MIKHAIL NEMTSOV is Principal Cello with the Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra. He plays a copy of the Marquis de Corberon Stradivari cello made by Robin Aitchison in 2016. As a soloist Misha has performed all over the world. Recent highlights include performances with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Porto Symphony Orchestra, European Union Chamber Orchestra, the RNCM Chamber Orchestra, Liverpool Mozart Orchestra and London Festival Orchestra.
Misha was the recipient of the Pierre Fournier Award in 2011 and as well as this he has been a Silver Medal winner from the Rostropovich Memorial International Competition, the Muriel Taylor Scholarship, Silver Medal of The Worshipful Company of Musicians, Gold Medal of the Royal Northern College of Music and twice recipient of MBF Guilhermina Suggia Gift.
Misha and his sister Elena form the Nemtsov duo, who are winners of the Swedish International Duo Competition. https://www.nemtsovduo.com/
STEPHEN ORTON is principal cellist in the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and is also the cellist of the Chilingirian Quartet. He plays a copy of a c.1740 Montagnana cello made by Robin Aitchison in 2001. Stephen was born in Ripon, Yorkshire, and studied with William Pleeth at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He has been principal cello with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and the City of London Sinfonia and was also a member of the Delme Quartet for ten years. He has acted as guest principal cello with the London Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia. In 1985 Stephen became principal cello with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and has played concertos with the orchestra. He is also a member of the Academy Chamber Ensemble, touring internationally and making numerous recordings. Stephen became cellist of the Chilingirian Quartet following the retirement of Philip de Groote in 2013. http://www.asmf.org/http://chilingirianquartet.co.uk/
Click here for an interview with Stephen Orton
GILLIAN THODAY teaches at the Royal Northern College of Music, Chethams School of Music and the Guildhall School of Music Junior Department. She brings to her teaching the benefits of her years of study – with Florence Hooton at the Royal Academy of Music and in Germany with Andre Navarra, one of the greatest cellists and pedagogues of his day – together with the fruits of her own extensive experience as a performer and teacher. Her approach combines a strong emphasis on technical schooling with a recognition of the need always to nurture the individual voice of the student. She aims to give them the technical, musical and organisational skills for the student to ultimately become independent. Many of her students have won awards over the years and are themselves now active members of the music profession.
Gillian’s performing career has included solo appearances at all the major recital venues in London and TV and radio broadcasts for the BBC. She has given first performances of works commissioned by her and has worked extensively with chamber ensembles in the contemporary field, with radio broadcasts, CD recordings and tours in England, Europe and the USA. In the orchestral field she has worked with most of the major orchestras in London and as a guest principal and studio player. Amongst other fine instruments, she owns a Guadagnini copy by Robin Aitchison.
MATTHEW SHARP is a renowned cellist, baritone, and actor. He plays a copy of the c.1735 Montagnana cello played by his mentor, Boris Pergamenschikow pictured here, which Robin made in 2013. Matthew studied the cello at the Köln Musikhochschule with Boris Pergamenschikow and has performed at major venues and festivals worldwide. He has appeared with the RPO, LPO, RLPO, CBSO, EUCO, Manchester Camerata and Ural Philharmonic, given solo performances at the Glastonbury and Latitude festivals, recorded for Sony, Naxos and Avie, given over fifty world premieres, appeared in recital at Wigmore Hall, SBC and Salle Gaveau, and broadcast widely on TV and Radio.
As chamber musician, he has performed with the Amphion, Heath, Sacconi, Vertavo and Villiers quartets, Ensemble Epomeo and the Galliard Ensemble, with members of Brooklyn Rider, Grammy-nominated A Far Cry and Ensemble 360 and with, amongst others, Nicola Benedetti, David Le Page, Nicholas Daniel, Martin Fröst, Craig Ogden, Ksenija Sidorova, Katya Apekisheva, Dominic Harlan, Leslie Howard, Stephen Kovacevich, Viv Mclean and Johan Ullen. https://www.matthewsharp.net/ To hear Matthew play his cello, visit the Video Gallery.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY As cellist of the Heath String Quartet Christopher Murray has a busy performing schedule that takes him around the world. In 2016 the quartet won the Gramophone Chamber Award for their recording of the complete string quartets of Sir Michael Tippett, and in May 2013 became the first ensemble in fifteen years to win the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artists Award.
