THE MIGHTY VENETIAN
TESS CREBBIN talks to Charles Beare about
the master instrument maker Domenico Montagnana
Charles Reade, the novelist, called the famous Italian instrument maker Domenico Montagana 'The mighty Venetian', and his cellos are widely considered to be at least equal to those of Stradivarius. It was 256 years ago today, on 7 March 1750, that Montagnana died in Venice. So it is a good date to ask and answer questions about the legendary luthier. What exactly makes his instruments so special? Why do many of the great cellists feel they cannot live without their Montagnana, be it Yo-Yo Ma, Heinrich Schiff (who plays the famous Sleeping Beauty), Misha Maisky, Frans Helmerson or Boris Pergamenschikow? Aside from their impeccable quality of sound, their impressive depths in the lower ranges and their exceptional responsiveness, Montagnana instruments also possess exceptional beauty. The cellos are wider, unite the best of Cremonose and Venetian quality and are always an eye-catcher when they appear on stage in a concert hall. So who was the man who made these amazing instruments with prices that are near astronomical? (A Montagnana Cello that sells for 1.3 million euros, for instance, is considered a bargain!)
Someone who knows probably more than anyone else is the British instrument maker, restorer and internationally renowned dealer Charles Beare of the legendary J&A Beare company in London. For the past forty years, he has been researching a book about the great Venetian makers, including Montagnana, which he hopes will be published next year. Beare was also a keynote speaker at the 1997 International Montagnana Convention in Lendinara-Rovigo province/Italy.
A great admirer of Montagnana and his work, Beare agreed to take time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions, and to show off some genuine Montagnana instruments as well.
Copyright © 7 March 2006
Tess Crebbin, Germany