Thursday, 22 September 2016

Abel - Mr Abel's Fine Airs - Heinrich

Rating: 5/5

Simply delightful

This is a marvellous disc of 24 of Abel's pieces for solo viola da gamba. When it first arrived I took it into the living room after supper to enjoy with a glass of wine and a book. The book never got a look in. I was instantly spellbound by the music. Abel was a pupil of Bach and the great man's influence shows in places - the two pieces marked "Arpeggio" perhaps have echoes of the preludes to the first and third Cello Suites, for example and the Allegro WKO198 could be a concluding gigue . Now, Abel is no Bach, and these are no Cello Suites, but there is serious and involving melodic and harmonic invention here and a truly delightful sense that these are semi-improvised miniatures played for friends around the fire - which apparently is exactly where Abel, one of the last great masters of the viola da gamba, was at his best.

What really makes Abel's music an unalloyed pleasure is the gamba playing of Susanne Heinrich. I have heard and enjoyed some of her work with Charivari Agreable but until now had no idea she was such a superb musician. The playing is virtuosic in that effortless way which shows off the music rather than the player's virtuosity and, with an intimately close recording, she really does give you the feeling that you're sharing a fireside with her. The sound she produces from the instrument (a modern copy) is fabulously lovely. Try to play this through a good stereo or decent headphones to catch the full, resonant sound - it's just wonderful. I think I may be in love.

I cannot recommend this disc too highly - it's a real gem.

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