Why is it that good quality instruments aren’t affordable for students? Ok, I admit, silly question – I do know how much work an instrument maker puts into his masterpieces, from the draft to the finished piece of art. Also I know that the more parts of the instrument does not come from Asia, the more money you have to spend. Then there’s the workmanship. No one wants a cello (or any other instrument, I’ll just use the cello from here since this is the instrument I’d like to purchase) whose varnish comes off after 3 months, or whose top displays a crack after some time. Not to mention the sound – you can imagine what a cello made of particle board sounds like.If you take these facts / guidelines into account (there are many more) you will definitely find a lovely cello, beautifully processed, exactly the colour you want, with a quality bow. For about 8000€ or more.Don’t get me wrong – I do want a cello that belongs to me, I want to establish a relation to the instrument and I don’t want to give it back. But I (and many more, I assume) simply can’t afford a cello this expensive.When visiting the International Music Fair in Frankfurt, I spent the whole day in the string instrument hall. It’s cello paradise there, you can find good offers if you look closely. I even found a violin maker (www.lothar-semmlinger.de) who manufactures his instruments in Germany and whose prices start at 2400€. Which is great! But still a lot of money. Of course, if you want to invest in something like an instrument, you want good quality.
I’ve been arguing with my father (who can be a bit of a scrooge sometimes) over and over whether to get a German instrument or a Chinese one. Online shops like Thomann (www.thomann.de) or mezzo-forte (www.mezzo-forte) sell these Asian ones. Whereas Thomann sells instruments by Menzel, Stentor or Höfner (who revise Asian string instruments, putting new strings on them and testing the sound), mezzo-forte is a direct seller who does the same work as Menzel and the others. Their prices all start around 400 – 600€, depending which “quality” you would like. They all write on their websites that the instruments are made from solid wood, not particle board. My cello teacher recommends mezzo-forte, he has two students who are very confident with their instruments.
Still, I cannot imagine how it is possible to sell a full size cello with a bow AND a hard case for 378€ (http://www.mezzo-forte.de/Cellogarnitur-Cremonia-E-alle-Groesseninkl.-Koffer-i_1911.html) which sounds good. Here’s what I’ll do. I will order about three celli from different sellers and then I’ll have them tested by a close friend who’s been playing cello for quite a long time (according to him, his case already cost 2000€, so he is not really convinced by the so called Chinese Firecrackers). I’ll keep you updated when this whole thing is over… but to be honest, I’d rather support German violin makers rather than Chinese companies who do piece-work all day long. The only question is how to raise the money…
Oh, and one more thing! If you’re interested in string instruments in general, I can recommend The Strad – a marvellous magazine about everything you need to know about violins, violas, celli and double basses. It has interesting articles about artists, violin makers and upcoming or recent events. Plus, there’s loads of advertising, it takes some time flicking through them all, but it could be worth it! The current issue focuses on Germany, so there’s another reason to have a look: http://www.thestrad.com/