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Sequentia! JosephMarie Clément Ferdinand DALL'ABACO (1710-1805)
Eleven Capriccios for Solo Cello [29:25] CarloAlfredo PIATTI (1822-1901)
Twelve Caprices for Solo Cello, Op. 25 [48:11]
Joachim Eijlander (cello)
rec. 2017, Jurriaansezaal, De Doelen, Rotterdam NAVIS CLASSICS NC17009 [77:41]
As a sequel to his recordings of the Bach Solo Cello Suites, which I reviewed last year, Joachim Eijlander turns his attention to two relatively unknown composers who have likewise made contributions to the solo cello repertoire. I have to admit that both are new names to me.
The cellist and composer Joseph Marie Clément Ferdinand dall'Abaco was born in Brussels, then capital of the Spanish Netherlands. He studied with his cellist father Evaristo Felice dall'Abaco. He lived to the ripe old age of ninety-five. He composed nearly forty cello sonatas and these eleven solo Capriccios, in addition to other works. Despite living well into the Classical era, much of his music retained a Baroque style.
The original manuscript of the eleven Capriccios is lost, and performers have to rely on a less than satisfactory copy with no movement titles or indications. This, undoubtedly, gives the performer a great deal of scope to make performance choices. Eijlander takes full advantage, applying pizzicatos in No. 5 and ponticello bowing in No. 3. In No. 8 his double stops have a rich vibrancy which is compelling. The Capriccios are imaginatively constructed, and offer charm and lyricism in good measure. I can't say that I find quite the same wealth of inspiration in them as in the Piatti Caprices, but that's only a personal opinion.
Carlo Alfredo Piatti was an Italian cellist, teacher and composer. He initially started off on the violin, as his father was a violinist. Soon the cello began to interest him, probably drawn to that instrument by the fact that his great-uncle, Gaetano Zanetti, was a famous cellist, who gave Carlo Alfredo his first lessons. He later studied with Vincenzo Merighi at the Milan Conservatory. Early on he was forced to sell his cello to pay medical bills but, as luck would have it, a chance encounter with Liszt, who was greatly impressed with his playing, resulted in the older composer presenting him with a new instrument. At one time Piatti played in a string quartet with the renowned Joseph Joachim. In addition to the 12 Caprices for Solo Cello for which he is best remembered today, he composed two concertos, one concertino, and six sonatas for the instrument.
His Twelve Caprices Op. 25 were published in 1875. Paganini's 24 Caprices immediately spring to mind when I listen to them. Although they fulfil a didactic role, I was surprised how much melodic interest they contain. No. 2, for instance, radiates an ardent lyricism whilst No. 6 has an almost operatic cast. In No 7, marked Maestoso, the string crossing could sound dull, pedantic and monotonous, but not here. Eijlander shapes the line, bringing out the beautiful melody and subtly applying just the right amount of rubato. In the Caprice that follows, his tone in the upper reaches of the instrument never sounds strained, but rings out with crystalline purity. No. 9 is crisply articulated. As a violinist and not a cellist I would imagine that no. 3 throws up some intonation challenges for the player. Eijlander's dead-centre accuracy is to be admired.
Eijlander addresses the technical challenges of these works with unruffled ease and consummate musicianship. He's playing an anonymous Italian cello from around 1730. It has a rich, burnished tone, which is well-projected and superbly recorded. The warm, intimate acoustic of the Jurriaansezaal provides just the right amount of resonance, allowing nuance and detail to be heard.