Solo highlights include performing alongside Piers Lane and Brett Dean as part of the composer’s Wigmore Hall Celebration, appearances at Aldeburgh Festival and performances as principal cello of Manchester Camerata.
Christopher gives regular solo recitals in the UK and is currently mid-way through an exciting series exploring baroque masterpieces for cello and harpsichord. He plays a willow backed copy of the Marquis de Corberon cello made by Robin Aitchison in 2014.
YVONNE-MARIE PARSONS Yvonne’s diverse musical career as a soloist, orchestral and chamber musician has taken her around the globe. She plays with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, OSJ, City of London Sinfonia, English National Ballet, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Glyndebourne Touring Opera, BBCNOW, RPCO, the Gabrieli Consort, and was principal cello with Longborough Festival Opera for 2 years. She enjoys wonderful chamber music including the Vale Piano Trio and Auriga Ensemble, London Concertante and Mezin Trio, and has performed cello concertos with orchestras across the world from the UK to Australia including with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow.
Her first show was the spectacular The Lord of the Rings at Drury Lane and in London’s west end she has played on Matilda, Les Misérables, The Wizard of Oz, Betty Blue Eyes, Oliver, Passion, Porgy and Bess, Carousel, The Woman in White. She was the cellist for The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Tour spanning 2012 and the UK tour of Ghost The Musical until early 2014. As a composer, her varied works have been performed around the world. She plays a copy of a Milan period Guadagnini made for her by Robin Aitchison in 2012,
URŠKA HORVAT is an award-winning chamber, solo and orchestral musician. She finished her Postgraduate Artist Diploma in 2016 with Distinction and Director’s Prize for Excellence in Strings at Trinity Laban Conservatoire with the internationally renowned cellist David Cohen.
Her numerous competition successes include 1st prize at the Music Club of London Competition 2017, 1st prize at the Soloists’ Competition 2016 and 1st prize at the Vera Kantrovitch Bach Competition 2015.
Urška has performed at venues including the Wigmore Hall, St. Martin in the Fields, St. James’s Piccadilly, Cadogan Hall, King’s Place and St. John’s Smith Square and she has been invited as a soloist and a chamber musician to participate in international festivals such as Trondheim (Norway) Davos (Switzerland) Seeklang Hergiswil (Switzerland) and “I Giardini della Filarmonica” (Rome).
She is proud to be a Concordia Foundation Artist and a part of Live Music Now supported by Yehudi Menuhin. She plays a copy of the ex-Pergamenschikow Montagnana made by Robin Aitchison in 2019.
EVA RICHARDS graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music in 2018, where she studied with Nicholas Trygstad. She is currently pursuing her MA in Cello Performance with Anthony Arnone at the University of Iowa. Eva teaches cello and coaches chamber music at the University of Iowa and has also given masterclasses and recitals at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Mississippi. She has performed in the Wigmore Hall and has premiered works in Manchester, Iowa, and the Midwest Composers’ Symposium in Cincinnati. As a soloist, Eva has recently performed concertos with the Laganside Sinfonia and the Ulster Orchestra in the final of the Flax Trust Music Awards.
Eva plays a Montagnana copy made by Robin Aitchison in 2019.
JOSEPHINE HORDER studied in London, Salzburg and Düsseldorf. Her career in chamber music has included many performances at the Wigmore Hall, and the South Bank as well as numerous recordings for radio. She is a committed and highly respected cello teacher.
With her husband Paul Barritt she runs a successful and popular series of chamber concerts in and around Tring, Hertfordshire. In 2015 she graduated after a 4-year training as a Feldenkrais Method practitioner and runs specialist Feldenkrais workshops for musicians, whether professionals, amateurs or students.
