Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My old cello

Today my old cello sounds better than the new one I am trying. There must be something about the 119 years of being played that gives it depth and resonance. Though it looks lovely in the photo, it has many cracks, chips, and areas of wear.

It is not a valuable cello. It is an anonymous German student cello, and I got it for a song. My husband saw the ad in the local paper, "cello, $600." At the time I was renting a mediocre cello worth about $2000, and I said, "Forget it. A $600 cello is not going to be worth playing."

Nevertheless, my husband arranged for the cello owner to come to the house and show me the cello. I spent two hours with her, examining the cello, learning about it. I was struck by the beauty of the G on the D string. The cello is battered and worn. It has a hairline crack in the neck. But it has a wonderful tone that I have not found in new instruments costing thousands of dollars more. The woman selling the cello had had it for about 2 years, but hadn't really learned to play it. She, like me, is a flutist. Now she was getting married and needed cash, not a large silent instrument.

I remained a little suspicious of the low cost, wondering if it was going to fall apart in my hands as soon as I gave her the money. Finally, I decided to buy it. At the same time, the woman, probably impatient with my indecision, said, "how about $500?" "Fine!," I said, and the cello was mine.

My cello is not worth much money because of the way it looks. Cellos are appraised on qualities other than their sound: materials, workmanship, maker, provenance, age, etc. I won't be trading this cello in should I buy a new one because I wouldn't get much for it. It will be useful to have a spare cello for cello camp, when a friend drops by, or should my as-yet-unborn grandchildren take an interest in the instrument.

I am looking for a better-sounding cello, not a better-looking one, though I have to admit I would enjoy having a more beautiful instrument. A cellist friend suggested I look into having the old cello repaired and refinished. It is possible that someone could do that and retain the tone, but I have also heard that refinishing would ruin it. Definitely something I should look into though.


cellodonna said...

Gosh, you've been doing lots of blogging lately. I always enjoy "visiting" here. Sounds like you got a real deal on that cello. Definitely worth hanging on to as a "spare" after you get a new one.

I certainly envy that job you have in the string shop. Such a shame that string shops have to be so few and far between.

Maricello said...

Thanks for stopping by! I try to blog every day, but you know some days are busier than others.

I've been working at the string shop for 4 years now, about 10 hours a week for the first 3 years, but now far less than that, due to other demands on my time. Besides the serenity of being in the shop, it is great for me, a work-at-home person, to get out occasionally and interact with people, especially when those people are fellow musicians. And it is also kind of fun to think that I can actually make some money, however little, through music!

Mike said...

That is a beautiful cello--- sometimes something that looks beautiful--ages gracefully and takes a character that is appealing---with its scratches and war wounds. Sometimes a scar has its beauty on its own.

Maricello said...

Beautifully expressed, Mike. I still have the old cello; I am loaning it to friend who is restarting cello after many year, a perfect use for this old cello.