Joseph Marie dall’Abaco: 11 Capricci

Erin Ellis

Catalog #: TROY1897
Release Date: May 15, 2022
Format: Digital

The 11 Capricci by Joseph Marie dall'Abaco (1710-1805) are quickly becoming a staple in the canon of solo cello repertoire. Born in Brussels, the composer and cellist was present and active in many of the major musical centers of 18th century Europe. This recording represents the first American contribution with a modern instrument. Cellist Erin Ellis leads a versatile career as a performer and teacher. She has performed as a soloist and chamber musician across the United States as well as in Canada, Chile, Italy, and Holland. A cello professor at West Virginia University, Ellis has conducted masterclasses and workshops at many nationally recognized institutions and regularly presents at state, regional, and national conferences. She is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Eastman School of Music.


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Track Listing

Title Composer Performer
11 Capricci Joseph Marie dall'Abaco Erin Ellis (cello)


  • Ellis proves a learned and sensitive interpreter of dall'Abaco's music. The opening caprice, for example, leans toward the galant, and Ellis offers relaxed, elegant lines that are just a touch rhapsodic. She also takes care to emphasize predictable gestures and cadences that would have been comfortably pleasing to the listener of the mid-18th century. Ellis also draws on the stylistic conventions of the 17th century to deliver vivid, dramatic performances. The pizzicato playing of Caprice No. 5 is resonant and clean, while the in the Sixth Caprice her playing is reminiscent of the solo viola da gamba repertoire (think of Marin Marais, for example). The complex counterpoint of Caprice No. 7 is given a more structured treatment, though it is still beautifully fluid. Ellis strikes an ideal balance between rigidity and expressiveness, and she avoids sounds extravagant in the double-stops. Caprice No. 8 is an outlier, a cheerful rondo. Ellis's version is buoyant and theatrical, and her wry treatment of the refrain suggests that she is aware of its similarity to the harmonic progression of so much popular music from the 1950s. Again, dall'Abaco's writing traverses a wide range of styles and techniques. Constructing effective interpretations places considerable technical and intellectual demands on the performer, not to mention the challenge of developing a musically coherent approach to the set. Erin Ellis succeeds admirably here, invariably matching dall'Abaco's eclectic mix with the right tool for the job, interpretively. Moreover, her technique is impeccable and her intonation flawless. Of the three recordings of dall'Abaco's capricci I have heard, this is the clear winner on all counts. Highly recommended.

    – Fanfare

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