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Mark Abel heads into 'The Cave of Wondrous Voice / Hollywood Soapbox

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Mark Abel, the composer who has been making and recording music for several years, recently released a new album of chamber music called The Cave of Wondrous Voice, featuring three pieces - "Clarinet Trio," "Intuition's Dance" and "The Elastic Hours." The recording effort serves as a quality example of Abel's recent fascination and mastery of the chamber art form.

The recording has been in the works for quite some time - long before coronavirus hit earlier this year. Now, when the music world has been ordered to stay home and think of unique ways to share their art, he has moved ahead with the album's release, with the hope that quarantined listeners are yearning for something unique to enjoy.

"As is often the case with composers, some of them are projects, kind of discreet projects, others of them are the best stuff that you produced recently, and you want to get it out there," Abel said in a recent phone interview about the genesis of the project. "But I think the main thrust behind this release is the fact that it's the first chamber music that has come out under my name. I've done five albums for Delos, and all of the previous stuff has been vocal music, ranging from opera to orchestral song cycles to solo songs to various other permutations. Vocal music is something that I have a kind of built-in affinity for, and [I] was once a rock musician many, many years. But chamber music has always been a tough nut for me to crack, and some kind of inner-blocks that I've had about it finally dissolved, magically. I can't even explain why, [but] about three years ago I started writing chamber pieces and felt that I had three viable ones and found some terrific people who wanted to record them. That was the main thrust of this album."

Those terrific people who helped him along the way are players David Shifrin, Fred Sherry and Carol Rosenberger. He is also was aided by violinist Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker, pianist Dominic Cheli and hornist Sarah Beck.

"The earliest of these three chamber pieces that are on this record is a clarinet trio, and that's a combination of instruments - as I mentioned in the notes I wrote for this album - that hasn't been exploited as much as you would expect considering what a wonderful combination of instruments it is," he said. "The piece that means the most to everybody pretty much in that sphere is the Brahms clarinet trio, which I've known since I was a kid, and I definitely felt it was a challenge to write something using the tools that he had at his disposal instrumentally wise."

The challenge was overcome when something "clicked" in Abel's brain. He doesn't know what was preventing him from composing effective chamber music before, but he jumped over any hurdles and began to work in earnest on The Cave of Wondrous Voice.

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