At the end of his first season as principal cellist with the Chicago Symphony, John Sharp decided he needed a better instrument, so he upgraded to a rare 1694 cello by a member of the celebrated Guarneri family of violin makers in Cremona, Italy.

The instrument was made by Giuseppe Giovanni Battista Guarneri (also known as Joseph Guarnerius, 1666-1739 or 1740), the second son of Andrea Guarneri, the patriarch of the family and a fellow apprentice with Antonio Stradivari in the workshop of Nicolo Amati.

“It’s a very full and beautiful sound,” Sharp said. “Some cellos are what you would call punchy. This is not that. The luthier I used to go said that this cello is like a great red wine. It has this quality of sound with a lot of complexity.”