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Update on this cello


Brumcello
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After getting a new bridge and sound post fitted, this cello is very good. Resonant and sweet sounding, plays well at the top of the fingerboard on all strings and has a nice deep bass. If this is a cheap Chinese cello it is the best playing and sounding Chinese cello I have ever come across.

The luthier, after having it in his workshop for 2 weeks is fairly sure it is French but it has been revarnished (so has a significantly reduced value).

I therefore decided to contact Jean-Jacques Rampal, who said it is probably a Laberte Humbert or  P Mangenot.

Sorry guys but I don't think you called this right.

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Brumcello said:

If this is a cheap Chinese cello it is the best playing and sounding Chinese cello I have ever come across.

I'm unqualified to comment on your particular instrument, but I always figured mass production would, through a sheer numbers game, make at least one good instrument accidentally.

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11 hours ago, MMarsden said:

I'm unqualified to comment on your particular instrument, but I always figured mass production would, through a sheer numbers game, make at least one good instrument accidentally.

There are many very good instruments produced in factories. I have played several that are infinitely preferable to a mediocre 19th Century one. Having said that there are usually some issues (loud wolf note, poor response in the higher positions, unpleasant harshness on the highest strings). 

It is rare, in my experience to find a cello, new or old, with none of these issues. 

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Today received an email from Roland Terrier. He says it is made at Laberte shortly after their takeover of the P Mangenot brand. So that makes it 1927 - 1930 ish.

Current tally

A London auction house says it is French 20th C, JJRampal says French 20th C and Roland Terrier says the same. J &A Beare did not feel it was their area of expertise,  and 2 anonymous MN members think its a modern fake. 

Go figure 

 

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8 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

And all these experts are appraising based on your pictures, ridiculous.

I agree. It is ridiculous to give a definitive opinion based on photographs. Only one of these experts have actually handled the cello and another is going to look at it in about 10 days time.

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1 hour ago, Brumcello said:

Today received an email from Roland Terrier. He says it is made at Laberte shortly after their takeover of the P Mangenot brand. So that makes it 1927 - 1930 ish.

Current tally

A London auction house says it is French 20th C, JJRampal says French 20th C and Roland Terrier says the same. J &A Beare did not feel it was their area of expertise,  and 2 anonymous MN members think its a modern fake. 

Go figure 

 

 

58 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

And all these experts are appraising based on your pictures, ridiculous.

 

47 minutes ago, Brumcello said:

I agree. It is ridiculous to give a definitive opinion based on photographs. Only one of these experts have actually handled the cello and another is going to look at it in about 10 days time.

Good grief. So why bother even asking on a forum? 

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Free evaluations are worth what you pay for them.

4 minutes ago, Brumcello said:

Because I suspect nobody is infallible. So surely the sensible approach is to get as many opinions as possible. 

A bunch of opinions is the pathway to confusion. You will find more than one instrument or bow that "experts" at the highest levels do not agree on. Pick your expert, pay your money, get your opinion. The opinion of your chosen expert only really matters when you go to sell the instrument.

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I have no problem with being corrected by some expert seeing it in person with more detailled information. Especially not when I declared that it could be opinion (by photos) only. OTOH I still won't buy it as French 1920s from what I'm seeing. But other eyes might see something different.

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1 minute ago, duane88 said:

Free evaluations are worth what you pay for them.

A bunch of opinion is the pathway to confusion. You will find more than one instrument or bow that "experts" at the highest levels do not agree on. Pick your expert, pay your money, get your opinion. The opinion of your chosen expert only really matters when you go to sell the instrument.

I completely agree. I should point out that I did not buy this cello as an investment (although didn't want to throw my money away either). It was bought to play, which it does quite well. The purpose of the original post was to find out a little about the instrument as it was bought at auction. 

 

I am fully aware that opinions are exactly that; opinions.

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2 minutes ago, Blank face said:

I have no problem with being corrected by some expert seeing it in person with more detailled information. Especially not when I declared that it could be opinion (by photos) only. OTOH I still won't buy it as French 1920s from what I'm seeing. But other eyes might see something different.

Fair comment. I realise we got off on the wrong foot and I apologise for that. As the comments here have been based on low resolution photographs with significant reflections I would be happy to post close ups of detail. But I suspect many of the experts here have had quite enough of me by now.

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My take on this, for what it's worth, is a kind of synthesis of what everyone else has said!

The varnish on the body doesn't look to me like the varnish on the scroll.

The scroll looks very credible in model and varnish for a Laberte/Mangenot instrument, the condition is unusually good but the varnish on it has that flat brittle Mirecourt look.

The brand is good, though there is no way of knowing if it's original to the cello.

A Mirecourt cello should have purfling corners that travel into the C bouts, but this isn't a hard and fast rule.

The front and back corners look a bit different - normally front corners get worn, but on this instrument the back corners are slightly shorter.

The pins on the back don't make sense, and are not a feature of Mirecourt/Laberte/Mangenot.

Having seen a good deal of this kind of thing, there are too many anomalies to just wave it through as a Laberte, and the overwhelming probability is that it's a modified instrument, that even if the neck belongs to the back and ribs, the pins are a later addition - put there before the body was revarnished. This one feature screams alarm bells to me, and I would suspect that this cello has been through some dodgy workshop in the south of France.

