The sound was magical and I knew I had a cello for life
Gioffredo Cappa cello, 1690
I bought my cello in the early 1980s from an elderly amateur. She’d bought it in 1927 in Paris from Vatelot-Rampal. When I first played it I was disappointed because it had a nasal quality. But my former teacher, Amaryllis Fleming, saw its potential and told me to take it to Beare’s in London. They tweaked the soundpost and suddenly it had an amazingly rich sound. It was magical and I knew I had a cello for life. A few years later the sound improved even more, becoming freer with the addition of a new bass-bar.
It’s a strong-looking and -sounding cello and has always remained stable, despite travelling around the world, through many different climates. The cello’s varnish is quite dark, and on the front of the body there’s a knot in the wood, by the tailgut. It has roughly cut f-holes and the purfling’s not in great shape – it has the odd wobble. According to the Vatelot–Rampal papers, the slightly bald, completely smooth scroll is not Cappa, but Testore, but it’s not clear when it was added. The back is beautiful. It’s maple, made from two pieces and has a delicate but not too prominent pattern.