‘Marquis de Corberon’ Stradivari, 1726
The models used by Antonio Stradivari for his cellos varied considerably over the long arch of his career. The earliest examples were large and unwieldy by modern playing standards; the ‘forma B’ cellos from the middle period (roughly 1707–1727) are of dimensions more or less favoured by cellists today; and the later-period cellos are, for the most part, shorter and narrower. There are approximately 20 surviving instruments of the forma B pattern and they include some of the most famous cellos in history: among them the 1711 ‘Duport’ (Rostropovich), the 1712 ‘Davidov’ (Ma, du Pré), 1714 ‘Batta’ (Piatigorsky) and the 1720 ‘Piatti’ (Piatti, Prieto). The ‘Marquis de Corberon’ is one of the last cellos that Stradivari made on this model.
The instruments from the last decade of Stradivari’s life (he died in 1737 aged over 90) are no less masterly than his earlier ones but they often used lower-quality materials, such as the willow on the back and ribs, and the beech on the head of the ‘Marquis de Corberon’ instead of the more elegant flamed maple. We also see a stronger presence of Stradivari’s sons, particularly the eldest, Francesco, and of the young workshop assistant Carlo Bergonzi. For whatever reason, after the Stradivari workshop fizzled out in the late 1730s, Bergonzi largely steered clear of making his own cellos, while the other last classical Cremonese master, Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù’, almost exclusively made violins, resulting in the classical Cremonese cello becoming even more rare and coveted than the Cremonese fiddle.
Commentary by Jason Price
Steven Isserlis, Wigmore Hall, Wednesday 21 February 2018