Notes and Editorial Reviews
Caprices for Cello: No. 1 in c; No. 2 in g; No. 3 in E?; No. 4 in d; No. 5 in B?; No. 6 in e; No. 7 in B?; No. 8 in G; No. 9 in C; No. 10 in A; No. 11 in F
Kristin von der Goltz (vc)
RAUMKLANG 2503 (55:34)
No one can accuse cellist Kristin von der Goltz of being less than adventurous in her choice of repertoire. The last time I encountered her as a soloist, she was playing a fine set of sonatas by the virtually unknown Dutch composer Jacob Klein (
28:5). Now she has turned her attention to a set of solo caprices by the equally obscure Joseph-Marie-Clément (or Giuseppe Clemens) dall’Abaco (1710–1805), the son of the much-traveled and more familiar Evaristo dall’Abaco. The younger dall’Abaco was born in Brussels during the period the Prince-Elector of Bavaria, his father’s employer, was exiled there following his country’s defeat in the War of Spanish Succession, Evaristo having accompanied him. After receiving his first cello lessons from his father, J-M-C was sent to Venice for further instruction, while he later gained employment at the electoral court in Bonn, where he was appointed director of court chamber music in 1738. As a virtuoso cellist he played in a number of leading centers, including London and Vienna, before moving to his ancestral home of Verona, where he died on his estate at the age of 95, apparently well-off and highly esteemed as a performer.
Some 40 cello sonatas are extant in manuscript, in addition to these caprices. Raumklang’s informative note gives no clue as to when they were composed, but both it and the brief article on the composer in the revised
stress that dall’Abaco’s music looks back to the tradition he inherited from his father, rather than embracing the emergent
style. I’m not so sure that applies to these caprices, which, while certainly more complex than elegant, frequently employ individual and at times unexpected melodic and harmonic progressions (for an example of the latter listen to the second half of No. 10). Perhaps the most striking thing is a variety that ranges from the playfulness of No. 5, with its pizzicato passages, and the cheeky off–beat “swing” of No. 8 to the high seriousness of No. 4, one of the longest, which takes its point of departure from an irregularly shaped rising motif to make an uneasy, highly expressive statement. All these disparate elements come together in the final F-Major Caprice, which juxtaposes broad broken chords with an excitable scrubbing figuration that resolves in a helter-skelter descent to land a trill low in the instruments register—one of many instances of the composer’s wit.
If there is one thing all these pieces do share in common it is the high level of virtuosity they demand from the performer. Themes, while fundamentally cantabile in character, bristle with angularity and large leaps, while from No. 7 onward there is a fair amount of chordal writing and double stopping. Von der Goltz proves herself well capable of negotiating dall’Abaco’s many awkward corners, at the same time drawing richly satisfying lines from her late-18th-century instrument. She’s also particularly good at shading the music, producing a satisfying range of dynamics and color.
These fascinating, unknown works are more than worthy of investigation, particularly given the thoroughly accomplished performances, which are beautifully engineered in Raumklang’s best tradition. Historically, dall’Abaco has existed in the shadow of his father, a verdict that this excellent issue should at least in part redress.
FANFARE: Brian Robins
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