Helsingsin Sanomat

Helsingsin Sanomat Saturday, 16 July 2011
Helsinki, Finland

Hannu-Illari Lampila HS


Dutch double-bassist Niek de Groot regards himself to be a very happy
man. He has the long term right to use the Amati double-bass, a rare treasure of an instrument built in 1680 by Hieronymus II Amati, which is the only remaining Amati double-bass in the world. Its sound is amazingly beautiful, warm, singing, and sensual and it is also beautiful in appearance.

String instrument experts have informed de Groot that, over time, the value of the Amati will increase in the direction of Amati cellos, which now range in price from one to two million Euros. De Groot says he could never have been able to afford this instrument. Therefore when he heard it was for sale, he knew, that if he was to have it, he would have to find a financial sponsor as quickly as possible.  

De Groot explained that the Amati double-bass was formerly owned by a wealthy American amateur bassist who was no longer able to play it. Through an English violin maker, who recognized it as an Amati, the double-bass was placed on consignment with a Dutch colleague. “I heard about the instrument from this Dutch colleague.”  

“Earlier, the bass had been in bad shape, and was taken to Barnabas Rácz of Hungary for expert restoration. During the restoration process, inside the instrument Rácz found a label of Carlo Bergonzi (1683 – 1747). Bergonzi was Stradivarius’ most famous apprentice. Under the Bergonzi label, Rácz discovered another older label, that of Hieronymus II Amati. At the moment of this discovery, Rácz believed that he felt vibrations of Amati in the air!”

De Groot explained that the wood of this double bass was analyzed with scientific computerized dendrochronology tools, which produce a graphic image of the structure of the wood 2000 times larger than can be seen by the naked eye. This method is similar to human DNA analysis. The analysis of the Amati was then compared with those of Stradivari violins. As a result it was determined that the spruce wood of the Amati is from the same forest and harvested during the same time period as the wood from which Stradivari made his violins.

As a result of scientific analysis and the expert opinion and testimony of several top European string instrument specialists, this double bass has been approved and officially certified as made by Hieronymus II Amati in the workshop of his father, the most famous Nicolo Amati. Hieronymus II was working in his father's violin workshop in Cremona at the same time as his most famous student, Antonio Stradivari. Stradivari founded his own violin workshop after completed his apprenticeship with Niccolo Amati.

De Groot said, “when we learned that this double-bass is truly an Amati, its declared value immediately increased a great deal. I contacted some foundations and private investors with the proposal that they would purchase it and allow me to use it. I had to hurry because some other investors began to show interest in the instrument. For a variety of reasons, unfortunately my search for an investor did not succeed.”

Over the past few years in Kuhmo, de Groot became acquainted with Monica
Rosenzweig Armour, a chamber music lover who is also in Kuhmo this year.
De Groot knew that she had been part of an effort to find financers for a Stradivari violin some years ago for a well-known professional Canadian musician. That effort also didn't succeed, in part because a Japanese Foundation was interested and as a result the price increased significantly. However, Monica learned a great deal about the process of such efforts.  "I turned to Monica, who became very interested in helping. Within two months she found an European investor, who recognized the value of such an investment and invested funds in the Amati that might have otherwise gone into the stock market."

De Groot fell in love with the Amati double-bass the first time he saw and played it. He now has had the instrument since mid-December 2010.  "I still don't know how to adequately describe the sound quality of my bass with words. Here in Kuhmo I continue to find new colors in different situations and different ensembles. The sound of the instrument is so rich that it fills a very big space" says de Groot smiling happily.

Here the original article:

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