The ‘Bonamy Dobrée, Suggia’ Stradivari cello

The history of Guilhermina Suggia’s prized 1717 Stradivari cello

By Alessandra Barabaschi March 7, 2018

The ‘Bonamy Dobrée, Suggia’ Stradivari cello, which the Portuguese soloist Guilhermina Suggia played for more than 30 years, was built by Stradivari on his ‘forma B’ model. Unusually for a cello, the maple wood of its back has been cut on the slab.

The first recorded owner of this instrument was the English gentleman Bonamy Dobrée (1818–1907), whose father, also named Bonamy Dobrée, (1794–1863) served as Governor of the Bank of England. Dobrée owned this cello in 1875, [1] when the violin maker Charles-Eugène Gand saw and recorded it. It was probably around this time that the instrument was frequently played in public by the French cellist Jules-Bernard Lasserre (1838–1906), to whom Camille Saint-Saëns dedicated his Cello Sonata no. 1, op. 32 (1872) and his Allegro appassionato, op. 43 for cello and piano (c. 1873).

‘Bonamy Dobrée, Suggia’ Stradivari cello, 1717. Photos: Jan Röhrmann

In 1887 the Hills sold the cello to Ernest Illingworth Holden, 2nd Baron Holden, who also owned the ‘Batta’ of 1714. [2] Guilhermina Suggia first came in contact with the instrument when it was the property of the amateur cellist Edward Hudson (1854–1936). Hudson probably presented it to her around 1919 and it became her main instrument for the rest of her career. Suggia bequeathed the cello to London’s Royal Academy of Music in 1950.

The Russian cellist Edmund Kurtz, who like Suggia had been a pupil of Julius Klengel in Leipzig, bought the cello in 1951 for £8,000. In the 1960s the instrument was initially owned by the chamber music player and collector Samuel L. Crocker of Los Angeles and became part of the Crocker Stradivari Quartet together with the ‘Gariel, Stark’ violin of 1717, the ‘Marquis de Villafranche, Crocker’ violin of 1729 and the ‘Gibson, Saint Senoch’ viola of 1734. [3]

Around 1966 the cello was purchased by the Swiss textile industrialist and amateur cellist Rolf Habisreutinger and it still belongs to his foundation. Soon after its acquisition the cello was played by Jean Paul Gréneux of the Trio Stradivarius [4] and since 1999 it has been played by the Swiss cellist Maja Weber.

Also this week: Alessandra Barabaschi explores the life of Guilhermina Suggia. Read feature.

Alessandra Barabaschi is an Italian art historian and has authored several books including the four-volume ‘Antonius Stradivarius’.


[1] Gand, Charles-Eugène, Stradivarius – Guarnerius del Gesù: Catalogue descriptif des instruments de Stradivarius et Guarnerius del Gesù, Les Amies de la Musique, Spa, reprint 1994, p. 66.
[2] Hill Business Records, 1887.
[3] ‘The Crocker Stradivari Quartet’, The Strad, London, October 1961, pp. 190–191 and p. 213.
[4] ‘A 1683 Stradivari, “The Bucher”’, The Strad, London, September 1966, p. 185.

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