Violoncello da Spalla at its wildest!

A closer look at the Arcangioli in Leipzig museum.

Last month we went to Leipzig, at the Grassi Museum, because we were curious about the Lorenzo Arcangioli violoncello da Spalla.

We were warmly received by curator Veit Heller. More than taking measures, our main interest was in asking his opinion and sharing our ideas with him.

This instrument, made in Florence in 1825, has entered the museum with the name Violoncello da Spalla, probably given by Kinsky, the author of the 1913 catalogue of the Heyer collection in Köln, which became later the collection of the museum. It is the only instrument that he called Violoncello da Spalla. The others had five strings and were called viola pomposa or violoncello piccolo.

It is a cutaway instrument (shape used today on guitars, to consent the left hand to reach the end of the fingerboard), and the back is folded on the lower bouts.

It reveals the desire of a musician to have an instrument to play cello parts employing the violist technique. It has four strings. It probably had no following and entered the museum as an experiment or a rarity.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t play it because the neck was not secure. I played a note (in the video above) without bringing the strings in full playing tension: it has loud basses, and it has potential!

The wear signs show that it was played a lot, and under the chin, in normal violin/viola position.

It is very short, with a string length of only 364 mm, and despite its 12 cm ribs, it is very comfortable to play for the left arm and hand.

The fold of the back could be a later modification, as it has a different varnish that goes over the original one over the fold point.

I didn’t find the playing position so comfy. The fold doesn’t really help on a da Spalla position, and under the chin, which is undoubtedly how it was played the most, it is somewhat slippery, I missed the stability of the contact point with the collarbone. So, I have to rethink what I wrote in my previous article (and in my book!)

Violoncello da Spalla
On dragons, beasts, and other cellist creatures
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It happens, with research, that you learn new things and have to change your mind, even if you wrote your thoughts in black and white!

Wise words from da Spalla world

From a discussion on Facebook. I didn’t ask the permission of Berry to use this, I hope he doesn’t mind, as he wrote this publicly (in a private group, the Da Spalla Enthusiasts Facebook group).

Other wise words from Alberto Vitolo, who recently bought a Violoncello da Spalla made by Alessandro.

With each passing day I realize, beyond so many words...that the Violoncello da Spalla is a completely different instrument from all others. It is not entirely true that it can be played by violists or violinists after 15 days... it is a world that brings together different techniques and culture of sound, a very interesting contamination.

Updates from our workshop

Two Violoncello da Spalla on the bench, plus some rehairs, that will contribute the cause of pernambuco. Read more here.

Curious about our work? There’s more on our website!

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