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from the modern cello in several ways.
What may be most immediately obvious is that baroque
cellos do not use end pegs. Next, the
baroque cello uses gut strings rather than steel strings with
nylon core which are used on 'modern' instruments. Steel strings
were invented in the early 20th century but did not sell well
until after World War II. Steel strings have a much more metallic
and piercing sound. They are easier to play because it takes
less technique to make them sound and they are very durable.
Moreover they are not subject to weather fluctuations. Gut strings
on the other hand are very temperamental - they go out of tune
in humid weather or any kind of less-than-ideal conditions (and
even in ideal conditions). They also break easily.
Gut strings take much less tension than
do steel strings. This has to do with another general difference
between modern and baroque cellos,namely that the necks of modern cellos arch back more and are much thinner than the necks of baroque
cellos. The bridge on a baroque cello is also thicker. Both the
thinning of the bridge and arching of the neck on modern cellos
was designed to help project the sound in larger and larger halls.
Thus finally, baroque cellos have smaller
A bass bar is aligned from top to bottom on the inside of the
cello and serves to spread vibrations from the strings to the
bridge to the whole body of the instrument. The longer, bigger
bass bars on modern instruments give the bass register a more
focused and directed tone which helps to project their sound,
but the boominess of the baroque cello is lost. In the baroque
era carpets were not as common as now and the inside of the building
(especially a church or something with stone walls) was part
of the resonating body of the instrument. That is, it was not
up to the instrument to project on its own - it had more help
from the building.
Thus, almost all the innovations on
the cello (which took place around 1800) happened because cellists
were trying to project more. As the cello increasingly played
a solo role ( and not just the bass line) it needed to project
more in the larger halls where sat larger and increasingly public
audiences (public concerts, invented in the 18th
century really took off in the 19th
- before that opera houses, concert halls, etc. . . were smaller
and there were not so many bodies to absorb the sound.
ORIGINS (from The Violoncello It's
Origin and Construction by Joshua Furman edited by Drcello,
May1998) - The name "violoncello" (or cello for short)
first became current in the mid-17th century, but bass violins
of one kind or another are mentioned in several literary works
of even earlier centuries. The cello actually originated in the early
16th century as a member
of the violin family. The earliest
violins were an amalgam of the features of well-known instruments
in common use about 1500: the rebec, the renaissance fiddle and
the lira da braccio. It is now well known that the viols were
actually not ancestors of the violins in any decisive aspect
of construction, tuning or playing technique.
The earliest known makers of instruments
that would be recognized today as cellos were Andrea Amati (who
died before 1580) of Cremona, Gasparo da Salo (1540-1609) of
Brescia and his pupil Giovanni Paolo Maggini (1581-1632). Their cellos
were larger than modern cellos (up to 80 cm in length), and survivers
have been shortened. Antonio Stradivari was the greatest maker
of violoncellos and violins. He lived from 1644 to 1737 and was
a student of Nicolo Amati (1596-1684), son of Andrea.
One famous cello made by Andrea Amati,
is called "The King." The violoncello has paintings
of the arms, devices and mottoes of Charles IX, the king of France.
Because of its decorations it is believed to be one of the thirty-eight
violoncellos ordered for Charles IX. On the center of the back
can be seen the crown over the remaining outline of the coat
of arms. The physical characteristics of this violoncello are
not much different from the modern day violoncello. This allows
us to conclude that violoncellos have not changed much since
then. (Elizabeth Cowling, The Cello, (Great Britain: Scribners,
1975), p. 28)
For more information on the cello see