When musician Daniel Muller-Schott joins the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra to play this week, he will do so on a cello which is older than the local venues he performs in, including Auckland's 108-year-old town hall.

Muller-Schott's cello was made in 1727 in Venice by Matteo Goffriller. If it could talk, Muller-Schott thinks it would tell intriguing stories of historic concert halls, surviving wars and travelling - by boat, rail and, more recently, plane - around a world so very different to the one it started life in.

The German cellist, 40, has visited the street where Goffriller once worked only to find the shop is now a restaurant serving standard tourist fare: pizza and pasta. However, he says an instrument as old as his cello is imbued with the spirits of its previous owners and this adds to the rich quality of its sound.

"In the 10 years that I have owned it for, it has changed. It shows me you can actually influence an instrument quite dramatically with your own playing."


It can prove popular at airports.

The winner of the international Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians when he was just 15 years old, Muller-Schott aims to spend at least two-three hours per day playing his cello.

It means he even plays while waiting in airport transit areas.

"When I stopped in Melbourne on my way here, I got it out and was soon surrounded by a group of children who were laughing and seemed to enjoy it very much."

He says his opportunistic practises seem to soothe fellow travelers, who will often strike up conversations about the music he plays and life as a celebrated concert musician. He describes his cello as his musical voice and says when he travels, he always books a second seat so it can be kept safely next to him.

"It is like a member of my family."

Its previous owner was US cellist Harvey Shapiro who owned the instrument for about 60 years. Shapiro was happy to pass it on, having heard Muller-Schott playing, and sent it with a gift of his favourite Havana cigars and a bottle of whisky.

Muller-Schott intends to continue this tradition, including a souvenir for whoever is the next recipient of the 290-year-old cello. However, he says that could be a while away yet because he intends to keep his faithful friend for the next few decades.

"If I could keep it for 60 years, I would be doing very well."

Muller-Schott plays with the NZSO on a five-city Schumann & Barber concert conducted by fast-rising US conductor James Feddeck,

What: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra - Schumann + Barber
Where & when: Claudelands Arena (Hamilton) tonight; Auckland Town Hall, Friday plus performances in Wellington, Blenheim and Christchurch