The cellos

Steven’s cellos

Steven plays most of his concerts these days on the ‘Marquis de Coberon’ Stradivarius, kindly loaned to him by the Royal Academy of Music, which was played for many years by the great cellist Zara Nelsova. It is a wonderful cello, with an amazing warmth and a particularly rich bass. In May 2011, he will return the ‘De Munck’ Stradivarius to the Nippon Music Foundation, who own it. This cello is also a marvel; it has a completely different ‘soul’ from the ‘Marquis’. For one of his recordings (works for cello and piano by Schumann, with Denes Varjon) Steven was actually able to take both Strads to the sessions, and divide the pieces between the two. Spoilt!

But since neither Strad will ever be his, he is trying to buy one that he can call his own, as well. Thanks to a bank loan, and a group of generous people who originally bought shares in the instrument, he is in the process of buying a Montagnana cello from 1740. Although this is a wonderful instrument, strong and full-voiced, Steven found that he couldn’t bear to part with his JB Guadagnini cello of  1745, which he played exclusively from 1979 to 1998, and which he used for all of his recordings until the John Tavener string quartet, ‘the Hidden Treasure’ (and again for the 5th Bach suite).  So he still part-owns the Guadagnini with his friend David Waterman, cellist of the Endellion Quartet; although David plays it most of the time, the arrangement is that Steven can have the Guadagnini back for the odd concert if he lets David know well in advance! The Guadagnini is a gentler, more intimate instrument than the Montagnana; they complement each other well. On his album of short pieces, ‘Cello World’, as with the Strads on the Schumann disc, Steven used both cellos in succession for different pieces; it is quite hard to hear which is which. There is even a little duo by Martinu on the disc, for which Steven used both cellos! The miracles of modern science…