Gavriel Lipkind plays a unique Italian cello labeled "Aloysius Michael Garani (Bologna, 1702)" estimated, however, to have been completed in the years 1670-1680; An enigma which has come to be known as
The Zihrhonheimer cello
I remember coming to La Chaux-de-Fonds in Sweizerland many years ago. I was on a search for a cello. I think I tried 10 famous celli that day by legendary makers. They all sounded great but none of them felt potentially “mine”. The sound was too sweet, too perfect, too clean. Most of the celli actually forced me to play the way “they like” to be played. I was depressed. This was after half a year of searching for the right instrument.
Then I noticed (in one of the corners of the big room, behind many other instruments and a big cupboard…) something which looked like a very small Double Base to me, with no strings, no bridge, hanging on the wall covered with dust.
I asked “What is this instrument at the corner?”
“It’s a cello – it says Antonio Garani 1702 - nothing interesting for you – it wasn’t played for years… very big… odd measurements… dark sound.”
“Is it in order?” I asked
“oh yes,… it’s in perfect condition - a full restoration just finished this year… needs a bridge and a good setup…”
“I want to try it! Pleeeeaaaase…” I said
The next day, I played it.
It was barely possible to produce a sound out of it.
The instrument was tired and traumatized.
The sounds which did come out were dark, smoky and quiet. Like a giant gentle old whale.
The positions on the cello were all displaced and not parallel. One had to find the notes by ear (even in first position!!).
The “weaknesses” of this cello moved me so much. I felt an endless potential in it to express myself.
I fell in love.
After those few honeymoon hours we had a difficult start. It took few years to open the sound and convince this whale to sing. I kept taking it from one violin guru to another.
It still is a capricious instrument with bad and good moods, fatigue periods, oversensitivity, and of course, it is extremely jealous if I even look at any other cello (it’s Italian after all…). However, we know each other so well that those challenges only make the bond tighter.
Each morning, I am moved when I take it in my hands.