Where Your Cello Is Made
More than three centuries ago, the cello was developed in Italy, then standardized to today's common dimensions by the famous maker, Stradivari. However, the world has changed a great deal since then! The origin of cellos now tends to be more of an international affair.
The Globalization of Cello Construction
"To be perfectly honest, it is very global," says Carol Johnson, co-founder of Johnson String Instruments. " . . . a lot of Europeans — and Americans — have sent the best people from their workshop to that workshop in China, to train. And the reverse. Some of these Chinese makers are coming to Europe, and to Italy, and the United States, to train."
It's probable that in Stradivari's time, the best cellos were made in Italy. And, in the past 100 years or so, the Germans were generally accepted to be the leaders in cello construction. But that has changed recently.
German Cello Makers
"The stalwarts of the industry, the Germans, almost went under 15 years ago, because the Chinese were starting to really make nice instruments." Carol affirms. "They were getting info from going into internships, learning how to make cellos from [shops] all over the world."
However, she explains, the Germans are making a comeback — although they too are finding international cooperation to be an asset.
"They are just starting to become competitive again. But even the German shops are using Romanian help, and some help from China."
Your Cello's Journey
The result of all this globalization is that the lines of cello construction have become blurred. In fact it is sometimes impossible to say that your cello comes from one specific location
"You can get these workshops that are a combination of Chinese makers, maybe European or American staff, and European wood — that they're getting from Bosnia, or Romania," Carol say. "Beautiful wood supply."
"A lot of American dealers now are buying these instruments, either from someplace like Romania or China," Ms. Johnson explains. "And they're buying them in the 'white,' which means they're unfinished.
"They bring them over in the 'white,' and then they re-graduate them (they take the tops off), and change the thickness of the wood," she continues. "Maybe they'll add a new base bar, put the top back on, and use their own varnish.
What Does It Mean For Your Cello?
Luckily for you as a cellist, globalization is a positive trend, since it means that the world's resources and skill sets combine to produce ever better cellos. As the world gets smaller, the perfect synthesis of the right wood, cello construction techniques, and craftspeople are available to you.