The Cello Challenge Project - April 2008

The Cello Challenge Project - April 2008

Posted in [Latest News] By James Robinson

A Background On The Cello Being Made During This Cello Challenge

The instrument that the 'Cello Challenge Team' will be modelling their work on during the 2008 Adelaide International Cello Festival is the "Countess of Stainlein ex Paganini" Stradivarious of 1707. This is the cello played by the celebrated Bernard Greenhouse of The Beaux Arts Trio for much of his life.

The terms "Strad copy" or "its a copy of..." are frequently heard in violin circles but, in fact, "genuine copies", to use that oxymoron, are rare. Exact copies of celebrated old instruments are made from timt to time by a small number of dedicated makers; however, most makers of new instruments focus on the model in as close as possible to its original form. The model is therefore that of the "Countess of Stainlein ex Paganini" with the various distortions of old age removed or corrected. The corrected model was drawn up from the original by Frank Ravatin and the templates and mold  used for the construction were made by Rainer Beilharz.

The "Countess of Stainlein" is a 'Forma B' model from Stradivari's 'Golden Period' (c. 1700-1720). The 'Forma B' model first appeared at around the same time as the "Countess of Stainlein" was made, i.e., around 1707 and was the result of Stradivari progressively diminishing the dimensions of the cello both in length and in width. Although he went on to make other changes further diminishing the dimensions , the 'Forma B' came to be recognized as an ideal model, being beautifully proportioned and allowing for a superb tonal potential combined with relative ease of playing.

Note: This text is taken from the handout given to the public attending the 2008 Adelaide International Cello Festival. The author is unknown.


Adele Beardsmore
Adele Beardsmore is an English violin maker and repairer now working in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia. Adele graduated from the Newark School of Violin Making in 1987 and was awarded the Ralph Oakden Cup for outstanding achievement. She has been a tutor at the Cambridge Violin Making Summer School in the UK and has worked in various locations in England and The Netherlands before moving to Australia in 1994.

Rainer Beilharz
Rainer Beilharz was born in 1964 in Bendigo. He began violin making in 1982 and his training in Australia and Germany culminated in a Master certificate with distinction in Germany in 1997. Since this time he has been working exclusively as a maker of new instruments in Guildford, Victoria, with instruments played Australia wide as well as Europe and the US.

Alex Grant
Alex Grant was born in Helmsdale, Scotland in 1953. Emigrating to New Zealand in 1980, he served his apprenticeship in the trade before returning to Britain to complete his formal training. He is a graduate of the Welsh School of Violin Making. He headed the workshops of Classic Violins in London and Sandra Wagstaff Violins in Hong Kong before moving to Melbourne in 1996 where, for the past twelve years, he has run his own business, Alex W Grant Violins Pty Limited.

Benedict Puglisi
Benedict Puglisi began formal training in string instrument making and repair in 1988, working with many makers, including German trained violinmaker J Ferwerda. After further studies in the UK, Benedict returned to Melbourne, to form his own business, Atelier Puglisi, where, alongside other fine makers from around the world, he is well respected for his fine restorations, repairs and his handmade Double Basses. Benedict has recently enjoyed extending his making skills to include cellos.

James (Jim) Robinson
James W Robinson was born in Seattle, Washington in 1948. He is a graduate of the violin making school in Cremona, Italy and studied with Gio Batta Morassi and Francesco Bissolotti until 1973. Jim has three international awards for instrument making and has worked at well known violin shops in London, New York City, Boston, Portland, Tokyo and Singapore.

Adrian Studer
Adrian Studer was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1948. After emigrating to the USA at a young age, he returned to Switzerland to attend the Swiss Violin Making School in Brienz. After completion in 1975, he moved to Paris to work in the atelier of J Camurat. In 1977 a further move took him to the workshop of Willem Bouman in The Hague. After four years he obtained the Master Violin Maker's Diploma at the Mittenwald School of Violin Making in Germany. Since 1983 Adrian has been living and working in Nelson, N.Z. He has established an international reputation as a maker of fine violins, violas and cellos.

Frank Ravatin
Frank is a graduate of the violin making school in Cremona, he worked as a restorer in the workshop of Jacques Camurat in Paris, going on to establish his own workshop in 1991 He is one of the most highly regarded makers in the world today, having won many gold medals at international competitions. Frank has been a regular guest lecturer at the Oberlin workshop, U.S.A. since 1997 and has presented lectures at other events such as Vernix 2000 in Puerto Rico, Journèe Europèenne de la Lutherie in France and the First International Violin Makers Conference in Australia. He has been a juror at various international violin making competitions, including Mittenwald, Germany and the Violin Society of America.

Hugh Withycombe
Hugh Withycombe is a dynamic young maker living in Canberra, Australia. He has a special interest in and understanding of cello sound both as a professional maker and player. He trained at Newark School of Violin Making in the UK, graduating in 2001. After working with two prominent London dealers he returned to establish his own business at Gorman House Arts Centre, Canberra.

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