How do you celebrate a cello’s birthday? With a cellobration, of course.
University of South Carolina cello professor Robert Jesselson is in possession of a Jacques Boquay cello made in 1716.
The cello is 300 years old, and Jesselson has had it for 40. It’s been his companion on many travels around the world for performances and teaching stints, from New Zealand to France to Taiwan. There was that time it cracked during a show in China. And the time he played it on the five-day train ride from Beijing to Moscow. (The cello had it’s own seat, naturally.) They even weathered earthquakes and sandstorms together.
Jesselson’s cello goes by the name of Ima, “As in, I’m a cello,” he said.
He’s celebrating Ima’s 300th with a free talk and recital that features works by Beethoven, Debussy and Jacob Klein, who wrote one of the first sets of accompanied sonatas for cello in 1716. Joining Jesselson in the recital will be harpsichordist and pianist Charles Fugo, bassoonist Michael Harley and mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway. Jesselson will talk about the history of his cello and its recent renovations by Columbia luthier Damir Horvat.
“When you look at it, there are marks of the ages. People’s sweat had worn off the varnish on the back,” Jesselson said.
So two years ago he took it to Horvat for a “thousand-mile check-up.”
“Or maybe a several-thousand-mile checkup,” he added.
After an instrumental facelift, Ima’s looking as good as she did on day one and ready for another 300 years, Jesselson said.
The cellobration is at 3 p.m. Sunday in the School of Music Recital Hall. And because it’s a birthday party, there will be cake.