At the beginning of the 18th century, Antonio Stradivari was a skilled and renowned maker with more than thirty years’ experience in the construction of guitars, decorated instruments, viole da gamba, pochettes and harps in addition to violins, violas and cellos. We know of about 25 cellos constructed before 1700, made in a large size like the Mediceo once belonging to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and currently preserved in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. It was in 1700 that the Cremonese master decided to reduce the dimensions of his cellos, an intermediate step towards developing the model that today is identified and known as “B form” which he probably started to use from 1707. The history of this cello has been reconstructed mainly from the Hill brothers’ documentation: though it is at times uncertain, it suddenly brightens up when it comes to Lisa Cristiani, a very young Parisian cellist who came into possession of the instrument binding her name to Stradivari’s and to the cello once and for all. In the light of this, the previous history of the instrument appears of less importance. Lisa died in 1853 at only 26 years of age, a transient star in the musical scene of her day: in just a few years she enthralled her audiences with her extraordinary instrument, and the composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy dedicated the Romance without words op. 109 to her. After her death, the cello remained in France for a long time, then was brought to Germany and finally reached London in 1894 where it remained in the possession of W. E. Hill and Sons until it became the property of Mr. Lewis Bruce.
The instrument, considered by Alfred Hill as one of the most beautiful examples among the works of the great master, passed from Mr. Bruce’s niece to Paolo Salvelli, president of the Centro di Musicologia “Walter Stauffer”, finally returning to the town where it was played for the first time.
Antonio Stradivarius Cremonensis / Faciebat anno 1700
W.E. Hill & Sons, London, April 14, 1936
John & Arthur Beare, London, November 3, 2005
Purchased by Centro di Musicologia “Walter Stauffer” in 2005