Lorne Munroe’s wonderful Gofriller

Lorne Munroe  played this beautiful cello of Mateo Gofriller 1702 as principal cello for the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic for decades. Gofriller- a contemporary of Stradivari – was the founder of the Venician school of violinmaking and he produced the most sought after cellos the world over. Their powerful arching, bold outline, deep red varnish are just some of the reasons the finest cellists are continually drawn to them. Venice is a fascinating place in that era -right there in the fluid area between Germany/Austria and Italy – with hints of this rich diversity in Mateo Gofriller’s very name.

Mr Munroe tells a colorful tale of him first seeing this remakarble instrument at the Herrmann shop in New York in the early 1950’s but it was beyond his reach. He then found a lesser priced “Gofriller” at the Moennig shop in Phila that after purchasing it was deemed to be Venetian but not Gofriller. With his money refunded he went back to New York only to find the cello now for sale at Jacques Francais’ at a reduced price by an impatient consigner. His teacher, Gregor Piatagorsky, seeing an auspicious sign in the enigmatic medallion branded on the scroll will his initials G & P on it – liked the cello immensely and highly recommended it.

Mr Munroe came to me after admiring work I had done on a student’s cello and he entrusted his cello to me to glue a number of old cracks on the top which had come open – along with extensive bridge and varnish work. It was a treat to work on and live with such a fine instrument


My tennis team goes to Nationals!

I know it doesn’t have anything to do with string instruments…..but this is how I stay sane and healthy while spending long hours at the bench. I am a member of a 4.5 level (probably just below teaching pro) over 50 age USTA tennis team that plays out of a small clay court club called Logan in Elkins Park PA. By winning our district -we got to play in Princeton NJ for the Middle States (PA-NJ-DE) -and we won some tough matches – I was part of a pivotal doubles win. By winning there we were invited to play at the National Championships in Palm Springs CA for a week in the late fall at the most gorgeous country club I have ever seen! Wow – playing tennis all morning in the desert sun and lounging at the pool dissecting matches with my team mates in the afternoon. Unfortunately, all that strategizing didn’t help  against some very stiff competition – but you leave it all out on the court….including the grunting and the swearing (quietly). Ideally, I then get back to the bench thoroughly refreshed and ready to sit still for long hours at a time

Beautiful Giuseppe Lucci 1972 cello

I am working on a fine cello by Giuseppe Lucci  dated Roma 1972. With the top off we get a nice close-up view of his label and whimsical brand ( which refers to the “fishy” origin of his name). It was last sold through the Moennig shop to the distinguished cellist/teacher Metta Watts who has accepted the fact that she no longer needs such a fine cello.  I worked on this cello many times during the years when I did all the cello work at the shop – though there was never time or the crying need to do all that could be done to make it look and sound at its very best. Now in my own shop I am able to change the bass bar and take care of all the other things inside  -then, once the top is back on and I will be  touching-up and restoring the” lustrous light golden orange colored varnish” ( as justly stated  on the Moennig paper). Its interesting to know an instrument for a long time and see the time is come for it to be in the hands of a player who can do justice to all its power and complexity.

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A family affair

Ricardo Morales (and Victoria) watch Amy Oshiro (wife & mother) play on her beautiful Telosphore Barbe c 1880 that they acquired from me. This Barbe was one of the principal workers in the Vuilluame workshop and it bears many similarities to the violins coming out of that great shop. Only later in his life did  he make instruments that have his his label. Accompanying this violin is a great letter from the noted French maker Gustave Bazin stating this was the finest example of T Barbe’s work that he had ever seen. Amy tells me she uses the violin very often for her playing in the Philadelphia Orchestra where she feels it warmth and power projects beautifully…..and when Ricardo agrees too you know you have a good fiddle!

You might think Ricardo would be busy and immersed enough with his role as principal clarinet of the Philly O…..well you would be wrong. His boundless enthusiasm spills (or gushes) into the violin world – bringing an endless interest in instruments, character of sound, makers and just about everything else relating to string instruments.I think in a big way this is just an outgrowth of his lifetime of fussing over his clarinets – and that that endless search has now evolved into violins.

As he builds a collection of some of the finest new violins being made today its a pleasure to help him adjust, work on and admire along with him what these great things can do.

A fascinating coming together

David Cole – son of Orlando Cole (and a distinguished cellist/teacher in his own right) is seen here playing a cello made by William Moennig Jr in 1939 which is a copy of his father’s celebrated Montagnana cello known as “The Sleeping Beauty” Sitting watching him play is Metta Watts , longtime assistant to Mr Cole and for decades the owner of this cello. It is now owned by a protege of hers who is an aspiring cellist. The cello happened to be in my shop for bushing (filling with wood) the old peg holes and reaming them out to fit new pegs.The Montagnana model is the broadest cello model whose small,stubby F-holes are swallowed up in the wide expanse of the breast area of the top

New bridge for playing a concerto

C J – the principal violist of the Philly O will be playing the Walton concerto in front of the orchestra. In preparing for it he asked me to do all I could to make it look and sound  its best.Among other things, we decided to try a new higher bridge. You don’t simply work on C J ‘s viola – you collaborate . He has very strong ideas – and I always like the urgency and intensity that he brings to it. I find myself constantly learning by this kind of interaction with players – each player and instrument  is different and success requires different approaches all the time 

Jaime Amador – Violist in the San Juan Symphony

Jaime is trying out his beautiful Italian viola after some extensive work. He is such a great player who draws a big,rich sound out his viola its a treat just to hear him play scales. He is currently trying  a few new Haide violas that I have worked on thoroughly – making them all they can possibly be. It sounds like the Maggini copy is getting a lot of work in the Orchestra and Chamber concerts. High praise from a very discerning musician.