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Looking for a great cello


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In that price range, I think I'd go for a newly made cello. At the same time, I'd advise the buyer to try absolutely anything he can get his hands on. Visit all bigger shops in the vicinity. It is not a good idea for you to buy a cello for someone else. That person should be involved in picking the instrument. An experienced player should also be asked for opinions. 

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No one can give you advice about what you like and it is extremely easy to spend your budget to insure future regret, so best advice is to go to as many big shops as possible, play all their instruments, and write down your impressions of each instrument. Over time you’ll develop a sense of what appeals to you most, and you’ll start remember the instruments that have those qualities. 

Decide what you’re going to play: not just a four octave scale, but music that uses the range of the instrument. Play extensively on the G string because that’s where wolfs( wolves?) live. Check the dynamic range from soft to loud. And don’t be set on spending 50k. I played a lovely cello by Trevor Davis that was only 20. I wish I could have played it longer but my initial reaction was very positive. I liked a Guy Rabut a lot. I’ve long been interested in trying a Burgess, or many another cello made by one of the folks here. I could go on but these are just names until you play them. And play them you must.

What is your current cello/bow?

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...not to mention...how do you know what your student prefers?  That's an issue...especially for a large sum of money.

Are you still interested in instruments with antique value over new instruments?  Or potential investment instruments?

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Is it that nothing is beating the current instrument? Or just not living up to what you would expect for the price? There are several other shops and makers around, I'm sure you know, never know what someone has. But if you want to have a lot of choices I think the next step is to take that miserable trip down route 5,  maybe Benning, Metzlers. 

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6 hours ago, joerobson said:

Anthony Lane in Petaluma ,CA

Did you not read the other posts? 

Maestros Seifert and Grubaugh will likely be out of your range but near by. Maestro Carruthers. I believe is an hour away. JM Fonteneau at SFCM recently performed on a Carruthers. Again, Michael Fischer, will likely be out of the price range but worth the trip to see one. 

What School? What style? What teacher and what expectation? How strong is the player? School is different than the professional world so the needs are different. The professional world can be ruthless, thankless and boring. School should be nurturing but at a reputably difficult program, an easily playable middle of the road instrument might be the best bet the first two years. There was a thread about Rosand and a connection to a well-regarded Luthier. Recommendations also occur at schools so having reserve funds is a good idea.

I was tasked to look for an instrument for an Asian Male "client" at your price range. The combo I came across for this student was a Melanson - 10yrs old - because his instruments appear to be well priced and an Eric Gagne bow. Though the cello lived in California, it would do well in a humid climate. This student studies French music and wanted an instrument for his recital of the Ravel Trio. He should be working with Professor Fonteneau... Mr Fine would know more.

During the search, i played quite a few ugly older instruments that were fantastic. The parents did not want the ugly instruments. 

Benning violins in Southern California is always interesting and has been exciting to visit the past decade. Maestro Feller, Robert Cauer, Thomas Metzler, are all cellists. The Michael and Rena Weishaar shop is about an hour south, but should be visited if they have an interesting cello. These shops spend a lot of time improving the art in a competitive market. I appreciate that. In general, very interesting and ambitious sounds out of Southern California Schools/ professors.

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5 hours ago, Landolfi said:

We have visited Ifshin and Feller and didn't find a fiddle that we like.   I know the process will be a tedious one, but I was hoping if someone can give me a few maker names (modern or antique) so we have a starting point and can try them.   

I was assuming the cello is for you but it seems you are seeking something for a student. The best you can do is train your student and let her look on her own.

in 2006, a dear students dad tasked me to find a great cello in the 25K range. He wanted to fly me to Robertson’s to choose something for her. I was happy to go but uncomfortable making such a choice myself so I made arrangements to take along a colleague who is also a fine cellist, and my friend who owns a violin shop for instrument acumen. The father flew us all to Albuquerque.

We played cellos all day, back and forth, playing music my colleague had brought. We narrowed the choices to a Guy Cole or a Raymond Melanson and eventually choice the Melanson( and another student made his own pilgrimage to Robertson’s and bought a Melanson a few years later.) The girl loved the cello and still plays it. But I would never have taken on the responsibility alone, and I wouldn’t look for “names”

I’d look for ironclad provenance and excellent condition, but if your student’s ear hasn’t been developed, spending 50 Large is a fool’s errand at the moment because playability and sound are her first priorities.

Has she played your cellos and bows?

