Hear the world's oldest known cello

National Music Museum's Andrea Amati 'King' cello (mid-1500s)Bill Willroth, Sr./National Music Museum

September 25, 2015

The world's oldest known cello — known as the "King" — was made in the mid-1500s by Andrea Amati, the inventor of the stringed-instrument ensemble. Although Amati lived in Cremona, Italy, the "King" cello was part of a set of 38 stringed instruments made for the court of King Charles IV of France.

Today, the "King" lives in Vermillion, S.D., at the National Music Museum (which is also home to the world's oldest playable harpsichord). The "King" cello rarely travels, given the great care that must be taken to transport the instrument. This past summer, however, the "King" was on exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art; it recently returned to its South Dakota home, where it is on display in the National Music Museum's Rawlins Gallery.

In the audio below, hear the Amati "King" as played by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Associate Principal Cellist, Joshua Koestenbaum.