Hunt to Commission a Viola - Part 3


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I apologize for the nearly 2 year delay! I would like to wrap up our viola hunt with some final comments and post some pictures of my daughter's Gregg Alf viola.

History:

We took delivery of the 15 1/2 viola in August 2008. Gregg made the delivery date a priority and handed the instrument to my daughter on her 16th birthday!

In short, Gregg was wonderful throughout! It was great to be able to visit during the process. We received continuous hospitality invites and had hours of questions answered. I really enjoyed our time getting to know Gregg and the ability to see his work in process. In fact, he invited my daughter to put a message inside, along with his, before assembly and varnish. What a great memory.

How did it turn out? It is beautiful! You can read back about the design elements but again, Gregg attempted to get a 16+ inch viola out of a 15 1/2 design. The primary goal was to have an ergonomic viola without sacrificing sound. Success! The G and C both sound much larger than others I have heard at this size.

Break-in Time:

Over the next 6 to 12 months, we were enjoying the big full sound of the lower strings but the A sounded pretty "tight". Eventually we decided to try different strings. Gregg had set it up with short scale strings. We tried regular length strings from different makers and in different combinations and voila! The extra length seem to relax the top and loosened up the A and D. Now the A has a big and sweet presence with a beautiful sounding D twin.

The Bottom Line:

Since my daughter has performed and auditioned with her new Gregg Alf viola, she was accepted into the Walnut Hill School (a high school arts boarding school near Boston that is integrated into the NEC music program) and the Music Institute of Chicago Academy program (which she entered) in the same summer. The MiC program has an excellent chamber program gaining attention for taking the top honors at Fischoff over the past few years. Most recently she was selected as a semi-finalist to compete in the International Viola Congress solo competition next week in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Please find some pictures attached. Thank you for your kind patience and great comments!

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Is it just me, or does that very last pic show several cracks in a caved-in top?

Yup. I'm seeing the same thing. Strange.

There also appears to be some varnish damage on the back in some pictures, but not in others. :)

A beautiful instrument, all the same. I hope it's o.k.

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These pictures were taken on the day of delivery so no cracks, scratches, anything. These items would be reflections. Gregg's varnish and finish has a beautiful reflective quality and must be catching reflections either from the strings or other light sources. Sorry about that.

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Those are quite clearly reflections of the string passing over the bridge.

Congratulations, llowman, on a great commission and commission process; it is a stunning viola. I sat at Gregg's own workbench for a time and I am still trying figure out how to make Da Salos that fine.

Congratulations also on your daughter's accomplishments....she must be breathing quite a life and sound into that instrument. Best of luck to her in Cincinnati.

Kelvin

Did the viola have an accident?

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Kelvin,

I was looking at your site. I love the scroll on the 16" Da Salo viola. I know I have seen one without the fluting like that, but I don't remember where. Yours is beautiful. I am not qualified to make such assertions, but I was very taken with it.

Dwight

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Those are quite clearly reflections of the string passing over the bridge.

Kelvin, it wasn't so clear to me. In fact, if I showed that picture to most experienced restorers, I think they would assume that they were seeing damage.

We can run it by the people at the Violin Society of America/Oberlin Restoration Workshop in a couple of weeks, and see how clear it is to them. We'll have some of the major players in the restoration business there.

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Now, I don't mean to be an a-hole, or to stir a pot that's already cooked,

but how in God's name do you see those as string reflections?

They are broken, bent lines that don't make any sense as a reflection.

For example, the first line, or the "e string reflection", clearly stops and moves about a mm over to the treble side.

So, if we were all looking at this violin on the Tarisio website, trying to decide whether or not to bid on it during an auction, would you really look at that picture and decide that it's just string reflections? I think not.

And can anyone show me another picture of a violin, out of the countless thousands that have been taken, where that "string reflection" occurred?

Again, I hope this viola is healthy and safe, but let's be honest with what we are all looking at.

That is a picture of a cracked and broken top.

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How about this violin, from Kelvin Scott's site? It's string reflections certainly look similar don't they?

snowbelly.th.jpg

People will say what they want, but I personally believe that the Alf viola is simply showing reflections as mentioned already.

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How about this violin, from Kelvin Scott's site? It's string reflections certainly look similar don't they?

snowbelly.th.jpg

I would call those string shadows, not reflections, and they don't look similar to me, but we can run both pictures by the restoration experts and see what they think.

Look at the lightened areas in the photo in post number 7 (or enlarge the last photo in the first post), which resemble missing chipped varnish due to movement. I don't see anything like this in your photo.

