Carl Abel Symphonies Op. 1 and Op. 4

Carl Abel was a student of Johann Sebastian Bach and a business partner with his son Johann Christian. His music shares some of the qualities of the “London” Bach.

The works on this collection come from two publications. Abel’s Opus 1 was published in 1760, his Opus 4 two years later. Both sets feature short, three-movement works for the standard orchestra of the day.

Abel’s works sound a little heavy when compared to JC Bach’s frothy style galant. Nevertheless, they’re tuneful, well-constructed pieces that I found quite entertaining.

The Opus 1 works are labeled symphonies, while the Opus 4 pieces are called overtures. These were interchangeable terms at the time. Both used the same fast-slow-fast structure. To my ears, the Opus 4 overtures sound a little lighter, so perhaps there was some distinction in Abel’s mind.

If you enjoy early Mozart and Haydn, you should find much to like in this release.

The Kölner Akademie under Michael Willens delivers energetic performances. The Bach-Abel concerts were a sensation of the London music scene for almost thirty years. With works like these, it’s easy to hear why.

Carl Friedrich Abel: Symphonies, Op. 1 & Op. 4
Kölner Akademie; Michael Alexander Willens, conductor
CPO 555 137-2
2 CD Set

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