Editor's Choice Award

Gramophone editor James Inverne salutes ‘Mr Abel’s Fine Airs’ 

The music of Carl Freidrich Abel will be a discovery for many and, I  suspect, a revelation. He studied with Bach, though not for long, and the beautiful, questing intimacy of these viola da gamba works sometimes recalls Bach’s Cello Suites. It is a disc to play many times, to live with and savour. Susanne Heinrich’s playing, too, throbs in the memory. There is something, as she says below, very personal about these works and I suspect that each listener will have a very private reaction to them. This enriching experience is one of my highlights of the year, one that grows and deepens upon further acquaintance.

Susanne Heinrich on recording Abel

The fact that Abel was a German who came to England always attracted me as I also followed that path. Beyond that, though, there's not a lot of solo repertoire for the viola da gamba and he was one of the few who played the instrument extremely well. Many composers didn’t: you can tell from the writing style – how it lies on the instrument and an inability to explore the sound in the way Abel did. This is deeply personal music, because it was improvised in private for friends. And it is different from most of his chamber music which is mostly a little bit shallow and predictable. This is extremely therapeutic, both to play and to hear. The more I practised these pieces, the slower I got: I discovered that they reward taking a lot of time over. It’s just a shame that more of his work doesn’t survive! 

 

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