Last week we reviewed my doomed commission of a cello from Peter Paul Prier. Let’s now turn our attention to brighter chapter in my cello story…
I remember reading an article in “The Strad” magazine about some of the nobility that commissioned instruments from Stradivari. For special commissions, they paid a premium price for the finest materials and most carefully considered workmanship. Hey, if it worked in 1725, why wouldn’t it work now? We approached Kurt and asked if he’d be willing to accept a similar commission, sparing no expense to secure the best material and giving no consideration to a specific delivery window – just make the best cello you can. The result was my 1998 Kurt Widenhouse cello. In the meantime, I also commissioned a special bow from David Samuels that I received in 1997. The thing about this combo of cello and bow is that it sounded – OLD. Again, I didn’t really realize what I had. I had a brand-new modern cello and brand-new modern bow that were so good, they sounded like the pairing of a fine old Italian cello and French bow. However, the combination did not produce a particularly BIG sound, at least not with my technique at the time. That was probably the ultimate recording studio combo because of the depth of tone and silky quality to the sound.
I played this combination through graduation from Butler, selling my 1995 Kurt Widenhouse cello through John Montgomery’s shop to the cello professor at North Carolina State University. After graduating, I went to work for Baldwin Piano first and then Aerofab. I got married, bought a house, earned my MBA, started working at Paige’s Music, had my first child, and had my second child. I’m ashamed to say that there were long stretches of time when my 1998 Widenhouse and David Samuels bow sat silently in my Jaeger case. After starting at Paige’s, I began to be exposed to all the riches of the violin world in a way I never experienced as a player. I wanted to try strings, tailpieces, endpins, pegs, etc – my gear-head tendencies came out in a big way! I also had the chance to play more cellos than I ever had before, and I started to desire the BIG sound I got from other modern cellos. Again, I wish I could share some hard-won wisdom with my younger self…but that’s just not how life works.
I sought to sell my 1998 Widenhouse thinking, “I get to play so many great cellos, I don’t really need a cello of my own.” A student of the professor who owned my 1995 Widenhouse ended up buying my 1998 Widenhouse. At this point, I promised that I would NEVER AGAIN commission a cello for myself – I would allow myself the opportunity to play a cello that already existed and then choose to buy it if I loved it. I promised I would NEVER break that rule.
Tune in next week to hear about whether or not I kept my promise.