The cello or violoncello is a string instrument of the violin family.
It produces a deep, rich, and vibrant sound.
The strings are usually tuned to the notes C2, G2, D3 and A3.
Each string is an octave lower than the viola’s four strings.
In modern symphony orchestras, it is the second largest stringed instrument (the double bass is the largest).
Standard-sized cellos are referred to as full-size or 4⁄4 = 75.5 cm (29.7 in) but are also made in smaller (fractional) sizes, including 3/4 cello = 69 cm (27 inches) – 1/2 cello = 65 cm (25.6 in) – 1/4 Cello = 58 cm (22.8 in) – 1/8 Cello = 53 cm (20.8 in).
The cello is a complex instrument consisting of many different parts.
A traditional cello normally has a spruce top, with maple for the back, sides, and neck. Other woods, such as poplar or willow, are sometimes used for the back and sides.
Although the majority of it is composed of wood, some parts can be made of steel or other metals and/or composite material.
The earliest cellos were developed during the 16th century and frequently were made with five strings. They served mainly to reinforce the bass line in ensembles.
Around 1700, Italian players popularized the cello in northern Europe, although the bass violin continued to be used for another two decades in France. Many existing bass violins were literally cut down in size to convert them into cellos according to the smaller pattern developed by Stradivarius, who also made a number of old pattern large cellos.
Historically, cello strings had cores made out of catgut, which, despite its name is made from dried out sheep or goat intestines. Most modern strings are wound with metallic materials like aluminum, titanium and chromium.
Among the most well-known Baroque works for the cello are Johann Sebastian Bach’s six unaccompanied Suites.
From the Classical era, the two concertos by Joseph Haydn in C major and D major stand out, as do the five sonatas for cello and pianoforte of Ludwig van Beethoven, which span the important three periods of his compositional evolution.
Well-known works of the Romantic era include the Robert Schumann Concerto, the Antonín Dvořák Concerto as well as the two sonatas and the Double Concerto by Johannes Brahms.
There are also many sonatas for cello and piano. Those written by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Brahms, Grieg, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Fauré, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Poulenc, Carter, and Britten are particularly well known.
The cello is a very popular instrument.
It is played in an upright position, held by the knees of a seated musician, resting on a spike called the endpin.
The player draws the bow horizontally across the strings, making them vibrate.
Today, the cello is part of the standard orchestra and is the bass voice of the string quartet, as well as being part of many other chamber groups.
It also enjoys a large solo repertoire with and without accompaniment, as well as numerous concerti.
The cello is less common in popular music, but is sometimes featured in pop and rock recordings. The cello has also been modified for Indian classical music by Saskia Rao-de Haas.
It is capable of covering nearly the entire range of pitches produced by the human voice.
The name “cello” is derived from the ending of the Italian violoncello, which means “little violone”. Violone meaning “big viola” was a large-sized member of viol (viola da gamba) family or the violin (viola da braccio) family. Thus, the name “violoncello” contained both the augmentative “-one” meaning “big” and the diminutive “-cello” menaning “little”.
By the turn of the 20th century, it had become common to shorten the name to ‘cello’, with the apostrophe indicating the missing stem. It is now customary to use “cello” without apostrophe as the full designation.
The most expensive cello in the world is the Duport Stradivarius cello. It was made by Antonio Stradivari in 1711, during Stradivari’s golden period. In 2008 the Duport Stradivarius cello was bought by the Nippon Music Foundation for 20 million dollars. Only 63 cellos made by Stradivari currently exist. They are rare enough to be sometimes, as in this case, more valuable even than his violins.
The longest marathon cello playing is 26 hours, and was achieved by Carel Henn (South Africa) in Bonnyville, Alberta, Canada, from 19 to 20 December 2014.
A total of 1,013 cellists played in the ‘Concert of 1,000 Cellists’ held in Kobe, Japan on November 29, 1998, conducted by Kazuaki Momiyama. Nine pieces were performed, the longest of which was Bach’s Suite in D Major at 8 mins 26 secs.