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They are clearly reflections because you can see the angle of the string's reflection change as they pass (in the reflection) over the bridge. Furthermore, they terminate where their ability to be reflected is blocked by the fingerboard (note the A and D). The reflection is not clean simply because the varnish has a very nice surface patina, which is breaking and scattering the line of the reflection.

Hope this helps.

Kelvin

I would call those string shadows, not reflections, and they don't look similar to me, but we can run both pictures by the restoration folks and see what they think.

Look at the lightened areas in the photo in post number 7 (or enlarge the last photo in the first post), which resemble missing chipped varnish due to movement. I don't see anything like this in your photo.

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Thanks, Dwight. You're right. It is a very old concept. Probably harks back to the viol makers of old. There is so much in da Salo's violas that echoes back to the the viol family. The single flute is lovely...you're right. It is ancient, but at the same time very modern to my eye. Also, you also don't have to worry about executing that pesky crest where the two-flutes on a more traditional scroll meet. Da Salo seemed to take a lot of early lunch breaks and the single flute and the fewer-turned volute probably helped him on in that.

Best,

Kelvin

Kelvin,

I was looking at your site. I love the scroll on the 16" Da Salo viola. I know I have seen one without the fluting like that, but I don't remember where. Yours is beautiful. I am not qualified to make such assertions, but I was very taken with it.

Dwight

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They are clearly reflections because you can see the angle of the string's reflection change as they pass (in the reflection) over the bridge. Furthermore, they terminate where their ability to be reflected is blocked by the fingerboard (note the A and D). The reflection is not clean simply because the varnish has a very nice surface patina, which is breaking and scattering the line of the reflection.

Hope this helps.

Kelvin

Crack directions can and do change. Photos of cracks, or reflections of strings, would both terminate where the fingerboard blocks the view.

We're interpreting a photo differently. The best I know how to do at this point is to defer to other sources of photo interpretation. Photos don't necessarily show reality, but they're mostly what we've been offered here so far, and that's what I am discussing.

I'm not saying that they are cracks, only that Rokovak's question in post #4 is not inconsistent with an informed opinion, and it's far from clear from the photo that they are string reflections.

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Hello!

I am the proud owner of this beautiful Alf viola that is of incredibly fine workmanship and without cracks. Thank you to all who have given my instrument the benefit of the doubt. I could not be any happier with this beautiful instrument, and am in Mr. Alf's debt for creating a viola that suites me perfectly. I always enjoy showing off the design on the back (sometimes referred to as the "tattoo" of the viola :), and take much pleasure from the reactions of fellow violists when they learn of its small size.

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These pictures were taken on the day of delivery so no cracks, scratches, anything. These items would be reflections. Gregg's varnish and finish has a beautiful reflective quality and must be catching reflections either from the strings or other light sources. Sorry about that.

Hi,

It is a very beutiful instrument. The reflections on the top are caused by some problem with the lighting. In the spruce the crack would always follow the grain which is not the case with the viola.

Perhaps the only criticism is the over large FFs. That is what maybe causing the imbalance between the high and low strings.

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They look like very oddly behaving reflections to me, although in the last picture the reflection appears to carry on under the fingerboard on the treble side. I don't see how that can be unless the string isn't over the fingerboard. But generally they look more like reflections than cracks to me. Very peculiar reflections but reflections all the same.

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In the spruce the crack would always follow the grain ....

Not true. It's always risky to say "always". :)

There's a picture of a crack which follows the grain line, then goes off at an angle, in post #6 of the thread linked below.

It's not the greatest example, but it was handy.

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=321677

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They are clearly reflections because you can see the angle of the string's reflection change as they pass (in the reflection) over the bridge. Furthermore, they terminate where their ability to be reflected is blocked by the fingerboard (note the A and D). The reflection is not clean simply because the varnish has a very nice surface patina, which is breaking and scattering the line of the reflection.

Hope this helps.

Kelvin

:) If you say so. :)

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Not true. It's always risky to say "always". :)

There's a picture of a crack which follows the grain line, then goes off at an angle, in post #6 of the thread linked below.

It's not the greatest example, but it was handy.

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=321677

Wrong choice of word! I should have chosen "usally" or "normally"

Sometimes with near knots, rotten or fungus effected wood the the crack can go any direction.

The link you gave does not work on my computer, Or did you mean this? or this?

BTW, people might say if you toss a coin it is evens for head or tail. Sometimes it lands on its edge! :)

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