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Karl Friedrich Abel


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Carl Friedrich Abel (December 22, 1723 – June 20, 1787) was a German composer of the Classical era. He was a fine player on the viola da gamba, and composed important music for that instrument.

Abel was born in Cöthen, the son of Christian Ferdinand Abel, the principal viola da gamba and cello player in the court orchestra of Johann Sebastian Bach. There is no proof that Abel studied at Thomasschule Leipzig, but it was on Bach’s recommendation that in 1748 he was able to join Johann Adolph Hasse’s court orchestra at Dresden where he remained for ten years. In 1759 he went to England and became chamber-musician to Queen Charlotte. He gave a concert of his own compositions in London, performing on various instruments, one of which was a five-string cello known as a pentachord, which had been recently invented by John Joseph Merlin.[1]

In 1762, Johann Christian Bach, the eleventh son of Johann Sebastian Bach, joined him in London, and the friendship between him and Abel led, in 1764 or 1765, to the establishment of the famous Bach-Abel concerts, England’s first subscription concerts. In those concerts, many celebrated guest artists appeared, and the works of Haydn received their first English performance.

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