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Sensibility: Gainsborough, Abel & Bach

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Columbia University: Italian Academy1161 Amsterdam Ave, New York City, New York, 10027, United States
On Thursday 23 April 2020 at 19:30
Richard BoothbyViol
Mahan EsfahaniHarpsichord

Mid-eighteenth-century Britain saw the rise of the cult of sensibility. Part of a wider European aesthetic (known in Germany as Empfindsamkeit), it emphasized spontaneous emotional responses to art, music and literature, a sensitivity to the suffering of others, and a love of nature. Such ideas are apparent in the art of Thomas Gainsborough – in his choice and approach to subject matter, and in his style of painting, with its improvisatory swirls and sweeping lines. His portrait subjects included two German émigrés to London who were similarly adept at articulating direct emotions in their musical performances and compositions: Johann Christian Bach, who was to become London’s leading composer and musician, and Carl Friedrich Abel, composer and virtuoso viola da gamba player. Bach was the youngest son of the great Johann Sebastian, who had been friends in Cöthen with Christian Ferdinand Abel, father of Carl Friedrich. Together, the younger Abel and Bach set up their own concert series, which was such a success that they went on to build their own concert room in Hanover Square, for which their mutual friend Gainsborough provided much of the decoration.

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