I now officially own a violoncello piccolo.
Last week I picked up the piccolo from Ifshin at their new store in El Cerrito, California. They had just moved there from Berkeley.
Haide Lin had arrived with my piccolo from China on April 1, and on April 10 I arrived on their door step to pick it up.
This was unusually soon after it had come from China. The instrument was built in China in the shop of Ifshin. Their luthiers over there work much the way they would have in the shop of Vuillaume in Mirecourt in the 1800's: one highly skilled person carves only scrolls. The other one carves top plates and yet another bends sides and one person makes varnish and applies it. Because they do only one thing, these people are remarkably good at it. Haide goes there every few months to help and instruct.
They make a lot of different instruments, most of them are more or less mass production.
However; my violoncello piccolo is another story. As I have told you in previous blog entries: very little is known about the violoncello piccolo. The exact size remains unknown. There are violoncello piccolo's as small as 1/2 size cellos, and some as big as 7/8 size cellos. People such as Dmitri Badiarov seem to have discovered proof that the piccolo was really more like a huge viola played on the right shoulder of the performer. Cellists of course, love to dispute that, since the Bach suites are sacred to us and certainly a violist should never touch them! I guess we cellists shouldn't be too protective of the suites. After all: it is such beautiful music: who wouldn't want to play them! The whole debate about the violoncello piccolo is great. The more people are talking about it, the more it will get researched!
I had opted to have a piccolo built that is roughly 3/4 the size of a baroque cello, but with the sides as thick as that of a regular cello, so that there is more air volume inside. This increases the chance that there is a decent C string on the cello, with enough depth.
For the people at Ifshin, both in California and in China this seemed an exciting challenge.
It is great.
It is exciting.
When Haide arrived in El Cerrito with the instrument the beginning of April, he first put it in a kind of dryer to make it suitable for the ridiculous climate it would be going to. It stayed there for 4 days until there was not a drop of moisture left in the instrument. He made a fingerboard, soundpost, two bridges (he liked the 2nd one better) and set up the cello.
As I said: I arrived the afternoon of April 10 and spent a few hours with Haide moving the soundpost and bridge until it seemed right for the moment. drove down to San Francisco).
On Saturday we were back at the shop in the morning. Haide usually does not work on Saturday but ended up being there all day to set up my cello well. He made a new soundpost. That worked. The only thing was... the C string still didn't vibrate freely. Gut strings vibrate very wide and it kept hitting the fingerboard.
And that surely wouldn't get any better in Edmonton.
Eventually Haide cut a small incision in the neck, where it connects with the top plate. The neck now came forward and the fingerboard dropped. It worked. In order to do this he had to open the top plate seam and of course glue it back together once he was done. It had to stay in the glue clamps for a while: preferably overnight. But we were leaving the next morning at 6 am!
I also rushed in an order for some e-strings! They are so thin: I am sure this e string will break soon.
I had (shallowly perhaps) requested that the piccolo would look different from the baroque cello that I have from them. The varnish did not quite turn out as dark as Haide had wished but it is still quite different from the baroque cello that I have.
They also antiqued it differently, so to the untrained eye it really shouldn't look like I am playing the same instrument when I play them back to back.
I also have sight read through some Boccherini sonatas. They are difficult! But not so much on a piccolo. How fun!
While in California we went to visit Andy Carruthers and spent a great day with him and his family.
I also got to play "the" cello again. It is still so great!! It is such a powerful instrument. And so intimate at the same time. Someone will fall so in love with that cello! It made my heart beat faster and ache, that is for sure... I seem to have such connection with the instrument. Unfortunately my bank account won't allow me to have yet another instrument.
When I do some performances of the suites in California I will certainly include a Carruthers cello in the series! (I secretly hope it will be this one, but for Andy I hope it will sell before that time!).
The other thing about going to California in this time of year: THEY HAVE FLOWERS!!
From mid March to early May. It is brown. While it is usually sunny; I do miss the flowers.
And this weekend here in Edmonton is ridiculous: it is snowing... (yes: that is unusual, even for here)! I feel energized though, by the spring that we had there. And it sure is less busy here!
For those of you wondering how my England experience was: I had a lot of fun.
The performance was fun. It is difficult to imagine that no one even noticed that I had a carbon fibre cello!
But I was sure glad I had brought it.
Needless to say that I nearly had a heart attack.
But the cello was not even out of tune!