C. F. Abel: Symphonies op. 7

La Stagione Frankfurt, Michael Schneider
cpo 777 993-2

Difficult as it is to believe, it is nearly 25 years since I first heard Michael Schneider direct La Stagione in performances of symphonies by Abel. Then it was op. 10, while now we have the slightly earlier op. 7. This set’s “claim to fame” is the misattribution of the final work in the set to Mozart, since the young prodigy had made a copy during his 1764 London visit. Needless to say, the uplifting, exuberant playing of the previous release is a feature of the present performances. Re-ordered from the original print (3, 2, 1, 6, 4, 5), each has three movements and Schneider draws attention (rightly, I think) to the fact that the stand-out feature of each is the middle movement; none of Abel’s symphonies is in a minor key and, although the sonata form of the first and the dance character of the faster ones almost require passing references to minor keys, it is in the slow movements that he more deeply probes them. Graciously crafted inner voices and more than a hint of romanticism give these movements a forward-looking character that looks to Mozart (who, as we have heard, was acquainted with Abel’s music) and even brooding qualities of the Sturm und Drang  movement. But there is little time for the listener to be overwhelmed by such thoughts, for along comes a boisterous final movement to wake us from our daydreams and fill us with verve and excitement.

Brian Clark

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