1750 Gennaro Gagliano cello, one of 24 instruments in the Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank

ca. 1750 Gennaro Gagliano cello

This cello, made circa 1750 by violinmaker Gennaro Gagliano, is an unusually beautiful example of the maker’s work and carries an impressive sound quality. Second son of Alessandro Gagliano, Gennaro was trained under the guidance of his father and later opened an independent workshop. He is often considered the best luthier of the family for the refinement of his workmanship and varnish, usually softer in texture and richer in colour than those of other members of his family.

In the last century, the cello has changed hands several times: notable figures have played it such as Percy Such, Katie Day (the late wife of Charles Beare), and Johannes Zahn (a prominent German collector of the 1960s to 1990s), who later passed it on to his grandson in Canada.

The dendrochronology test on this cello shows significant cross-matching correlations to many fine Italian instruments made in the 1700s, such as a 1732 Carlo Bergonzi violin (Cramer Heath), a 1734 Antonio Stradivari violin (Habeneck), and a GB Gaudagnini viola from wood harvested from the Italian Alps—to name but a few.

Its provenance has been confirmed by Rembert Wurlitzer (New York 1959), Max Moeller & Son (Amsterdam 1965) and, most recently, by Charles Beare (London 2023).

The Gennaro Gagliano cello is made up of the back, in two pieces of maple with narrow flames descending very slightly from the centre joint; the sides of similar wood; the scroll of later French workmanship; the table, in two pieces of spruce with grains of medium width, broadening slightly at the flanks; the varnish of an orange-red colour on a lighter ground. This cello is, with the exception of the scroll, a fine and characteristic example of the maker’s work.

Lender: Charles J. Ruechel
Acquired: 2023