Montreal musician lent famous 'Stradivari' cello
Published Tuesday, January 24, 2012 8:52AM EST
Cradling the rare wooden instrument, Stephane Tetreault looks at his borrowed cello and says he's well-aware that that he has a little piece of history at his fingertips.
The 18-year-old musician from Montreal is holding the Countess of Stainlein, a cello crafted more than 300 years ago by renowned instrument maker Antonio Stradivari.
"Every time I touch the cello, I think of all that history that's happened around (it)," he told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday.
Tetreault got his hands on the centuries-old cello after it was sold at auction last week for slightly more than $6 million. The purchaser has been described as a "patroness of the arts from Montreal" but not much else is known about her.
One thing is for certain: she wanted the Countess to be played by Tetreault.
It's not unusual for musicians to be loaned valuable instruments. Prized cellos, violins and more – often worth millions -- are available to budding players through the Canada Council for the Arts and other opportunities.
There are, however, few teens that have had access to the Countess, which has been played by Italian musician Nicolò Paganini and the acclaimed Bernard Greenhouse.
Given its rich history, Tetreault says he does his best to protect the Countess.
"I have to be extremely careful of course," he added with a chuckle, adding that he's also "very grateful" for the instrument.
The Countess' new life with Tetreault follows the death of its previous owner. The New York Times reports that family members decided to sell the cello after Greenhouse, founder of the renowned Beaux Arts Trio, died last year.
Tetreault tried the instrument out a few weeks ago at Reuning & Son Violins in Boston and, as he tells it, it was love at first note.
"The first time I put my bow on the string I knew it was the cello for me," he said. "It might sound a bit like a myth but that's really what happened."
Tetreault started playing the cello at age seven when his music teacher asked him to play the cello instead of violin due to a surplus of violinists in the class. He was reluctant at first but says the teacher won him over with the promise of a gift at the end of the year.
It's that decision that eventually led him to the Countess – a centuries-old gift steeped in music history.