Piecing together the history of the
'Mara' Stradivari cello

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Its fate was almost to be consigned to the murky depths of an Uruguayan river but it continues to delight and inspire audiences of the present day. Alessandra Barabaschi delves into the dramatic life of the ‘Mara’ Strad

Given the turbulent history of the 1711 ‘Mara’ Stradivari cello, its chief fascination may be the fact that it exists at all. That it retains the appearance of a majestic golden-period Strad, with a bright and brilliant sound to match, is something of a miracle – and testimony to the skill of the Hill restorers of five decades ago. When one considers that its fate was almost to be consigned to the murky depths of the River Plate in Uruguay, one can see why the cello’s 306-year history was even turned into a novel, by German author Wolf Wondratschek in 2003 – with the cello itself as narrator.

Considered one of the finest examples of Antonio Stradivari’s ‘B form’, the ‘Mara’ boasts a spectacular two-piece back of fairly tight-grained, deeply flamed maple, sloping strongly upward from the centre joint. The remaining original varnish, spread over a transparent cinnamon-gold ground, is a brilliant orange, particularly evident around the C-bouts and ribs on the bass side. Now played by Christian Poltéra…

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