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Carl Friedrich ABEL (1723 - 1787)
Six concerti for harpsichord or fortepiano with two violins and cello, Opus 11.
# 1 in F (9.47);
#2 in Bb (8.58);
#3 in Eb (10.12);
#4 in D (9.32);
#5 in G (9.40);
#6 in C (10.15) (early 1770s)
(all cadenzas by Sabine Bauer)
Sabine Bauer, pianoforte (1, 2, 3, 6) and Harpsichord (4, 5)
Michael Schneider conducting La Stagione, Frankfurt
Notes in Deutsch, English, and French.
Recorded Salle des Hessischen Rundfunks, Frankfurt, Germany, 23 March 2001
CPO 999 892-2 [59.08]


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There is probably a fine novel to be found in the life story of Carl Friedrich Abel, one-time presumed student of J. S. Bach, and friend, roommate, and business partner of Johann Christian Bach in post-Handel London. Both men were extremely talented and died young even for their day. And if this disk is any example, we hope there will soon be not only books but more music as well.

One could easily mistake this music for C.P.E. Bach, but it’s a little less stuffy, more playful, more inventive, a bit more theatrical, but not quite as theatrical as that of J. C. Bach. One can see how people were eager to believe that Abel had studied with Bach — but as he was a family friend, he most surely studied Bach, if not with Bach. Abel had met the young Mozart with his family, and later was interviewed by the indefatigable Charles Burney. After the dissolution of his London partnership Abel returned to Potsdam and enjoyed brief popular success as a gambist before his death at the age of 54.

I have been critical of a previous recording by these artists, observing that they pushed sprightly "authentic" performance technique to the point of absurdity in the music of G. M. Monn — but this recording is absolutely beyond reproach. These are lively but lyrical performances, beautifully played in the best possible taste and the surest service to the composer as well as the listener. The choice of instruments for the particular concerti demonstrates that either would be practical for the whole set, and captures the feeling of the time when the two instruments were frequently heard side by side. Triple strings are used and the cello is doubled by a violone, so these are played as true orchestral concerti and not as trio sonatas. There is no separate cembalo continuo, but, in the harpsichord concerti only, during tutti string passages when there is no solo part, the soloist plays continuo, emerging from that function to resume her solo line. There is no information on the harpsichord, but for the preceding to be true it must be a minimum two rank, two manual instrument. Recording balance has been adjusted so that each instrument is clearly audible and equally well placed within the orchestra.

This sounds to my ear like equal temperament, and if I could have a reservation, it would be that I would have preferred unequal temperament on both solo instruments. I have been advised by violinists that it is easier to play in tune when the keyboard instrument is unequally tempered.

Paul Shoemaker



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