Jo plays an enlarged copy of a Milan period Guadagnini cello c1755 made by Robin in 2012, pictured here.
JOHN CATLOW trained as a cellist at the Royal Manchester College of Music (predecessor of the RNCM). He then embarked on a long and varied orchestral career with the LSO, the Hallé Orchestra as co-principal cello and, for eleven years as Principal Cello with the ENO. John has been retired for eleven years but is still very active both playing and conducting two choirs.
He plays a copy of the Marquis de Corberon Stradivari made for him by Robin in 2012. ‘Robin’s cello has given great momentum to my enthusiasm. I play this splendid Strad model every day and always wish that I had had it during my professional career.’
Samara Ginsberg is establishing herself as one of the most versatile cellists of her generation. She works predominantly as a chamber musician with several established ensembles. She is the founder, arranger and artistic director of the Jukebox String Quartet, an ensemble specialising in virtuoso rock covers.
In addition to this, she is co-principal cello of the Beethoven Orchestra for Humanity, works as a session musician for the Chamber Orchestra of London, and tours the world with comedy string quartet Graffiti Classics.
She is a regular contributor to Classical Music, Music Teacher and The Strad magazines.
She plays a copy of a Milan period Guadagnini cello c.1755 made for her by Robin Aitchison in 2016, pictured here.
OLIVER MANSFIELD studied with Alison Moncrieff-Kelly at the East Sussex Academy of Music, who helped him gain a full scholarship to study at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Upon graduating Oliver was awarded with the Principal’s Prize. He then went onto study privately with renowned cellist Sue Lowe who has hugely influenced his pedagogic approach.
Establishing himself as a leading figure in cello pedagogy for young people, Oliver shares his engaging and thought out approach with aspiring cellists through individual lessons, workshops, courses and compositions. Oliver regularly organises events for cellists including Go Cello! a national cello festival set in Greenwich and Cello Club events for the London Cello Society. He loves teaching Cello, Musicianship, Ensemble and Chamber Music at Junior Trinity.
His own playing ranges from solo recitals given around the UK to freelance orchestral work such as being guest principal of the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra. Oliver plays a copy of the Marquis de Corberon cello made by Robin Aitchison in 2007 and a Thomas Grünke bow from the Aitchison & Mnatzaganian Bow Exhibition.
JOSEPH DAVIES (MA MPerf Art Dip) is a cellist, composer, and teacher based in London.
As a chamber musician and recitalist, he is often invited to perform at international festivals with artists such as the Wihan Quartet, Patrick Hemmerle and the Duo Concertante. He has broadcast for Radio 3’s In Tune programme and on Classic FM, has recorded for Seawolf Records, and has worked with the Lucerne Festival Academy, the London Sinfonietta and the Britten Sinfonia. Previously he was a student of Johannes Goritzki (Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana), Melissa Phelps (RCM), Moray Welsh, Guy Johnston and Nicholas Jones (Chetham’s School of Music).
He has been supported by the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, the John Lewis Partnership, Trinity College, Cambridge, the Harpenden Music Foundation and the Deena Shypitka Awards. As a composer, his music has been performed by the BBC orchestras, Alison Balsom and the Manchester Camerata.
When teaching, he aims to develop the whole musician, drawing on his background of practical and academic training. He has taught for El Sistema de Orquestas Guatemala, for the Britten Sinfonia Academy and with the RCM Sparks initiative in addition to his private teaching, and has contributed articles about teaching to music periodicals.
His cello is a Guadagnini copy by Robin Aitchison.
