Testimonial by cellist Joe Davies
‘I was looking for a new cello and had tried many antique and modern instruments before playing Robin’s Guadagnini. Some of these I had taken away for extended loans. Having played on a modern cello for several years beforehand, I was aware of their many advantages (particularly their value for money, and their versatility) and was expecting to buy another. However, my main criterion for purchase was quality, and Robin’s cello seemed leagues ahead in this respect. It took me little time to decide on commissioning my own.
I was struck by the speed and subtlety of response that the Guadagnini offered. It also had a complex tone which I found a refreshing change to that of the Stradavari copy I was playing previously. The instrument was very comfortable to play, and I’ve realised since that this is partly due to some of Robin’s innovations in design. It was a cello with its own characteristic voice that allowed the player great control; in short, it was responsive without being passive.
The cello was in great shape before fitting the acoustical straps; they were not correctives, but the icing on the cake! That said, they can also make a remarkable difference to the sound, often exceeding expectations. The great appeal of them is that they offer players the chance to personalise, and to experiment freely with their instruments (because the changes they make can easily be reversed). The changes were quite specific from strap to strap: one gave greater brilliance to the upper register, one greater depth to the C-string and so on. They can affect the cello’s physical profile as well as its sound, reducing resistance or removing a wolf tone, for instance.
The finished cello (both Robin and I agreed) was even better than the model I tried earlier in the year. People tend to assume that modern cellos take a long time to ‘play in’ – and doubtless they improve over time – but I felt comfortable performing on the cello right from the outset.
The cello is wonderfully balanced: the tone quality is rich but well blended across its entire range; it is able to project above orchestras without being forced, but can also produce exceptionally quiet pianissimo. From this very stable core, it offers a wide range of timbres which it produces with instantaneous response.
After the first few months, I felt that the cello had fully ‘settled down’, and that I had adjusted to it. The qualities I had admired initially seem to have become more pronounced, without their character changing.
It is very versatile, and has been used for Bach, Berio, Beethoven and Carter. Robin has even said that it would happily support a baroque set-up.
Audiences comment on the quality of the instrument very frequently. Recently a group of Polish luthiers were particularly impressed, and professional cellists have been fulsome in their praise.’ Joe Davies
Recordings of Joe Davies playing his Guadagnini copy can be accessed at https://soundcloud.com/joseph-davies-15 The pieces recorded here are: J S Bach: Andante, from Sonata No. 2 in D Major for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord and Britten: Fuga, from Cello Suite No. 1, Op. 72.
You can also watch a YouTube video of Joe Davies and Fiona Robertson playing the first movement of the Kodaly duo for violin and cello:
If you would like more information about Robin’s Guadagnini copies please contact us. You might also like to read G.B. Guadagnini – his life and cello making in our Articles section.
Four Guadagninis: the original instrument is on the far left, with three copies by Robin on the right.