Stradivari cellos, wood for cellos, and cello dimensions
Poplar is the best wood for cello backs, in my opinion. Many people feel that the ex-Nelsova Strad is the best Strad cello; it is poplar-backed, as was Lynn Harrell’s Strad. Of all the Strads I have played (ex-Feuermann, ex-Greenhouse, ex-Davidoff, ex-Harrell, ex-Nelsova, ex-Saidenberg), I liked the Saidenberg the best.
David Soyer and Joel Krosnick both had poplar-backed instruments by Joseph filius Andreas Guarneri. The Testores, the Brothers Amati, and many other classic Italians made poplar-backed instruments. Poplar is the lightest of the classic hardwood tonewoods, and it sounds like a much older instrument when new (in my experience) because it is more free to vibrate than maple, especially at lower frequencies. I have never heard poplar described as subdued, but it is more like dark, rich, responsive, and loud. My cello has a one piece, slab cut poplar back.
Sometimes you may see a top or back of more than 2 pieces, and this is because the wood has exceptional tonal quality and the maker didn’t want to waste any of it. I have seen 4 piece tops on some wonderful old Italian instruments.
The ex-Feuermann/ Parisot/ De Munck Stradivari
Some cello measurements