Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) handcrafted nearly 80 cellos in his lifetime. It is estimated that there are only 60 extant cellos.
With the same fervor and skill that pushed the master luthier to perfect the sound and beauty of the violin, Stradivari also handcrafted other instruments including the cello. Pushing the boundaries of design and sound, he experimented with the cello until he created original designs unmatched in previous cello making.
According to the “Cambridge Companion to the Cello”, Stradivari improved the cellos design by giving it a broader range of “expressiveness and sheer power of tone to the soloist and ensemble player.”
Along with his impeccable craftsmanship, he also graced his cellos with the same strong red varnish that he used for his violins.
Stradivarius cellos are owned by museums, institutions, musicians and private collectors worldwide.
Considered by many to be the best cello ever made, the 1701 Servais is owned by the National Museum of American History. It is currently given on loan to Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma.
Other incredible Stradivarius cellos include the 1711 Duport, the 1710 Gore-Booth and the 1714 Batta.
One of Stradivari’s most famous cellos is the Davidov cello made in 1712. The sound and beauty of this cello has been admired by musicians and makers alike. For the last twenty years, Davidov has been played by famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The Duport Stradivarius, which was owned and played by Mstislav Rostropovich until his death in 2007, has been estimated at $20 million.
Listen to a 1707 Stradivarius Cello
In the video below, watch 18-year-old U of M student Stéphane Tétreault, the hands-on custodian of a 1707 Stradivarius cello, plays the gigue from the first suite of Bach at McGill’s Schulich School of Music. The gigue, a lively baroque dance, originates from the British jig. (Dave Sidaway/The Gazette)