Joseph Marie Clément Ferdinand Dall’Abaco, Capricci
The White Prince Edition 103
Not much is known about the life of Joseph (Marie) Clement Ferdinand Barone Dall’Abaco, son of the better-known composer, violinist and cellist Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco (1675-1742). A descendant of a Veronese family of lawyers, Evaristo Felilce Dall’Abaco from 1704 was active as Kapellmeister and cellist at the court of Prince Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria (1662-1726) in Munich.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, after the defeats at the battle of Blenheim/Hochstadt (13 August 1704), and at the battle of Ramillies (23 Mary 1706), Prince Maximilian II was exiled from Bavaria, and Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco followed him to Brussels, where we know that on 27 March 1710 his son Joseph Clement was baptized, and successively followed him to Versailles.
After the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) and the peace agreements of Rastatt and Baden (1714), in 1715, the Prince Elector Maximilian returned to Munich and here the young Joseph Clement began his musical studies including the study of the cello with his father, who in the meantime had become Konzertmeister and councillor to the Prince. Some years later his father had him return to Italy to complete his musical studies in Venice.
On 29 March 1729 Joseph was appointed Titular-Kammerdiener und Hofmusikus mit dem Violoncell at the chapel of Prince Elector Clemens August I of Bavaria (1700-1761) in Bonn, and on 26 August 1738 he became Direktor der Kammermusik und kurfürstlicher Rat (director of the court chamber orchestra, and councillor to the Prince).
This position allowed Joseph Clément Dall’Abaco the liberty of being able to perform frequently in major European centres; he was active in London and in other English towns: Philip H. Highfill quotes that Dall’Abaco first appeared at his own benefit concert in Hickford’s Room (in Brewer Street), London, on April 15, 1736 [H. Highfill; Kalman A. Burnim; Edward A. Langhans Biographical Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800, I,].
Charles Burney, writing about the art of the cello in London, mentions Dall’Abaco as one of the prominent cellists of the time: “The elder Cervetto is now first mentioned as just arrived, and this worthy professor, who remained in England till the time of his death, at above a hundred, with Abaco, Lanzetti, Pasqualini and Caporale, about this time brought the violoncello into favour, and made us nice judges of that instrument.” (Charles Burney, A General History of Music, London, 1789, Vol. IV, p. 660).
Also often remembered is the great success of his appearance in Vienna in 1749 with the execution of his own original piece for five cellos: Edmund van der Straeten in his History of the Violoncello (London 1915), attributed this information to the German music critic Richard Pohl (1826-1896); he also informs us that when in Paris Dall’Abaco was the teacher of the French cellist J.J. Nochez “who acquired a great reputation in Paris” (became royal chamber musician in 1763 and first cellist at the “Concerts Spirituel”). Also in Paris it seems that the editor Duter had planned to print the sei sinfonie a quattro of Giuseppe Clemente Dall'Abaco.
In 1752 two unfortunate events troubled Joseph Clement Dall'Abaco's life: Franz Peter Cosman, war commissioner of Prince Elector Clemens August and brother of Dall'Abaco's wife (Therese Cosman, whom he married on 25 November 1738), fled after stealing 35,820 royal thalers from the Prince's safe. The atmosphere at the court in Bonn became more difficult for Dall'Abaco that he decided to give up his position and return to Verona.
On the way back, upon his mother's insistence, he decided to spend the winter with his family in Munich, where the second tragic event occurred: an anonymous letter sent the first of December 1752 to the Prince Elector of Cologne (Clemens August) accused Dall'Abaco of planning to poison him during his upcoming travels in Bavaria.
The inquest that was held between the 8th and the 19th of January 1753, and of which there are over 200 pages of investigatory actions as well as the final report of 21 January, never managed to establish the author of the anonymous letter, nor did it find Joseph Clement Dall'Abaco guilty of either of the accusations against him.
In the following months of 1753 Dall'Abaco settled in Verona; he continued his activity as cellist and composer, collaborating with the Philharmonic Academy of Verona, into which he was admitted with praise and general approval on 20 April 1767. He died on his estate in Arbizzano di Valpolicella on 31 August 1805 at the age of 95.
Kristin von der Goltz; Edition Raum Klang;