CELLO BOW BREAKS WORLD RECORD

Gramophone, November 28, 2006

By Caroline Gill

A cello bow by Francois Xavier Tourte has made nearly $200,000 in an on-line musical instruments auction. It was bought by a well-known European cellist who has chosen to remain anonymous.

The bow, made between 1800 and 1810 by the maker most credited with refining the bow into the form it holds today, realised $196,000 when it was put on sale by Tarisio, an American on-line auction house that deals exclusively with musical instruments. It beat the previous record for a bow by Tourte of $152,856 and represents the highest figure ever paid for a bow of any type at auction.

The bow, known as the “Ex-Romberg”, is described by Jason Price of Tarisio as “the star of the show” despite other lots that achieved higher prices. The bow’s first owner was Bernard Romberg, the German cellist and composer (and friend of Beethoven), who almost certainly bought the bow directly from Tourte. It subsequently passed into the ownership of Alfredo Piatti, for use with his Stradivari (still known as the “Piatti” and one of the best-preserved Stradivari cellos in existence); his pupil, Robert von Mendelssohn (cousin of Felix); Max Adler (owner of the Sears Roebuck company in the United States) and Edmund Kurtz, principal cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

It is the bow’s complete and unbroken provenance that is the most significant element of its sale: the lack of any doubt over authenticity adding considerable weight to its value. Although the buyer remains anonymous, Price says: “they will make sure it is heard frequently on concert stages around the world”.

The bow was the most successful lot in a sale that grossed over $4,000,000, making it the second highest musical instruments auction on record, bettered only by Christie’s New York earlier this year in a sale that included the “Hammer” Stradivari violin.

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