Obituary: Alan Abel, longtime Philadelphia Orchestra percussionist and instrument builder, 91

Posted on: April 30, 2020

“Almost anyone who has thrilled to the exclamation marks of the triangle in a Brahms symphony or fairy-dust accents of the small metallic instrument in a Liszt piano concerto knows the work of Alan Abel,” writes Peter Dobrin in Monday’s (4/27) Philadelphia Inquirer. “He wasn’t only a longtime percussionist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but a builder of instruments. His particular take on the orchestral triangle was so successful that it became used in orchestras all over. Mr. Abel, 91, also taught widely … and performed as a substitute player with the Philadelphia Orchestra long after his 1997 retirement from the group. He died Saturday, April 25 … from complications of coronavirus. [At the Philadelphia Orchestra] he began as third percussionist in 1959 … and became associate principal in 1988…. More than a third of notable American orchestras have a percussionist who studied with Mr. Abel or with one of his students, said Philadelphia Orchestra timpanist Don S. Liuzzi. He had been slated to lead a class via Zoom on April 21 but was hospitalized the day before, said Mr. Abel’s daughter, Marianne. ‘He was the type of teacher who could make anybody better,” said Peter Wilson, a freelance percussionist based in Phoenix who studied with Mr. Abel at Temple and privately.”