Happy birthday, Carl Friedrich Abel!

Carl Friedrich Abel: Symphonies op. 1 & op.4

He was considered the last great viola da gamba virtuoso – Carl Friedrich Abel! Today, on December 22, 2023, the music world celebrates the 300th birthday of the composer Abel. Born in Köthen in 1723 as the son of the gambist Christian Ferdinand Abel, who was the first musician in Johann Sebastian Bach’s court orchestra, he later benefited from his relationship with Bach, who recommended him to Johann Adolph Hasse for the Dresden court orchestra. The Seven Years’ War ended his time in Dresden in 1757 and he made a detour to London, where he would spend the majority of his musical life. He gave his first concerts there with the viola da gamba, but also the rather unusual baryton, for which Joseph Haydn also composed.

From then on, he also became a point of attraction in London for numerous German composers who traveled to England – many wanted to get to know the famous Abel. A friendship and collaboration developed with Johann Christian Bach, who was later nicknamed the “London Bach”. Together they founded the “Bach-Abel Concerts”, the first subscription concerts in English history. There was also a meeting with the still very young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who also wanted to get to know the famous Abel and study his music.

After the death of Johann Christian Bach in 1782, Abel was only able to successfully continue the concert series in London for one more year. He then returned to Germany, where he was unable to gain a foothold. Primarily a musician, he returned to London after two years, where he began to drink, which was extremely detrimental to his health and caused him to fall into poverty. He died completely impoverished in London in 1787.

His compositions include symphonies, overtures, instrumental concertos, string quartets, sonatas and solo works. In 2016, the Kölner Akademie recorded two complete cycles of his symphonies, opus 1 and opus 4, two of which you can find here.

Enjoy listening to them!