Abel, Charles Frederick

, an eminent musician, was a native of Germany, and a disciple of Sebastian Bach. During nearly ten years he was in the band of the electoral king of Poland at Dresden; but the calamities of war having“reduced that court to a close ceconomy, he left Dresden in 1758, with only three dollars in his pocket, and proceeded to the next little German capital, where his talents procured a temporary supply. In 1759 he made his way to England, where he soon obtained notice and reward. He was first patronized by the dukje of York: and on the formation of her present majesty’s band, was appointed chamber-musician to her majesty, with a salary of o”.200 per annum. In 1763, in conjunction with John Christian Bach, he established a weekly concert by subscription, which was well supported; and he had as many private pupils as he chose to teach. Abel performed on several instruments; but that to which he chiefly attached himself was the viol da gamba, an instrument growing out of fashion, and now very little used. His hand was that of a perfect master.

Dr. Burney gives the following character of his compositions and performance. “His compositions were easy and elegantly simple; for he used to say, ` I do not choose to be always struggling with difficulties, and playing with all my might. I make my pieces difficult whenever I please, according to my disposition, and that of my audience.' Yet in nothing was he so superior to himself, and to other musicians, as in writing and playing an adagio; in which the most pleasing, yet learned modulation, the richest harmony, and the most elegant and polished melody, were all expressed with such feeling, taste, and science, that no musical production or performance with which I was then acquainted, seemed to approach nearer perfection. The knowledge Abel had acquired in Germany in every part of musical science, rendered him the umpire of all musical controversies, and caused him to be consulted in all difficult points. His concertos and other pieces were very popular, and frequently played on public occasions. The taste and | science of Abel were rather greater than his invention, so that some of his later productions, compared with those of younger composers, appeared somewhat languidand monotonous. Yet he preserved a high reputation in the profession till his death.

Abel was a man who well knew the world, and kept on tolerable terms with society, though a natural irascibility, and disposition to say strong things, sometimes rendered him overbearing and insolent in company. His greatest failing was a love of the bottle, in which he indulged to a degree that probably shortened his life. He died in London, June 20, 1787 .1


Burney’s Hist, of Music, vol. IV.