted with an eye towards lively rhythms, almost dancing as he lifted the beat for his ensemble.”
“…at times I lost track of the fact that the music was being performed, because the Bach Sinfonia and Voci laid it out with such effortless joy. Instead, the music seemed to be hanging in the hall for me to glide through and explore. (A rare effect for a performance to have on a critic, to be sure.)”

—Andrew Lindemann Malone, DMV Classical
Review of Johann Sebastian Bach: The Complete Motets (March 2010)

“a triumphant performance…”
“Sinfonia’s splendid gifts were best wrapped up in a dynamite reading of ‘Singet dem Herrn’ with its relentless series of fugues that rolled out magnificently and with exuberant conviction.”

—Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post
Review of Johann Sebastian Bach: The Complete Motets (March 2010)

“Abraham conducted the ensemble with verve…”

—David Cannon, Sentinel Newspapers
Review of “The Story of the Concerto Grosso” (October 2009)

“Daniel Abraham directed the Bach Sinfonia (on period instruments), the Bach Sinfonia Voci and four excellent soloists in a concert version of [King] ‘Arthur’ at Bethesda’s Strathmore concert hall. But the conductor took it at such a snappy pace with such inner energy that the score came to life even without the expensive trappings of sets, props or costumes.”

“Abraham also navigated his way quite skillfully through the mix of styles that Purcell transformed into his own: the overture’s piquant ‘French’ rhythms, followed by Italianate and English folk dances, wondrously tuneful airs, Lully-like descriptive instrumental pieces, and choruses foreshadowing those in Handel’s oratorios.”

—Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
Review of Henry Purcell’s King Arthur (May 2009)

“…Bach Sinfonia captured all the color and drama of this piece…”

—David Cannon, Sentinel Newspapers
Review of Handel’s Israel In Egypt (March 2009)

“Sixteen singers backed by antique instruments provided bell-like polyphonic embellishments to the baroque music of Rossi, Biber and Carissimi as conducted in beautiful balance by Daniel Abraham in this most resonant church setting. It was a wonderment!”
“Silver Spring and the metropolitan area should be aware that they have a total musical gem with this group in their midst.”

—Bob Anthony, All Arts Review
Review of “The Forgotten Baroque” (May 2008)

“With nice big themes like the ones Telemann provided here and on-point batonsmanship from Abraham to shape the shifting string colors, the concerto piqued one’s interest from beginning to end.”

  —Andrew Lindemann Malone, DMV Classical
Review of “The Other Watermusic” (March 2008)

“…crackerjack band plus soloists…”
“Under Abraham, the Bach Sinfonia sparkled in Purcell’s dance interludes and provided adroit accompaniment. . . . lucid, beautifully weighted singing, commenting on and amplifying the drama. ”

—Andrew Lindemann Malone, The Washington Post
Review of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (October 2006)

“The Bach Sinfonia under Daniel Abraham’s conducting offered well-judged tempo, usually quick but giving the solemn ending its due.”

—David Cannon, Sentinel Newspapers
Review of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (October 2006)

“Bach Sinfonia conductor Daniel Abraham brought out the mystical side of Vivaldi…[and] paced things very well, not dwelling on extremes of tempo, but not shying away from them either. It was a different Vivaldi that the Bach Sinfonia and Chantry brought…voices of introspection and in a baroque romanticism that, at times, bordered on the mystical…”
“The performances had none of those hard Vivaldi-like edges. Instead there were nuance and lyricism, the leisure to dwell on passing dissonances and to internalize the mysterious.”

—Joan Reinthaler, The Washington Post
Review of “Vivaldi Vespers” (May 2006)

“Abraham, the Sinfonia’s director, led a vigorous performance by Amanda Balestrieri…. Balestrieri did full justice to the music’s ornate melodic beauty reinforced by a spicy instrumental ritornello.”
“The Sinfonia players and members of the Handel Choir of Baltimore gave a robust account of the piece with exquisite solos…David Allen Newman…was electrifying.”
“Abraham paced the work at a deliberate but bouncy clip, the music’s energy intensified by clear articulation and a solid metrical pulse.”

—Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
Review of “George Frideric Handel: Alexander’s Feast” (October 2005)

“…crackerjack soloists…” 
“The Sinfonia has given the Washington area an enterprising decade of musical journeys back three centuries, re-creating baroque works in a way that also help listeners envision the world of music making in marbled courts, gilded churches and gabled towns.”

“Reinforced by resilient instrumental and choral episodes, soprano Lisa Eden and bass-baritone Phillip Collister lent and impelling pungency to the arias and recitatives, illumining the kinetic imagery of the solemn text.”
“Abraham closely balanced whirling solos against hearty ensemble playing.” 

—Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
Review of “10th Anniversary Season, Concert I” (November 2004)

“…there was a wide variety of musical styles here and the Sinfonia under Abraham’s conducting proved quite adept at all these pieces.”

—David Cannon, Sentinel Newspapers
Review of “A Bach Family Birthday Celebration(April 2003)

“Abraham’s Bach Sinfonia was nicely tuned and responsive.”
“Conducting with refreshing musicality, Abraham found subtle tempo difference.”

—Ronald Broun, The Washington Post
Review of “Bayon-Louis’ Fluer d’Epine” (November 2000)

“The Bach Sinfonia melded baroque scholarship with acutely expressive musicianship. . .”
“Bach’s ‘Gottes Zeit Ist die Allerbeste Zeit’, BWV 106 emerged as a miracle of simplicity, an un-staged opera of the soul…gentled and personalized through deeply felt singing from the soloists and chorus, and beautifully integrated playing from the period-instrument orchestra.”
“The glories of the final fugue emanated from the intensity of the voices and airy contrapuntal clarity, rather than heightened volume or quickened pace.”
“Handel’s ‘Dixit Dominus’…received uncommon precision and exuberant vitality from the performers but Abraham slowed the tempos just enough to savor Handel’s compositional inventions without compromising drama.”
“The many vocal and instrumental soloists all deserved high praise…dead-center intonation and subtle, unforced coloration of the texts.”

—Ronald Broun, The Washington Post
Review of “The Genius of Youth: Bach & Handel” (September 1999)

“…bright, energetic and lovingly shaped performances…”

—Joseph McLelland, The Washington Post
Review of “From Mannheim To Mozart: The Early Symphony In Sound” (April 1998)

“The Bach Sinfonia…showed a delicate touch…”
“Conductor Daniel Abraham coaxed sparkling wind episodes from his players and drove the full group with robust rhythms and suavely interlocking layers of sound…”
“Abraham conducted with keen coherence, cautiously preserving the work’s translucent textures…”

—Cecelia Porter, The Washington Post
Review of “Handel In London” (November 1997)

“…conductor Abraham showed a fine sense of the music’s dance-based rhythms. The Beethoven was well performed from its energetic opening movement to the exhilarating whirlwind finale. I particularly enjoyed the elegance of the string articulation in part of the slow movement.”

—Joseph McLelland, The Washington Post
Review of “A Concert of Firsts” (September 1996)

“…the experience was exhilarating—as Bach’s music tends to be when it is done well.”

—Joseph McLelland, The Washington Post
Review of “The Bach Sinfonia (premiere concert)” (September 1995)