The Discovery of an Original Violoncello-Piccolo in Africa
(Extract from Date:07.02.2006)
A violoncello-piccolo (tuned C, G, d, a, e') from Saxony, made in 1707, has been discovered near Cape Town, South Africa. It was found, without its neck, in a dustbin, and has been restored by Selway Rebson, a harpsichord and organ builder, who also has thirty years' experience in stringed instrument repairs.
    Selway Robson deduced from careful measurements that it was indeed a 5-stringed 'cello-piccolo, the body in unaltered condition, and has reconstructed the neck, pegbox, scroll, veneered fingerboard and tailpiece in appropriate style, as well as making a baroque bow to suit.
    The 'cello's provenance is confirmed by, interalia, the unusual neck joint in which the original neck was glued and nailed directly to a thickened section of the back. The ribs were then wedged and glued into saw-cuts in the neck. With expert advice from Roger Hargrave, (Schwanewede/Meyenburg) the restoration utilized a "modern" housed, tapered joint – making it obvious that the neck was not original – but in other respects, nothing was altered.
    The connection with J.S. Bach is very strong, since it was he who proposed this type of 'cello, and it was made in the area in which he lived, exactly when he was starting to write his church cantatas, for some of which he needed a 'cello with an extra top string tuned to e'. The 6th solo suite also demands a 5-string 'cello.
    This remarkable instrument is now being used, strung with gut at A415, for the performance of Bach's cantatas by the Noordhoek Baroque Ensemble.

The remains of the original Violoncello-Piccolo's paper label is shown below with the hope that someone will shed some light on the makers identity. This composite photograph was taken through the 'f' hole of the instrument. Please write to Mr. Robson at if you have information on this matter.

label x_ray

The Violoncello-Piccolo in the workshop