History of the Cello
(And Why You Might Want One at Your Wedding or Corporate Party)
You’ve probably seen cellos at concerts that you’ve attended. The cello is a popular string instrument and a member of the violin family. It’s bowed, it contains 4 strings tuned to perfect fifths, and its commonly played at weddings, upscale corporate parties, and in symphony orchestras.
How did the cello come about? Why is it associated with upscale events like weddings and posh parties?
Invention of the Cello
In the mid-1500’s, the bass violin was created in Italy. At the time, this instrument was known as a “large viola.”
Around 100 years later, the Italians invented wire-wound strings, which is comprised of very fine strings wrapped around a core. These strings allow a “short-bodied” instrument to play finer bass sounds than had previously been possible. As a result, the cello was developed, as an iteration of the bass violin made with wire strings.
The cello produced music that was too soft to play in church, particularly as compared to the bass violin. Cello was often played alongside an organ or violone.
By 1700, the cello had spread across northern Europe. However, the cello was rarely featured in sonatas or solo music until the 19th century.
Fortunately, the cello rose to prominence over the years. Well-known composers including Vivaldi, Haydn, Boccherini, Beethoven and Brahms wrote “cello concerto” pieces — portions of music in which one solo cello musician is featured, alongside an orchestra.
Fast-forward to the modern era: Popular 20th-century bands, including Cher, Aerosmith, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana include strong cello pieces within their top songs. The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” features a prominent cello piece, as does Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother.”
Jazz bassists, such as Oscar Pettiford, give prominence to cello solos within their music. Bluegrass music, folk music, and modern musical theater have also embraced the cello.
Cellos are now so popular that “cello superstars” such as Yo-Yo Ma have risen to fame.
Why Should I Have a Cello at My Event?
If you’re throwing a wedding, corporate party or other upscale event, you can introduce a new level of class and sophistication by hiring a live “string quartet” to play at your event.
A string quartet features 4 musicians — two of whom play violins, one of whom plays the viola, and one of whom plays the cello.
Most major composers from the 18th-century onwards have written music for string quartets.
String quartets create an atmosphere of class and sophistication. Because they only consist of four performers, you don’t need to worry about the logistics or price of coordinating a much larger band. And because so many famous composers have written string quartet music, this group can perform a wide array of songs.