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MANFIO

New York Viola Trip

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MANFIO   

I'm back from a viola trip to New York with my wife. We visited fine players there, including Michael Tree, Toby Appel and four member of the New York Philarmonic (one of them is a member here).

Michael Tree chose one viola for one of his students, here he is test driving one of the four violas I took to NY:

>I

Thanks to another MN member, who is a violist in the NYP, I met 4 violists of the NYP in the Avery Fisher Hall, and that was quite a nice experience too.

The Vadim Guzman concert in the Frick collection was fantastic, one of the best concerts in my life, the sound volume he produces is amazing. And the pianist was quite quite good too, the concert room is quite small and we were in the front row.

I had no time to meet Samuel Zygmuntowicz this time, unfortunatly.

The Metropolitan Museum is fantastic, unfortunatly the instruments by Stradivari, Montagnana, Amati, etc. are bad displayed in a too dark room, it was impossible to see the instruments properly in such conditions.

I really want to visit NY again...

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"We met Falstaff and his wife in the concert and in the next days

too, he is quite a fine, cultured and generous man. He is burning

with violin fever..." - MANFIO

================================================================================

===============================================

Did you catch the fever too?

Nice post!!!  Thanks, I enjoyed it.

"The Metropolitan Museum is fantastic, unfortunatly the instruments

by Stradivari, Montagnana, Amati, etc. are bad displayed in a too

dark room, it was impossible to see the instruments properly in

such conditions." - MANFIO

================================================================================

==================================================

Thanks for the heads up!  I will skip that one when I'm in

town.

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MANFIO   

Hi! I've got the fever when I was 13 years old, and I'm still burning...

You can see the instruments in the Metropolitan, they are nice, the only problem is that it's impossible to see the details.

I've forgotten to mention that all violists I met are playing contemporary instruments, even those who have old Italian instruments.

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MANFIO   

Yes, the Metropolitan collection is fantastic. The special exhibition of Dutch painting is quite good.

Darren, I'm currently working on the scroll of my next one, I always start with the scroll. When I finish it I'll think about size, but 420 or 418 mm (as the original) would be good, I think, but perhaps I'll make it a litle wider than the original, I'll think about that in the proper moment, and take a quick decision.

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jwold   

Hmmm...

I remember seeing some of those instruments (quite a long time ago...'86)

I don't remember them being in 'that' dark of a room, in fact I recall it was fairly bright or at least average light .

Is there some concern with the color fading perhaps?

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MANFIO   

Yes, there is a concern about light fading the varnish, that's why they don't allow camera flashes in museuns, but in Italy the instruments have a better display, and with much more light.

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Omobono   

Ah! That explains why you have been quiet for a while.

A wonderful trip by all accounts?

Back to smaller violas maybe?

(Wasn't it Michael Tree that inspired you with tye larger model?)

Interesting to see the posture of Michael Tree with a viola under his chin.

Thanks for the pics and the news.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Omobono

Back to smaller violas maybe?

(Wasn't it Michael Tree that inspired you with the larger model?)


Michael Tree once owned one of my 17" violas, so I'd say he's comfortable with the large ones.

Probably dumped it for one of Manfios.

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Congratulations, Manfio, on what must have been an exhilarating trip.

Maybe Toby Appel's students need smaller violas, but your viola looks like a perfect fit for him.

Can you describe how you got the four violas to NY? Were they all carry-ons that went with you to your airplane seat?

Did you check any in to be transported as check-in luggage in the plane's luggage hold?

If so, how did you pack them?

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MANFIO   

Ciao Omobono! Yes, it was Michael Tree who urged me to make 17 inches violas. He told me he has tall students in Germany and there is a market for them, he thinks. But I think I'll make some smaller anyway.

Hi David! Michael Tree is playing a viola made by Iizuka, he told me he comissioned another one to him. And he has that 17 inches Domenico Busan. On the Metropolitan concert he played the Iizuka. Toby Appel is playing a Guy Rabut viola.

Skiingfiddler: Toby Appel told me he used bigger violas in the past but now prefers smaller violas. My wife and I took the violas as carry on luggage, two viola double cases, I had to comission them.

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MANFIO   

Ciao Guy! Yes, I'll be back, but I'll have to spend some time in my workbench to make more instruments till there...

Ed, yes, I want to come back and visit more makers, perhaps attending a VSA Convention... Ciao!

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Manfio,

If I'm remembering correctly, while you have a long body length on your violas, 17 inches,

you have a somewhat shorter vibrating string length than one might expect on a 17 inch viola.

Did the NY players notice that shorter string length? In other words, did the players,

who might have thought of the violas as large, seem more accepting of a large model,

once they realized the string length is shorter, if they ever noticed?

To phrase the question another way, after your experience with a number of professional violists,

do you think they judge a viola's size mostly by body length and disregard vibrating string length?

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MANFIO   

Hi! Yes, I use a 375 milimeters string length. Renè Morel, in an article published on THE STRAD some years ago advised to keep this string length and the neck length of 150 milimeters regardless the size of the viola (within some limits, of course), and I follow that.

