""The cello is the third partner in this piece," Glass said, taking the richly resonant instrument out of its case. Built in 1620 by Nicolo Amati, it began life as a viola da gamba. Amati's prize student, Antonio Stradivari, transformed it into the bigger, more modern instrument, which then spent a century participating in performances in the Sistine Chapel.
The 19th-century French luthier Georges Chanot put the finishing touches on the expansion, then covered his tracks with gorgeous filigree and paintings of two angels with tambourine and harp. The instrument has been used by a few cellists in orchestras (even, for a time, the New York Philharmonic), but it has never been associated with a famous virtuoso. Sutter sees an opening.
"It has an incredible bass end," she observed. "It also has a bright sound and can carry in a hall of 3,000 people. It's like driving a Ferrari."
"To think," Glass said, "400 years later! There's some kind of Dracula thing going on with this cello of eternal youth. It's always ready to play a new piece."
Its allure has proven so irresistible to him that he's contemplating two more works for Sutter to perform on it. But the instrument had a high price: $650,000.
Glass has formed a corporation of 10 shares to purchase it. Half the shares have been sold; Glass bought one himself. "It's like owning part of a company," he said. "They aren't making more of these. The value has got to go up.""
"One of the cases housed a treasure: the "Ex Vatican," a viola da gamba built by Nicolò Amati in 1620 and later adapted as a cello by Stradivari. For 100 years it was played by papal musicians in the Sistine Chapel. In the 19th century, a French violin maker painted two angels on the front, lending the instrument the look of a beauty queen with biker tattoos on her collarbones.|