STEPHEN ORTON INTERVIEW ‘By the time I first met Robin in the spring of 2008 I had been unhappy with my own instrument for some years and had been borrowing a series of distinguished cellos including a Vuillaume. I had been very impressed by my colleague John Heley’s David Rubio cello which Robin had recently worked on, so at John’s suggestion I came to see Robin to try to get my own cello working better. I also decided to try some cellos and played about five instruments during my first visit to Robin’s workshop, including a Montagnana copy by Robin which was incredibly free in its response and offered so much that I was looking for in an instrument. I am principal cellist with the Academy of St Martin’s in the Fields and cellist with the Chilingirian Quartet, so I play mostly chamber music, either in the orchestra or in the chamber ensemble but I also guest lead in the Philharmonia and the LSO. As a principal cellist you need to make a big sound on the A string and you also need a very good bass; I found that Robin’s Montagnana copy had all of these qualities so I took it away to try it. After a few weeks, during which time Robin fitted a different bridge to free the response and I found my ideal combination of strings, I decided to buy it.
I have played Robin’s cello ever since and I love it. I have taken it on many tours to hot and dry climates and I feel very confident wherever I am and always enjoy playing it. Being a new instrument it is not fragile but I look after it just as carefully as if it was a delicate antique; it has a seat next to me on the plane and very rarely does it go out of my sight on tour unless it’s in a heavy flight case and being looked after by experienced tour crew.
I didn’t really expect to find a contemporary instrument that I could live with so happily and feel comfortable with in all situations. Some people might say you need several different instruments for different circumstances but I find this cello works and responds to my needs in all situations, whether in a big orchestral solo or playing really softly. I think the cello has developed during the time I’ve played it; there has been a lot to explore in the cello. What I really love is the freedom the cello gives me. My colleagues all like the instrument and no-one is saying, ‘Steve can you play louder here?’ I am really very happy with it.’
Stephen Orton has been principal cellist with the Academy of St Martins in the Fields since 1986 and is also a regular guest leader with the LSO and the Philharmonia Orchestra, London. Stephen was formerly principal cello with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta and assistant principal in the English Chamber Orchestra, performing as soloist with both ensembles and he was also a member of the Delme Quartet for 10 years. Stephen is the cellist of the renowned Chilingirian Quartet.
He plays a copy of a c.1740 Montagnana cello made by Robin Aitchison in 2001.
To see a video of Stephen Orton playing his Montagnana copy, visit the Video Gallery.
‘I just wanted to say a big thank you to you both for helping me find the perfect cello (Robin Aitchison’s Strad copy). I received a really good recital mark and I feel that your help, experience and patience in finding me such good tools was one of the key factors in helping me achieve my result.’ Oliver Mansfield, owner of a Stradivarius model by Robin Aitchison
‘I had been searching for a cello within my price range for a long time. I tried many new and antique cellos, including one being sold by Robin Aitchison, but never found anything that I had wanted to keep. I had already owned a contemporary instrument and was happy to consider all options, especially given the rather poor selection of old instruments available for my budget. I tried all the instruments at the BVMA fairs over several years, and although finding some very interesting instruments I never felt so compelled by them that I could not return them after a trial. I had visited Robin to improve the setup of my previous instrument, and had been very impressed with his attention to detail and knowledge of how my requirements translated into physical changes in particularly sound-post and string choice. When I tried Robin’s Strad copy I really enjoyed the nature of its sound and the fact that I could demand so much from it in terms of volume and colour. I also liked the evenness across the strings, and the fact that it did not sound “new”. The string length is comfortable – I have quite big hands but feel that nothing is too much of a stretch. There are lots of subtle colours, and more appear all the time, even now the instrument is nearly four years old. The cello goes through phases of change followed by periods of stability, but the change is always for the better. I find that the cello’s development is a learning experience for me, as I can always explore new possibilities. I have several colleagues who offer very high praise of this instrument, as well as how it has allowed my playing to flourish!’ Alex Barnes, owner of a Stradivarius model cello by Robin Aitchison
‘Thank you for the happiness you bring through your enthusiastic work with cellos.’ Owner of Robin Aitchison’s first Guadagnini copy
‘I just had the chance to see and to play on a Robin Aitchison cello based on the Guadagnini model. I was so pleased to have the chance to have a close look to this cello which I found fantastic from all points of view.’ Extract from an email from a professional Italian cellist
‘I was very impressed with your Guadagnini copy which I preferred to others I have seen (including an original Guadagnini). I very much liked its acoustic potential as well as the woodwork and varnish. Your Guadagnini copy has such richness in detail and your woodwork is of an outstanding quality and comes with an extraordinary lightness. Besides the fact that your cello is a very close copy, you have also completely captured Guadagnini’s freedom of design which I have never seen with other Guadagnini copies. Also, your varnish is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen on new instruments: it is wonderfully transparent and balanced in colour and texture. It is obvious how careful and skilled your technique of applying is! Personally, I think it is clever of you to take so much care and to persevere with your Guadagnini model and not changing your model twice a year like other some other violin makers! I’m very happy that you are going to make a cello for me and I will proudly present it in my musical environment!’ Response of a soloist on first trying a Guadagnini copy. He subsequently commissioned a copy.
