Carl Friedrich Abel’s Op. 7 Symphonies — Better Than Mozart?

For quite a while the 6th symphony of Carl Friedrich Abel’s Op. 7 was attributed to Mozart as his third. It’s a logical error. Young Mozart hand-copied the work in 1764 for study while visiting London. When the manuscript was found in his papers, stylistically it matched Mozart’s and was in his hand, and so…

Abel’s Op. 7 collection represented the current state of the still-developing symphony. In the 1760s the symphony was in transition. It was growing from being part of a Baroque suite into a self-contained four-movement work.

Abel’s contribution in his 1767 publication was the development of the slow movement. They become more lyrical and song-like, pointing the way to the symphonies of the 1790s and early 1800s.

No wonder the 11-year-old Mozart wanted to study these works further.

La Stagione Frankfurt directed by Michael Schneider does Abel’s symphonies justice. They play the opening movements at breakneck speed. The ensemble races up and down scales and patterns with incredible precision.

Their performances of those slow movements are beautifully executed. The long, flowing melodies seem to sing at times.

La Stagione Frankfurt eschews a galant style interpretation. Instead, they present Abel’s symphonies as substantial, full-bodied Germanic works. And in the process, do Abel’s music a great service.

My impression? Abel’s Op. 7 symphonies might even be better than those of pre-teen Mozart.

Carl Freiderich Abel: Symphonies, Op. 7
La Stagione Frankfurt; Michael Schneider, conductor
CPO CX 7993

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