American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy opens this weekend with an exploration of the Court of Dresden, which became a hub of creativity and performance during the Baroque era. ABS Music Director Jeffrey Thomas says the quality of the orchestra attracted the very best players, as well as composers who wanted to write for the ensemble.

There’s more information about the Festival and its activities at the American Bach Soloists website.

“The theme of the first weekend is Music from Dresden,” Thomas says, “Which is kind of a little bit off the radar of most people, and yet, the thing is, it had the best orchestra in all of Europe during the Baroque era.” The powers that be in Dresden decided a good way to use their money was to have an ensemble like no other. “This orchestra really excelled because it’s one of the first orchestras that did not require its players to play several instruments. A violinist, now for the first time, could just be a violinist, and not have to also know how to play the flute or something else. This was a huge change!… The Dresden style meant that in an otherwise full orchestral work, there would be lots and lots of solos without it being a solo concerto or multiple concerto per se. It’s just that everybody had their moments to shine.  So you have these long extended passages for the first oboist, or for the bassoonist. The city of Dresden, because of this orchestra, was… I mean, there were just these wonderful fortuitous collisions of artists and performers and concertmasters and composers that all went there.” As the Festival continues, there are performances of Handel’s Semele, as well as the return of two more performances (each Sunday) of Bach’s B Minor Mass. There are also free masterclasses and lectures.