It seems to me a natural sound, an intriguing sound. In violas, the choice of materials and the size and shape are traditionally more varied and free, with interesting results. For me this diversity works well and allows for more exploration of materials and styles.
I’ve been making some violas with backs of willow and birch rather than the usual maple. The success of these has inspired trials of other less common woods. In 2010 I completed two violas with local butternut backs and one with cherry, and all three turned out very well. Using these lighter woods gives the violas an easier response and a dark, warm tone color, expanding the range and variety of violas I am able to offer.
In 2009 I had the good fortune to explore a viola model new to me: a Matteo Gofriller, in the possession of Karen Ritscher. In contrast to the Ceruti and Storioni models I frequently use, with their narrow shape and high cylindrical arch, the Gofriller pattern is quite broad. The resulting instrument is slightly dark, with more substance and resistance than my previous work.
The Gasparo da Salò pattern that I have worked with frequently over the years gives a darker, woodier sound than the others. In form it has fuller arching and thinner graduation. I have used this pattern for some large violas, 17” and up, with good results, and for smaller violas down to 16", as well.
During the summer of 2011, I had the opportunity to study two almost identical Testore violas, ca. 1730's. They sound great and work beautifully, with the added advantage (to some) of being quite small. — Douglas Cox
Viola Opus 868 ~ 15- 5⁄8” Guarneri
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