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Six Sonatas for Viola da Gamba

F10046    [8595017404627]     released 5/1994

play all C.F. Abel - Six Sonatas for Viola da Gamba 63:41
Sonata No.1 - Rondo Vivace 4:39
Sonata No.1 - Adagio 1:43
Sonata No.1 - Tempo di minuet 2:00
Sonata No.2 - Allegro 5:31
Sonata No.2 - Adagio 3:12
Sonata No.2 - Tempo di minuet 2:59
Sonata No.2 - Allegro 4:58
Sonata No.3 - Fuga 4:11
Sonata No.3 - Adagio 1:54
Sonata No.3 - Tempo di minuet 3:22
Sonata No.4 - Allegretto 5:06
Sonata No.4 - Adagio 2:12
Sonata No.4 - Allegro 1:03
Sonata No.5 - Andante 7:20
Sonata No.5 - Tempo di minuet 2:51
Sonata No.6 - Allegro 2:28
Sonata No.6 - Adagio 3:16
Sonata No.6 - Tempo di minuet 4:17

Petr Hejný - viola da gamba (J.P.Christa, München 1740)

CARL FRIEDRICH ABEL (22.12.1723, Kothen - 20.6.1787, London) was a member of a large German family from which Europe was to gain many musicians and also landscape gardeners. The earliest documunts comcerning the Abels come from the 16th century. The organist and composer Clamor Heinrich Abel (1634-1696), appointed at Bremen, Hannover and Celle was the first member of the family to be known as a gamba player. Around 1683 his son Christian Ferdinand was born. As a young man he served in the army of the Swedish king Charles XII, which at that time occupied North Germany. Around 1715 he became a violin and gamba player at the princely court in Kothen. His friendship with Johann Sebastian Bach dated from that time, continuing until Abel's death in 1737. From the six children of Christian Ferdinand Abel, two sons became well known musicians. Leopold August (1718-1794) studied violin playing in Dresden with František Benda: he was appointed as violin player and composer in Brunswick, Sonderhausen, Ludwigslust, Brandenburg-Schwedt and Berlin. He was a member of the royal band there together with his former teacher. Carl Friedrich became one of the greatest gamba players of all time.
      It seems that Carl Friedrich Abel acquired his first knowledge of music and gamba-playing from his father. It is possible that his further musical education was supervised by Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig. The Bachs were involved in Abel's whole life. Wilhelm Friedeman Bach was an organist in Dresden at the time when Abel was appointed there for almost fifteen years as a court gamba player from 1743. Johann Christian Bach was to play an important role in Abel's life in his London years.
      Carl Friedrich Abel left Dresden after its destructions by the army of Frederick the Great between 1757 and 1758. Through Frankfurt, mannheim and Paris he travelled to london, where he was to spend almost all the rest of his life. He made himself famous as a gamba and harpsichord player (he tried also the pentachord invented by Sir Edward Walpole), and also as a composer. In 1760 he gained the royal privilege to print music in London. Round 1764, together with Johann Christian Bach, he became a member of the Queen's music band. In the same period, they started organising concerts. Between January 1765 and May 1781 they organised a series of public concerts each year, which immediately turned into one of the major London musical events. At the start they hired the halls: but from 1774 they used thir own premises. Besides their own compositions they introdused to the London public many works of foreign authors and also musicians from the Continent (among others, the Czech violin player and composer Anton Kammel). The singers were probably chosen by Bach, the instrumentalists by Abel, who in the 70's and 80's stayed regularly in Paris. Apart from public concerts Bach and Abel organised regular private court music events and also concerts for the benefit of other musicians. Both supported the musicians coming to London. Amongs others the members ofthe Mozart family between 1764 and 1765. The friendship between Johann Christian Bach and the prodigious child Mozart is known well enough. Less common is the knowledge of the fact that Abel's Symphony E minor op.7. No.6, copied by Mozart, was for a long time considered to be Mozart's own work and as such appeared as No.18 in the Kochel catalogue.
      Apart from organising music events, Carl Friedrich Abel was best known in London as an excellent gamba player, admired at the court as well as in the circles of the bourgeoisie or artists, many of whom were his personal friends. His gamba playing also made him famous on the Continent - not only in his youth in Dresden, or during his later sojourns in Paris, but also between 1782 and 1785, when, after Bach's death, he left England and worked in France and in the service of various German courts. At the and of his life he returned to London, where he again organised public and benefit concerts; he appeared at the last one less than one month before his death.
      Carl Friedrich Abel was the last great gamba player in Europe of his time. The instrument, which since the end of the 15th century, played for three hundred years an exclusive role in solo and ensemble music already was losing during his life most of its importance. Abel's obituary in one of London periodicals regrets the loss of a much appreciated artist, but also mentions the fact, that his instrument would probably die with him. Today's renaissance of period instrument playing brings again the interest in the soft colours and warmth of the gamba sound to both professionals and amateurs alike. Gamba works are again much appreciated - amongst them, indeed, those of Abel. With their exguisite melodic elegance, harmonically refined composition, virtuoso expression and rich ornamentation they were intended to please the spirit and the heart. Many of them stayed in manuscript, but one of the exceptions are the six gamba sonatas, which were first published in 1771 in Amsterdam. Taday they belong again to the corpus of the most popular gamba repertoire.

Michaela Freemanová

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