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Well I suppose I can share a couple names I can heartily endorse.

I play a David Caron. I’ve played three other Caron’s owned by local colleagues, one from 1993 ,another a year or so older than my own, and the one that inspired me to buy my own. All wonderful.

David’s cellos are out of your range, but he took on an apprentice named Klarissa Petti who has made three splendid cello. I haven’t played them but she used David’s wood, pattern and varnish, as well as his close guidance, and they are gorgeous instruments, so I would imagine they sound very similar. She’s on Facebook but may also have a website. Her husband is a physicist and can probably contribute to the sound qualities of the instruments.

I’ve played four cellos by Gary Garavaglia and they were all wonderful. 

I was impressed by cellos from Guy Rabut, Christopher Dungey and Frank Ravatin, but judging on a single example is unwise.

Edited by PhilipKT
Correction
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15 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Play everything. You can also consider the Robertson’s shop.

It is an impressive shop. I was there about 4 or 5 years ago. At the time, many of the instruments had the Larsen treble/ Spirocore bass split and it kind of drove me nuts. I was a bit shocked to see how many were strung that way. They have very nice instruments but the string selection sort of biased the cellos to sound a particular way. In one sense, the instruments can be tested on similar strings so that might be the better starting point in making more familiar decisions.  

Many shops will work with the customers to get the ideal sound doing string swaps and am sure they would also offer choices. 

Your suggestion to try everything is important. More recently, i am afraid that many lack the stamina to play through 20 - 30 instruments in a session. It is not apathy, i do not think, but it is quite a bit of work. 

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15 hours ago, GoPractice said:

this student was a Melanson - 10yrs old - because his instruments appear to be well priced and an Eric Gagne bow. Though the cello lived in California, it would do well in a humid climate. This student studies French music and wanted an instrument for his recital of the Ravel Trio.

A ten year old cellist playing the Ravel Trio! Very accomplished indeed!

hats off!

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6 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

A ten year old cellist playing the Ravel Trio! Very accomplished indeed!

hats off!

You might have punk'd me here....

No no no. I apologize for the miscommunication. The cello was 10 years old - around 2008-ish if i remember correctly. The player was deciding where to continue on as a graduate student in his early 20s. I did enjoy the cello and that was my bias then and now.

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4 minutes ago, GoPractice said:

The cello was 10 years old - around 2008-ish if i remember correctly

The Melanson we got for my student was a 2006. It would be interesting to note how close they were in construction. One always wonders where the next slice of wood from the log went.

And for what it’s worth, hats off to a 20-year-old playing the Ravel trio well. Or a 30-year-old, it’s a really hard piece…

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Me and my daughter's personal experience is that you can play 30 or 40 very nice cellos by all of the above folks (literally, plus many more great makers), and fall in love with just one or two.  If you're choosing rather than the student, it's a more clinical decision which may not be a bad thing; choosing for yourself is a bit more like getting married.  Doing this again I would have a longer timeframe in mind and would budget time and money for travel sooner than we did.

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On 12/16/2019 at 5:57 PM, GoPractice said:

Though the cello lived in California, it would do well in a humid climate. This student studies French music and wanted an instrument for his recital of the Ravel Trio. He should be working with Professor Fonteneau... Mr Fine would know more.

I'm not sure if I would know more because I studied French music with Jean-Michel or because I live in a humid climate or because I know SF...

In any case, I'll echo what the others have said.  Play as many as you can from as many shops/makers as you can.  You'll start finding exceptional instruments below $50,000, so play the whole price range to get a sense of your options.  Remember that the room you're playing in will have a huge influence on the sound, so when you narrow it down to an instrument or two or three, visit a few different spaces to get a sense of tone/power.

I disagree with many of the people telling you that your student should be shopping on their own. My students who have purchased instruments without my input, by and large, have made poor decisions.  Of course, most of them are shopping in a much lower price range, so it's easier to buy a piece of junk.  But the first time I was looking in the pro price range, I had my teacher with me, and her advice and influence was invaluable.

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On 12/15/2019 at 10:35 PM, Landolfi said:

I am in SF area and looking to buy a great sounding cello.  Have a budget up to $50,000.  Any suggestions?

Ok.  Funny thing is...some of the replies for this OP assume "SF" to be Santa Fe, New Mexico, and some others assume "SF" to mean San Francisco.

Based upon the original post, it seems as though the OP wants local shops.  If so, dearest OP...please specify where "SF" is.

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