Michael Abels – Reviews

composer, Michael Abels


about Outburst

“Mr. Abels… wrote “Outburst” with the particular strengths of the ASO in mind, and it definitely showed… Mr. Abels has written a short musical piece that is bubbly, buoyant, brisk, brassy and, above all, classical, in that it’s really an extended series of orchestral variations on a basic four-note theme.

“Outburst” begins with a quick “snap” of the percussion followed by a clear statement of the main four-note theme by the horns. Mr. Abels then exposes the listener to a dazzling array of orchestral colors as different groups in the orchestra take up the theme, alter it slightly and play it, sometimes in melodic accompaniment with other instrumental groups, sometimes in opposing harmony, but always with the theme distinctly in the listener’s ear.

“As [the work] progresses, the theme undergoes alterations, almost in a minimalist manner, yet with far more warmth and tonal color thanks to an emphasis on the brass, which figure so prominently in this piece. As “Outburst” nears its conclusion, sudden brass swells form a counterpoint to the bustling string undercurrents. Then the entire piece reaches a triumphant conclusion as the whole orchestra gets into the act.

“In sum, it’s a gorgeous and delightful piece of music. One may regard it as a modern companion to Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” but in a style and language that is uniquely Mr. Abels’ own. “Outburst” is a composition that I would gladly hear again, and I hope that other orchestras will give Mr. Abels’ music the hearing that it well deserves.”

– David Lindauer, The Capital (Annapolis, MD)


about Affectionate Objects

“A masterful score that idiomatically swung from branch to branch along the high canopy of the tree of music, the stylistically shifting work enfolded everything from brass-led swing of Ellingtonian grace to rousing high-beam pillars of pure classical tonality over a slightly ambiguous base, folkish dance rhythms and dark Latin flavors reminiscent of Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. Not surprisingly given its variety, fluid scoring and tonal appeal, the audience warmed immediately to the premiere.”

– Daniel Buckley, Tucson Citizen


about Tribute

“Tribute is a short study for restless strings punctuated by insistent but not vulgar interruptions from the percussion section. It feels honest and expresses a gentle but troubled view of the world. [Others use] big noises to little effect; Abels uses little ones with a lot more success.”

– Phillip Kennicott, Washington Post


about More Seasons

“More Seasons… is an energetic, at times racous piece built from phrases very much like those Vivaldi used…but it’s just as much a creature of our time in its high energy level, crunches of dissonant harmony and almost slapstick humor.”

– Clarke Bustard, Richmond Times-Dispatch


about Frederick’s Fables

“Abels is an imaginative orchestrator with a gift for melody.”

– Minneapolis Star Tribune


about Global Warming

“Global Warming conveys the post-Cold War opening of communications between countries in music that blends many folk influences. The atmosphere initially is arid, with buzzes of cicadas (percussion) and Middle Eastern chants (solo violin and cello) that give way to a jubilant Irish tune… The juxtaposition of elements is unleashed in an irresistible display of orchestral color.”

– Cleveland Plain Dealer


“It is a celebration of global healing in places like the Middle East and Ireland…it was partly a soothing and partly a refreshingly exciting experience.”

– The Star (Johannesburg, South Africa)


“…an entrancing, deftly orchestrated collage of folk music styles from around the world…”

– Union-News (Springfield, MA)


“The performances were crisp and direct. Abels’ work showed a keen ear for musical color and a deft ability to adapt some structural elements from popular music into the symphonic idiom.”

– Houston Chronicle


“Global Warming proved to be a colorful blend of international folk-music idioms, adapted for orchestra to suggest the pungent quality they would have if performed on indigenous instruments.”

– The Houston Post


about Delights and Dances…

Sphinx Virtuosi 2017 Fall Tour, Carnegie Hall                                                                                                     October 13, 2017

“…Michael Abels’ Delights and Dances, commissioned by Sphinx for a 2007 performance…is an utterly buoyant tour-de-force with elements of jazz, blues, and bluegrass being tossed in seeming improvisation from player to player, both in the orchestra and in the star string quartet…[It was] the perfect close for this program…The whole performance made one want to hear it again and again.”

— Rorianne Schrade, New York Concert Review