That no-one is quite able to say for sure, that Rampal and Terrier are relatively positive but that others here aren't - this all seems quite logical to me for an adulterated Mirecourt instrument. I would also wonder if the top is original to the rest of it or made specially.

Ultimately the only opinion that matters is a written one, and the only people who can adjudicate on this are the French experts. In order to give a definitive opinion they will need to have the instrument in their hands. Until you have a written opinion you don't really have anything - I don't mean to be rude, but until someone issues a certificate the jury will remain out.

I would be happy to take a look at it - I think the inner work would exclude some possibilities, but cellos aren't really my thing. On the other hand, I have seen hundreds of messed up instruments offered by gypsies and other street merchants in France, I've been taken in more than once, and I'm pretty sure that's what you have here.

It's entirely possible for such an instrument to sound fantastic - that's completely irrelevant to the question of its origins.

I don't blame anyone for wanting to know where an instrument like this came from - with so many conflicting signifiers, it would probably be my first question!

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10 minutes ago, martin swan said:

 

I don't blame anyone for wanting to know where an instrument like this came from - with so many conflicting signifiers, it would probably be my first question!

Don't ask him if he got it on Ebay:)

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50 minutes ago, martin swan said:

My take on this, for what it's worth, is a kind of synthesis of what everyone else has said!

The varnish on the body doesn't look to me like the varnish on the scroll.

The scroll looks very credible in model and varnish for a Laberte/Mangenot instrument, the condition is unusually good but the varnish on it has that flat brittle Mirecourt look.

The brand is good, though there is no way of knowing if it's original to the cello.

A Mirecourt cello should have purfling corners that travel into the C bouts, but this isn't a hard and fast rule.

The front and back corners look a bit different - normally front corners get worn, but on this instrument the back corners are slightly shorter.

The pins on the back don't make sense, and are not a feature of Mirecourt/Laberte/Mangenot.

Having seen a good deal of this kind of thing, there are too many anomalies to just wave it through as a Laberte, and the overwhelming probability is that it's a modified instrument, that even if the neck belongs to the back and ribs, the pins are a later addition - put there before the body was revarnished. This one feature screams alarm bells to me, and I would suspect that this cello has been through some dodgy workshop in the south of France.

That no-one is quite able to say for sure, that Rampal and Terrier are relatively positive but that others here aren't - this all seems quite logical to me for an adulterated Mirecourt instrument. I would also wonder if the top is original to the rest of it or made specially.

Ultimately the only opinion that matters is a written one, and the only people who can adjudicate on this are the French experts. In order to give a definitive opinion they will need to have the instrument in their hands. Until you have a written opinion you don't really have anything - I don't mean to be rude, but until someone issues a certificate the jury will remain out.

I would be happy to take a look at it - I think the inner work would exclude some possibilities, but cellos aren't really my thing. On the other hand, I have seen hundreds of messed up instruments offered by gypsies and other street merchants in France, I've been taken in more than once, and I'm pretty sure that's what you have here.

It's entirely possible for such an instrument to sound fantastic - that's completely irrelevant to the question of its origins.

I don't blame anyone for wanting to know where an instrument like this came from - with so many conflicting signifiers, it would probably be my first question!

Thank you Martin for such a detailed response. There are many puzzling features to this instrument. The varnish, the locating pins, a possible replaced bass bar and the scroll. The original auction catalogue suggested that the head was from a later instrument.  Thank you for your offer to look at it.  If you are indeed willing to have a look at it, I would be willing to travel to Wells. Regarding the table, I asked this question of Terrier and he requested closeups of the purfling, front and back. I attach the images I took. For what its worth he thought the table was original

DSC00079.JPG

DSC00081.JPG

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At a cursory glance I would say the purfling on front and back is quite different. The front purfling has very consistent blacks where the back is very thin on the inner black line in places. Maybe that's just the bit we're looking at ...?

Also the back purfling corner joint is a bit crude where the front has a very precise and commercial sort of butt joint.

But none of that is conclusive!

Of course I'd be interested to see it, and UV would tell us a lot, but you really need to take it to Rampal if you want to settle the matter in your own mind.

 

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.....wow..... 

One Martin Swan  "cursory glance"  sure absorbs infinitely more detail than I even try to find...amazing.   I hope MS gets a chance to see this cello in person, as I would love to read his findings after a thorough examination.  

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Well, I feel I'm setting myself up as a chump but let's do it. Honestly, one of the first things I would want to do would be to take some photos of the inner work and see what Blank Face and Jacob think.

Fiddlecollector is very knowledgeable about French instruments and he's made some very strong points.

I'm perhaps more familiar than some with the French underbelly trade, but that's hardly a proud boast! Too much time spent sitting in bars on the Rue de Rome ....

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10 hours ago, martin swan said:

Well, I feel I'm setting myself up as a chump but let's do it. Honestly, one of the first things I would want to do would be to take some photos of the inner work and see what Blank Face and Jacob think.

Fiddlecollector is very knowledgeable about French instruments and he's made some very strong points.

I'm perhaps more familiar than some with the French underbelly trade, but that's hardly a proud boast! Too much time spent sitting in bars on the Rue de Rome ....

Thanks, should I make an appointment by phone?

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