Urban Luthier

Baroque Cello Model

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One of the projects I've had in the back of my mind for years is to build a cello for personal use. I have collected a number of plans over the years from the Strad (Strad De Munck and Davidov, P.G. Rogeri, Goffriller, Small 5-string Amati).

I'm interested in hearing from members who have built successful baroque cellos.

  • I'm looking for a plan that would be most suitable for basso continuo (Think Bach Cantatas)
  • Guidance on baroque setup considerations in a modern world - lower bridge height, & neck angle? (look at the video below at about 2:50 -- the bridge may be a wee bit lower, but the setup 'geometry' looks modern to me)

I'm leaning towards the Strad B form or the P.G. Rogeri. The latter however is a good 2 cm wider in the C-bout than the Strad. wondering if there is any concern with bow clearance on this model.

 

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I personally would recommend to make a strad-model. You can get a lot of infos from Stradposters and so on, but the biggest advantage, especially if you want to build a baroque instrument, is that you can get pictures of the original stradivari templates wich are published in the catalog of the Museo del Violino in Cremona. You still need to interpret them of course but you can get the general idea of how he wanted the instrument to be.

Also I would recommend the articles by Roger Hargrave on baroque-set up. He suggests that the geometry of the set-up wasn't that different to the modern one. Also Pollens writes about that topic in his book about Stradivari. And there are some measurements for the bass bars too.

Good Luck with the build!

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Thanks good advice! - I have Pollens and check the neck angle on the cello templates which is about 85 degrees - not all that far off modern.  I'm quite familiar with Roger's thoughts on Baroque setup.

I'm curious about the feedback of those who have built baroque cellos for clients and thier point of view on setup.

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Regarding the commentary in the video, I was quite surprised to be completely engrossed by a doctoral thesis on the history of the endpin, Which dispel the myth that the endpin was not invented until the 19th century.

On the contrary, it was available and in use long previous, although the use was not universal.

 So the charming cellist in the video is mistaken. For those who have interest, I would highly recommend you google that article, which is quite fascinating despite the subject.

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I would continue to question the findings of the "authorities" about set up. I have seen quite a few original cello necks from the mid 18th century and earlier albeit mostly mangled and reset. One constant feature on all of them is that the notch that fits around the top of the front plate is only sufficiently deep to allow the fingerboard wedge to clear the plate. ie no significant overstand. This is in contradiction to Pollen's assertion that the overstand should be about 6mm according to the ||Strad templates. Around 1750 or '60 I have seen original neck English cellos that do have overstand (Thomas Smith for example) and I suspect that this started with the greater use of thumb position as it is awkward to avoid a hollow wrist in thumb position if the fingerboard is too near to the front plate. My feeling is that norms were also for shorter necks and smaller bass bars and soundposts although exceptions to this are widely quoted. Also the Strad cello bridge templates are much lower than modern. I think Pollens does tend to favour sources that support his theories although as a non-academic I am not in a good position to challenge them. Another theory that I am not convinced by is that because string tension was heavier than modern in the baroque period, instruments were necessarily thicker plated and have been subsequently thinned. Again this has certainly happened but is not proven as a rule. The idea that most instruments were built to survive into posterity is strange. I am sure that the majority were made to serve the contemporary  music and musicians. I particularly remember a conversation with Dietrich Kessler who had the opinion that French baroque viols were built with very high bridges that caused such high pressure on the front plates that they would collapse after about 15-20 years. But during this time they were wonderful musical instruments.

I have tried quite a few copies of B form baroque cellos and do not feel that they are always the best model for this purpose. I'd try something a bit smaller but with higher arching.

 

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Thanks for your insights Mark! Regarding the model you mention something smaller with higher arching...

I have a plan for the P.G. Rogeri cello I mention above - it has a belly arching hight of 28.5mm and it is about 20 mm shorter than the strad

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I have actually made a baroque cello on the PG Rogeri model and it is a good model and turned out quite well although has a bit of a wolf problem. But I play and have played a lot of smaller instruments and they lack nothing in power and bass fullness of tone. For example I have a 702mm N. Chappuy which is a bit late for baroque but has a good strong bass. If I was using Strad plans I'd go for the De Munck or even a Guadagnini although again that is a bit late for Bach!

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On 6/29/2018 at 6:35 AM, Mark Caudle said:

I would continue to question the findings of the "authorities" about set up. I have seen quite a few original cello necks from the mid 18th century and earlier albeit mostly mangled and reset. One constant feature on all of them is that the notch that fits around the top of the front plate is only sufficiently deep to allow the fingerboard wedge to clear the plate. ie no significant overstand. This is in contradiction to Pollen's assertion that the overstand should be about 6mm according to the ||Strad templates.

Thanks Mark.

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Still researching... Any thoughts on this lovely Rugeri cello in the Royal academy of music? I saw this when I was in London a few months ago. Looks and sounds really nice.

Seems it was cut down at some point. I overlaid the Rugeri outline with the 1717 P.G. Rogeri (see ref to strad poster above). Apart from the rather flat upper bouts of the Rogeri, the outlines are virtually identical.

376332771_Rugeri-RAM.thumb.jpg.1f218e8ebfddcf81d26925824e48da56.jpg981076636_Rugeri-Fhole.thumb.jpg.588fe55489d752ca058f1b8875885333.jpg

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