An Amati Mystery

3 ATE

Could the cello shown here be one of the eight ‘bass violins’ ordered by Catherine de’ Medici for the court of Charles IX of France? Luthier Filip Kuijken explores the known history of the instrument and considers whether it could be an original Andrea Amati – or a clever fake

The cello depicted on these pages has for the past half-century been in the hands of Wieland Kuijken, the Belgian gambist and Baroque cellist. It has been heard on many recordings, including all those of the Kuijken String Quartet and on his 2004 recording of the Bach Cello Suites. Despite having undergone significant damage during its lifetime, it has a very rich palette of tone colours, clear in the higher registers and gradually getting deeper and darker towards the bass, with an increase in ‘body’. The decoration of its front, back and ribs is magnificent. However, there has always been a question mark hanging over the cello’s provenance. There is no doubt it has gone through extensive modification, but the key question is whether it is one of the instruments made by Andrea Amati for the Royal Chapel of King Charles IX of France, or if it is instead a very clever 19th-century fake.

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