The September/October issue of Fanfare includes a thoughtful review of The Cave of Wondrous Voice by Santa Fe writer Huntley Dent:
“Abel’s opening work (depicts) the restless operation of intuition, which keeps turning back on itself to find fresh ways of saying things. His intuition darts from gesture to gesture very quickly, and the piece is finely balanced between letting seed ideas grow and stepping over them to get to the next snatch of rhythm and melody.
“In The Elastic Hours, a duo for violin and piano, … he has set out … , much like Wallace Stevens, to catch the movement of thought itself and wrap it in art, or as Abel puts it, “the subconscious mind’s journey through the course of a day.”
“With the Four Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, I feel Abel is at his strongest, most original and intensely personal. A longtime collaborator, soprano Hila Plitmann uses her agile voice with unfailing courage to undertake Abel’s extreme vocal demands … . The least obscure poem is “O sorrow floods my eyes,” a protest against totalitarianism, whether Nazi or Soviet, that ends in a defiant cry of “No!” As difficult as it is, we are told, to translate Tsvetaeva’s allusive Russian into English, it is not hard to see why she is considered a genius as well as a witness to terrible times. Abel’s complex, dense writing does full justice to this mixture of beauty, prophetic insight, and terror.
“Like John Harbison, Abel represents the best strain in contemporary American composers who can merge their musical gifts with a sensitive, far-reaching intellect. He brings up to date the strain of literary delving found in Schumann and Debussy. … The instrumental works also update Debussy’s love of ambiguity as a viable method of creative expression.
Four stars: Fascinating chamber works highlighted by a searing vocal piece.”—Huntley Dent, Fanfare