‘I have your cello in hand and just want to say that it is exceptional and stunning. Thank you for it, I will be thrilled to offer it!’ Prominent USA dealer
‘I took out my Robin Aitchison Strad model cello on approval in early March 2011. The cello felt so right in my hands that I was soon in no doubt that I had to buy it. As a veteran cellist with a career of 20 years as an orchestral player and then longer than that as Head of Music in two London schools behind me, my new cello has given my playing a new lease of life. In my palmy days as a player, when I was, principal cello with English National Opera, for over 10 years, I never managed to get the cello I really needed: if only I had had this cello then!’ I gave the cello its public debut on Friday 17 June 2011 with the Devas Piano Trio at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral. I have played the Mendelssohn D minor trio many times but it has never felt as good as this with its easy response and rich, vibrant tone.’ John Catlow
‘Thank you for the BEAUTIFUL cello which I played in concert this evening. Performing Vaughan-Williams’ Fifth Symphony under the baton of Christopher Warren-Green as well as two concerti with Evelyn Glennie transported me across the Atlantic and compelled me to write this long-overdue note to you. I bought your cello in Minneapolis last summer. I was not looking to buy a cello for myself – I was shopping for instruments for my students. The shop owner handed me your cello and wanted to know what I thought of it. I could not put your cello down. I could not leave the shop without it. I could not bring the cello back to the shop when it was time for me to fly home to North Carolina. So I brought it home with me. Everyone here loves it too. I have had such FUN playing your cello. I am in my 25th year in the Charlotte Symphony in North Carolina, USA. I have played a lovely French instrument attributed to Xavier Couturieux since 1981 and I was very happy with it – until I played yours! I now use your cello in the orchestra and play it regularly in a piano trio. It is so refreshing to play an instrument that WILLINGLY gives me what I ask. It is responsive and quick – I liken it to driving a Ferrari, rather than the Mercedes Sedan I have been playing! The range of colours available to me now has changed my approach and refreshed my enthusiasm for playing. I love the shorter string length. Everything is easy now! My Victor Fétique bow suits the instrument perfectly. Thank you for this great gift!’ Janis Nilsen, owner of a Guadagnini copy by Robin Aitchison with original dimensions
‘Robin’s cello performed and responded beautifully on its “maiden voyage” three weeks ago. I was very pleased. it was easy to play, which is the quality I particularly wished for in this cello, and drew very positive comments from the audience.’ Owner of an enlarged Guadagnini copy by Robin Aitchison
Testimonial by Joseph 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 is a cellist on the Artist Diploma programme at the Royal College of Music. As an orchestral player, Joe has worked with the London Sinfonietta (Academy 2015) and the Britten Sinfonia. He has been the principal cellist of the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras of both Cambridge University Music Society and the Royal College of Music. He has performed concertos with the Asyla Ensemble, the Crowthorne Symphony Orchestra, and the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra.
He plays a copy of a Guadagnini made by Robin Aitchison.
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:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0Fg79QRwh4
Marquis de Corberon copy by Robin Aitchison 2013 photographed by Amy de Sybel