Antonio Stradivari, Cremona, 1712, the 'Davidoff'

Cello: 40277

Number of images available: 5.
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Back: Two-piece, quarter-cut

Ribs: slab-cut

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"The Stradivari, in the other hand, has a remarkable combination of attributes. The pianissimos float effortlessly. The instrument's response is instantaneous. The sound can be rich, sensuous or throbbing at every range, yet can also be clear, cultured and pure. Each sound stimulates the player's imagination. However, there is no room for error as one cannot push the sound, rather it needs to be released. Since 1983 the cello's sound has been growing constantly, becoming richer, deeper and fuller. Part can be attributed to constant playing, causing it to vibrate more fully. Part may be due to my own changing aural aesthetics."

The 'Davidov' was constructed around Stradivari's so-called B mould. This mould was probably developed by the family in the first decade of the 18th century. Previously Stradivari's cellos were much larger and almost all of the 35 or so that have survived have since been reduced. About 20 instruments were made to the more manageable specifications of the B pattern; however, their outlines indicate that more than one B type mould may have been employed. Much later the Stradivari family made an even smaller model known now as the B Picola, but it never proved as successful as the normal B pattern, which became the standard design for almost every cello maker since the beginning of the 19th century.

Shine On, Roger Hargrave, The Strad, December, 2001, London

"Made in 1712, supposedly for the Duke of Tuscany, Wielhorsky had obtained the instrument from a Count Aparxin for an unusual compensation: his Guarnerius cello, 40,000 francs and the handsomest horse from his stable!"

Immediate Impressions, Edward Sainati, The Strad, October, 1988, London

"The way in which Davidoff became possessed of his wonderful Stradivarius violoncello was a very strange one. The late Czar, Alexander II., used to give musical entertainments at his palace. On one occasion Rubinstein, Wieniawsky. and Davidoff were present. A certain Count Wielhorsky (noted for his love of art and his absentmindedness), received the artistes, when Davidoff at once noticed that the Count was very nervous and excited. Asking what the matter was, Davidoff received the following answer: 'To day I celebrate my seventieth birthday, and in a way of my own; I present you with my Stradivarius violoncello.' Davidoff took this for a joke, but he very soon found out that the Count was quite in earnest. The music began, and after the first trio the emperor spoke to Wieniawsky, remarking upon the lovely tone, of his violin, and asking him what make it was. A Stradivarius, your Majesty, was Wieniawsky s answer, whereupon the emperor remarked to Wielhorsky: 'You have also a Strad, have you not '. The count said, "No, your Majesty, I used to have one, but I gave it to-night to Carl Davidoff." The new owner of the violoncello now saw that the count had indeed not been joking. Wielhorski had bought the instrument from Count Apraksin for the sum of 50,000 francs (£2,000), and in addition to two beautiful horses. Wielhorsky had, for a long time past, intended to present his instrument to that 'cellist, who should play Romberg's Swiss Concerto best, and after he had given his violoncello to Davidoff he said: 'It is true I have never heart you play Romberg's Swiss Concerto, but I cannot imagine anyone playing it better than you.' "

Carl Davidoff, Carl Fuchs, The Strad, 1892, London

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Current owner, Jacqueline du Pré, John & Arthur Beare, Herbert N. Strauss and wife, Rudolph Wurlitzer Co., W. E. Hill & Sons, Gaupillat, Karl Davidov, Count Wielhorsky, Count Apraxin, Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de Medici

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Known players

Jacqueline du Pré, Karczmit, Karl Davidov, Raisa Garbusova, Yo-Yo Ma

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