Playing centuries old instrument dream come true for Canadian cellist

Watch above: $11M cello delights Saskatoon audience

SASKATOON – It’s centuries old, worth millions and on Thursday night an audience in Saskatoon had a chance to hear the sweet sound of a special cello. The man behind the music also has quite the story as to how such a historic piece got into his hands.

It’s more than 300-years-old and like a fine wine gets better with age.

“They have a certain characteristic that modern instruments cannot replicate,” said cellist Arnold Choi.

Choi, 28, has been playing since he was five.  Two years ago, he was looking for an opportunity and an instrument to boost his musical career. And what a boost he got.

The Bonjour Stradivari cello has been all over the world since being crafted in 1696. It’s named after an amateur 19th century Parisian cellist who owned it until his death. Since then it’s been on a journey, winding up at the Canada Council for the Arts in 2000.

Story continues below advertisement

Two years ago, Choi won the right to play it after competing against other musicians from around the country. Since then it hasn’t left his sight.

“It has always been a dream of mine and I think every musician, every cellist will say the same thing, they all dream of one day playing on a Strad even if it means 10 minutes. So the fact that I get to play one for three years is a real dream come true,” said Choi.

“Over all these years having these instruments played by these gifted musicians on some of the worlds most renowned stages,” said Janet Riedel Pigott, Canada Council for the Arts prize officer.

The 345-year-old prestigious piece of art comes with a hefty $11 million price tag.

Choi only has limited time with the historic piece. He needs to return it back to the council next August so he’s been making the most of his three years with it.

“It’s one of the main goals I had when I got this instrument, was to share this instrument with as many audiences as possible especially in Canada,” said Choi.

During his time with it, Choi has been able to make some recordings and hopes to record more this coming year.

“I probably will never play on a Strad again but I’m fortunate enough to have this much time with one,” said Choi.

Story continues below advertisement

Choi’s plan is to borrow another fine instrument but he knows it won’t compare.

Sponsored content