Domenico Montagnana, Venice, c. 1730
The cello played by Alisa Weilerstein was made by Domenico Montagnana in Venice in around 1730. Dubbed the ‘Mighty Venetian’ by the novelist Charles Reade, Montagana has long been a favourite of leading cellists, including Emanuel Feuermann, Heinrich Schiff, Yo-Yo Ma, Misha Maisky and Boris Pergamenschikow. Cellos by Montagnana are slightly shorter in body length than the standard Stradivari model, but they are considerably broader in the bouts and waist, giving them exceptional manoeuvrability in higher positions while maintaining all the power and resonance needed to fill the largest halls.
In the 17th century, instrument making in Venice was dominated by foreign workers mostly hailing from Bavaria as evidenced by their surnames: Kaiser, Railich, Seelos and Straub. Originally from the town of Lendinara, Montagnana was the first significant Venetian maker to come from the Veneto region. During his reign as the leading maker in Venice, other talented makers were recruited from Cremona (Pietro Guarneri) and Bologna (Carlo Tononi).
Montagnana had access to the highest quality materials: deeply flamed maple, fine-grained spruce and an exceptional dark red-brown craquelled varnish. The 40-odd cellos of his that survive are as much a pleasure for the eyes as for the ears.
Commentary by Jason Price
Alisa Weilerstein, Wigmore Hall, Monday 28 October