Abel, Karl Friedrich


Very noted performer on the viol da gamba. He was a pupil of Sebastian Bach, at the Thomasschule, Leipsic, and afterward belonged to the Court band at Dresden. He went to London in 1759, where he gave concerts composed entirely of his own music, and was appointed chamber-musician to Queen Charlotte, with a salary of two hundred pounds. For many years he conducted Mrs. Cornely's Subscription concerts with Johann Christian Bach. These concerts were also known as "Bach and Abel's Concerts," and were continued until Bach's death in 1782. During the next year they were conducted by Abel alone but were unsuccessful. He returned to Germany in 1783, but did not stay, going back to London in 1785. He was the greatest and last performer upon his instrument, which after his death fell into disuse. His compositions consist of overtures, concertos, quartets, sonatas and symphonies. Among his best known works are A Fifth Set of Six Overtures and A Set of Six Sonatas. His instrumental pieces are in seventeen works. He also wrote two operas, Love in a Village, in 1760, and Bernice, in 1764. His works excel particularly in harmony. Abel played usually on a six stringed English viol da gamba, instead of on the seven-stringed one generally used on the continent. A very fine three-quarter length portrait of Abel with his instrument was painted by his friend Gainsborough. Among his pupils was the noted pianist, T. B. Cramer.