A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Abt, Franz

ABT, Franz, born at Eilenburg in Prussian Saxony, Dec. 22, 1819. His father was a clergyman, and Franz, though destined to the same profession, received a sound musical education, and was allowed to pursue both objects at the Thomas-School and University of Leipsic. On his father's death he relinquished the church as a profession and adopted music entirely. His first residence was at Zürich (1841), where he acted as capellmeister, occupying himself more especially with men's voices, both as composer and conductor of several societies. In 1852 he entered the staff of the Hof-theater at Brunswick, where since 1855 he has filled the post of leading capellmeister. [App. p.517 "he died at Wiesbaden, Mar. 31, 1885"]

Abt is well known by his numerous songs for one or more voices, which betray an easy fluency of invention, couched in pleasing popular forms, but without pretence to depth or individuality. Many of his songs, as for instance 'When the swallows,' were at one time universally sung, and have obtained a more or less permanent place in the popular repertory. Abt is a member of a group of composers, embracing his contemporaries Truhn, Kücken, Gumbert, and others, who stand aloof from the main course taken by the German Lied as it left the hands of Schubert, Schumann, and Franz,—which aims at the true and living expression of inward emotion. In reference to this the composers in question are somewhat in the background; but it cannot be denied that in many dilettante circles Abt is a prime favourite for his elegance and easy intelligibility. His greatest successes in Germany and Switzerland have been obtained in part-songs for men's voices, an overgrown branch of composition unfortunately devoted to the pursuit of the mere superficial enjoyment of sweet sounds, and to a great extent identified with his name.

The list of Abt's compositions is enormous, and contains more than 400 works, consisting chiefly of 'Lieder' of the most various kinds for one, two, or three solo voices, as well as for chorus, both female and mixed, and, as already mentioned, especially for men's voices. Of the solo 'Lieder,' a collection of the less-known ones has been published by Peters under the title of 'Abt-Album.' The part-songs are to be found in many collections. In the early part of his life Abt composed much for the pianoforte, chiefly pieces of light salon character. These have never had the same popularity with his vocal works, and are now virtually forgotten.

[ A. M. ]