Robin Aitchison 

Biographies - Robin Aitchison

I developed a deep desire to become a luthier while learning to play the cello as a child. After working in engineering and business for ten years, I spent three years training at the Newark School of Violin Making, from which I graduated with Distinction in 1996.  I then spent two years as Assistant Instrument Custodian at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where I worked to maintain its renowned stringed instrument collection.  At the Academy I benefitted as a maker from access to world class instruments and gained a profound insight into set-up and sound adjustment.  

Sarah and I then established our specialist cello business, Aitchison & Mnatzaganian Cello Specialists in Ely, Cambridgeshire, where I spend most of my time making close copies of classical cellos to commission.  I also take great pleasure in working on set-up and sound adjustment with cellists from the UK and throughout Europe.  Every summer I join the renowned Violin Society of America workshop in Oberlin, Ohio where senior international luthiers share ideas and develop their expertise.

My greatest enthusiasm is for cello sound adjustment and making new cellos.  It’s a constant pleasure and privilege to work with cellists and I’ve learned a huge amount from sound and about the way cellos play.  I’m deeply indebted to the owners and users of great cellos who have given me access to study and measure their fine old instruments.  There are such different ways to make a cello and no limit to what these instruments can tell us, if we have the capacity to keep our eyes, ears and minds open.  I’m sustained by the friendship and camaraderie of fellow luthiers from around the world and by my partner, Sarah.

I have appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and on BBC and ITV television and radio news. I have also given pre-concert talks for the Academy of Ancient Music at the Wigmore Hall, London and West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge.  The AAM recently produced a video about my work which you can view on our Video Gallery page.

  Sarah Mnatzaganian 

Biographies - Sarah Mnatzaganian

I studied the cello as a child and read English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford and Byzantine History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.  I then worked as a freelance PR consultant, cello teacher and writer before establishing Aitchison & Mnatzaganian Cello Specialists with Robin.

I have a lifelong passion for communication and feel very lucky to be in daily contact with the warm and vibrant community of cellists worldwide.  It is always a pleasure and privilege to welcome cellists to our workshop home and to provide players with a considerate and comprehensive service.  I focus on helping cellists find cellos and bows to suit their professional needs and assist players in finding new homes for their cellos and bows through our Cello Exchange service which aims to care for the needs of both the buyer and the seller in a fair and transparent way.  I also represent the work of fine contemporary bow makers across the world and enjoy researching and writing our popular newsletters and articles which are accessed by thousands of cellists each year on our website.

I’m also a poet, with work published widely in literary magazines and anthologies.  My first book, ‘Lemonade in the Armenian Quarter’ is being published in March 2022 by Against the Grain Poetry Press.  Copies can be ordered here.  You can read some sample poems on my website:

Laurence Howe

‘I was born in Germany where I was lucky to learn the cello from an early age.  Throughout my youth I played in ensembles and orchestras where I met extraordinary people and made some of my best friends. I have also always been fascinated by instruments and admired their workmanship. A year into training as a kindergarten teacher, I realized that my interest in music and musical instruments was still unsatisfied and when I visited a luthier for the first time, I was struck by the idea of becoming a violin maker.

I studied violinmaking at the Mittenwald School for three and a half years and then worked for 18 months for Peter Volkmer in Potsdam. All along, my greatest passion has been for the cello, compared to the rest of the string family, which happily led me to get in touch with Aitchison & Mnatzaganian Cello Specialists. I feel very fortunate to have been working for Robin and Sarah since the summer of 2020.’