June 26, 2015

While Andrea Amati's "King" cello makes its debut in NYC this summer, NOTES looks into the Nicola Amati violin being played right here at CIM

Jaime Laredo

“Does your instrument have a story?” That’s what CIM’s NOTES magazine asked faculty this spring. And faculty had plenty to share. Stories ranged from cellos that survived the Holocaust to oddly-shaped violas to colorful plastic clarinets. In light of the Andrea Amati cello, dubbed the “King” cello, on display at the Metropolitan Museum this summer, one story starring CIM’s very own Jaime Laredo seems especially timely. Laredo, violin faculty at CIM, plays an Amati as well—this one, however, was made by Andrea’s grandson, Nicola.

Andrea Amati was the first of four generations of master luthiers in Italy. Today, his “King” cello is the oldest surviving cello known. However, what makes this cello so special, more than the mere date of the instrument, is the exceptional craftsmanship associated with the Amati name. Laredo, who plays a violin made in 1683 by the grandson of Andrea Amati, had some interesting history to share on his instrument.

“The Amati at one time belonged to Niccolò Paganini, who bought it for Spagnoletti, the concertmaster of Paganini’s orchestra,” explained Laredo. “According to the papers I have, the top of the violin was taken off for repairs and “Spagnoletti” was seen written on the inside corner of the instrument.”

Laredo alternates between this and a Domenico Montagnana violin made in 1738. “The Montagnana was played on for many years by Josef Roisman, who was first violin of the Budapest String quartet,” says Laredo.

Despite the caliber of both his violins, Laredo also owns some modern instruments as well—many of which are currently on loan to students.

To read more about the stories behind the instruments CIM faculty play, check out the latest issue of NOTES magazine, available here.