Yes, players liked the 375 mm string length. First because it's a relatevely standart string length. And it's easier to adapt to a shorter string length than to a longer string length, that will oblige the player to stretch his left hand fingers.

The confortable string length coupled with other features such as light weight (570 grams without chin rest), ribs that are not too deep, a light neck and scroll (I make the scroll without shoulders to be lighter) and the sensation of the instrument under the chin are decisive factors to please the violist. What I want is the violist playing the instrument and liking the sound without asking about technical details.

This is a front view of one of my violas, notice that I move the bridge a bit North to get the proper string length:

465247185_0443e919fa.jpg

The idea of moving the bridge up, regardless the traditional position betwen the lower nicks is not mine and is old. Walter Trampler viola (an Amati, if I'm not wrong) was big and the bridge was moved up to shorten the string length and make the instrument easier to play, as well as making the sound more focused, I think.

Sacconi wrote a special chapter on his "I Segreti di Stradivari" about the "Piazzamento e Taglio Delle ff di Risonanza". On page 91, he coments the sound problems caused by the wrong positioning of the sound holes, that is, holes that are too much apart, too close or too low in the soundbox. And he coments that moving the bridge up causes no problems, I'll quote Sacconi:

"L'spostamento del ponticello verso l'alto, con gisuto distanziamento delle ff, non ha invece una sostanziale influenza sul suono, in quanto, dato l'andamento dell'inclinazione delle ff, non ne deriva una incidente variazione della distanza tra esse e i piedini del ponticello. Questo è assai importante , perché consente di spostare il ponticello verso l'alto in quegli strumenti antichi di grande misura (vedi bassetti e viole tenore), che presentano una maggior lunghezza del diapason. Tale operazione, anche se di effetto estetico non troppo bello, è senz'altro da preferirsi alla deprecabile pratica di accorciare la parte superiore della casa armonica, che oltre ad alterare lo strumento è ancor più aintiestetica." ("I Segreti di Stradivari, pagina 91, terzo paragrafo, seconda edizione, Libraria del Convegno, Cremona).

Ciao!

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Ron1   

Hi Manfio- Congratulations on your very nice and successful trip to New York. A most interesting post/thread. I vacationed at my daughter's home in Georgia over the holiday and was fortunate to see one of your violins while visiting our mutual MN friend, Stern, who lives less than a mile from my daughter. A very nice instrument- I was quite impressed with it.

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Manfio,

Thanks for the detailed reply. It raises some other questions I hope you'll consider.

1. If one were to keep the same proportions as the violin (356mm body length to 328mm string length) in making a viola with a 375mm string length, the body length of the viola would be only 407mm (16 inches), a fairly small one by professional standards. Will you make your smaller violas that small?

2. Given how short, relatively speaking, that 375 string length is on your current 17 inch violas, I'm surprised anybody wanted a smaller viola from you. In asking for smaller violas, do you think Toby Appel really noticed the already shorter string length of your violas , or just looked at the body length, and using that dimension alone, along with tradition that says viola size is judged by body length, asked for a shorter body length?

3. Your concerns about weight, especially the scroll's weight, are interesting. Hanging out as the scroll does at the very end of the instrument, the scroll's weight is leveraged, is enhanced, as a downward force against the player's efforts to hold the instrument up. If a maker could take the weight of the scroll, pegs and string wrappings on the pegs, and move all that weight to the other end of the strings (to the tailpiece), the result would be a viola that feels much lighter without actually having to be lighter. That would be quite an innovation. Just chopping off the volute, alone, would lessen the weight of the traditional scroll. How about cutting off peg heads, and having pegs that turn with an insertable allen wrench.

Point 3 is probably not a set of realistic suggestions, given violin/viola traditions. But given the innovations that occur in viola designs, someone might want to look at the traditional viola scroll and come up with a more light weight means of attaching strings to instrument

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MANFIO   

Thank you Ron! Stern is quite a nice old friend!

Skiingfiddler: I don't stick to the proportions used in violins with my violas, and many viola makers will not follow them too. As I've said, following Renè Morel's advice, I use the 375 mm string length and 150 mm neck length for every viola I made, be it, 420, 425 or 430. My next one will be a 420, I think. In Renè Morel's article he listed many violas used by famous violists, with different body lengths and the same 375 string length and 150 neck length, as advised by him.

Toby Appel noticed the 375 string length, and he liked that, it's the same string length of his contemporary viola, that is smaller. He was talking about the body length, he asked for violas smaller in body length. When you increase the body length the left hand and the bow hands are moved away from the player's body, so that you have to have long arms to play big violas.

Yes, a light scroll is quite important for the reasons you mentioned. I use violin pegs on my viola scrolls, I cut the my scrolls deeply and leave just the necessary wood on the walls of the pegbox, all that contributes for reducing weigth.

As far as making violas without scrolls, I'm rather traditionalist and old fashion, and I love carving scrolls, like this (photos by Andrès Lepage):

465252259_2e62b4705d.jpg

465252249_f513af4d5d.jpg

465252245_786f1b1eb8.jpg

465247189_8cc8c3b0db.jpg

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