I wonder for several reasons:
- while authentic Early Music performances do require gut frets and matching bow (where you tension the hairs with your finger), that doesn't mean that a modern interpretation couldn't be built, with a body size anywhere from a tenor viola da gamba up to a 4/4 modern cello, with a fingerboard fully fretted with modern metal fretwire. This would allow the entire fingerboard to be fretted - up to 29-31 frets.
- I've been playing the cello for a whole six months, but 30+ years of guitar and a B.M. in classical piano from a well-known conservatory simplifies my work with my teacher to fingerings, working on my bowing technique, and fine-tuning my intonation. I play an NS Designs 5-string cello, which has dot position markers. Having frets would interfere with playing more modern (read Romantic) works but Baroque period music tends to require much less vibrato - but conversely requires precise intonation and would benefit with modern frets, especially with our modern understanding of setting up the bridge for fretted instruments and even the use of compensated nuts to improve the overall temperament of the instrument. There are compromises with equal temperament but the modern listener is accustomed to equal-tempered instruments...and it beats having to use your fingernails to nudge gut frets around to match the key of a piece.
- I don't see fretted cellos appearing anytime soon at Juilliard or equivalent conservatories, but for adult learners with more modest goals, fully fretted cellos would make the instrument much more accessible. Painfully out of tune performances benefit neither the audience nor the amateur cellist.
- Although...years of playing lead electric guitar in rock bands has required the use of the special left-hand techniques that rely on metal frets that makes playing virtuoso electric guitar possible. Wouldn't a fretted cello, in the hands of a virtuoso player and performing music written specifically for such an instrument, make it possible to play passages that would be all but impossible on a Cremonese-type cello?
I suppose the overall question is that among string players, is the use of intonation aids, from inlaid position markers to outright frets, utterly anathema? Some fretted vioins have the frets filed down all the way to the fingerboard; the player can then play vibrato and glissandos normally, but can feel the correct finger placement for the best intonation...almost like braille for the fingerboard.
I literally spent zero time with string players as an undergrad so I have no sense of string player "culture" (I'm intimately familiar with classical piano "values", such as not performing entirely from memory being one of the worst cardinal sins a pianist could commit), so I seek your honest opinions and thoughts on intonation aids in performing classical repertoire, and if it could be embraced....or remain as respectable as colored tapes on a child's cello. Does a fretted cello have a place among professional classical cellists?