Meditating over Past Sins with Abel’s Music

Fading. © Charles Thibo

Early morning in our garden. The heat and the lack of rain took its toll: What should be green and lush is of a fading green turning to yellow and brown. The morning hours are cool, the early breeze is a welcome contrast to the oppressive heat of the day. Every morning – I write this on one of the first days of August – I look at the sky and utter a very short prayer: Rain, please. The absence of rain has never hit me as hard as this year. I have to confront a problem I associated with the Sahel zone, not with Luxembourg. West winds should bring us rain showers from the Atlantic in July and August. These two months used to be the most abundant in rain. Not any more.

This fact commands a new form of humbleness. For all the money in our bank accounts, we cannot buy rain. And we cannot reverse climate change. All we can do is mitigate the consequences of past sins. We can try to change our style of life and we can try to convert others to do so too. At times I feel like one of those Medieval priest trying to convert his flock to turn away from sin and embrace the guidance of the church. I can try to lead by example and I can preach – the outcome however is quite uncertain.

Humbleness – a virtue shining through Carl Friedrich Abel’s Concerto for Flute and Strings No. 2 in E Minor (WK 47). We have met Abel before as the composer of a wonderful Viola da Gamba Sonata in E minor. The concerto is just as lovely. It is part of a set of six such concerts and it was written some time before 1759 and published for the first time in 1763 in Leipzig. The date of its composition puts it into the start-up phase of Abel’s career as a composer.

The gifted viol player had joined the Saxon court in Dresden in 1746, possibly with the help of the Bach family. He left the city however in 1757 and when Prussian troops had occupied it during the Seven Years War. The researchers for Oxford Music Online state Abel “then travelled, visiting the house of Goethe’s family in Frankfurt and probably the musical centres of Mannheim and Paris.” It was however in Dresden that his career as a composer had its starting point: He wrote solo and trio sonatas as well as concertos that were advertised in the catalogue of the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel, the oldest music publisher of the world.

The style of Abel’s concerto fits the general description of his music: energetic, light-hearted, rich in harmonies and expressive. The flute provides in this case the melodic lead and at the same time the lighter, consoling, optimistic element while the strings keep the piece bound to the earth and invite to reflection and self-reflection in my case in the light of the gravity of the situation.

Abel’s Concerto for Flute and Strings No. 2 in E Minor has been recorded by the ensemble Nordic Affect.


Published by

de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.