Graham’s perspective on cello development
Like the viola, the ‘cello attracts adherents to the several favoured schools of making that have marked this instrument’s evolution. Many of the pre-Cremonese ‘cellos were larger than the current standard body dimensions and some have been “reduced” by removing wood from the ends and centres of the top and back to render these ancient instruments playable in the modern virtuosic style.
I began making ‘cellos to a pattern of such an instrument owned by Nelson Cooke, then principal ‘cello teacher at the Canberra School of Music. It was a ‘cello by Bartolommeo Cristofori, 1701, also the inventor of the piano, and had been reduced by Francesco Stradivari under the supervision of his father Antonio. It was still a large pattern ‘cello, and the larger body and string length gave a big. rich sound, but ran me into trouble with smaller ‘cellists.
I reverted to a safe Stradivari pattern, but also adopted a Joseph Panormo small pattern typical of the smaller Engish ‘cellos of Kennedy and Banks favoured by many orchestral players for comfort and ease of response. I made modern and Baroque cellos in the Stradivari and Panormo patterns, but then succumbed again to a wide pattern ‘cello by Domenico Montagnana 1739 (“El Phatso”), and made around 20 cellos of this design in both European and Australian tonewoods.
While enjoying the strength and depth of response of these big instruments, I was commissioned to make a copy of a small Tyrolean ‘cello by Joseph Albani, 1715. The result was a comfortable, responsive instrument with a balanced, clear tone. When I adapted this pattern to Australian tonewoods, increasing the arching profiles and reducing the rib depth, I felt I had made my best version of a ‘cello in native tonewoods, King William Pine and Blackwood, and anticipate further developments with other backs and sides such as Queensland Maple and Tasmanian Myrtle.
Graham’s significant experimentation with ‘cello designs has led him to settle on an adaption of the Josef Albani ‘Tyrol’ 1715 pattern for his Australian wood ‘cellos.
All instruments are made to order in our Comboyne workshop.
Cellos from European woods to Italian and English patterns in modern and baroque forms can also be commissioned.