Berto

Looking for a viola —contemporary maker

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You should have quite a few to choose from in that price range.  At the risk of insulting others by not naming them....

Tesuo Matsuda

William Whedbee

John Dilworth

There are lots and lots of others, you should have no problem.

 

DLB

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I do own instruments by the three I listed.  Again there are lots of wonderful makers in that price range.

I do not own a Matsuda viola but rather a violin.  I have played his violas though.

 

DLB

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2 hours ago, Berto said:

United States! Thx 

Would it also be possible to be more specific about what you look for in a quality? Eastcoast, Westcoast, Midwest? If the maker is living, it might be worth the travel. Sometimes, it is about the location as the needs might be artisitically specific

Size is an issue. Last year, I think it was an Anthony Lane ( had to ask - but maybe priced a bit higher) instrument that was superb at a student recital ( with piano ) of a shorter Asian student borrowed... Only mention because it was by far the clearest and also expressive or sensitive i have heard this year. They had also borrowed a fine french bow. Definitely a newly installed string sound but that is direction that i desire for viola which is often lost in the texture of a chamber orchestra or a big, late Beethoven quartet. This was a bit after the Primrose competition at Colburn and i would argue that for a younger player, that particular sound would open doors.

Manfio? though i do not know what is charged

I recently heard a cello recital in a smaller academic hall ( 2- 300 seats ) where the unaccompanied Bach was played on a living American maker instrument with gut strings. Haunting, spine chilling complexity because the playing was very personal, expressive with long tapered diminuendos. Followed by a very strong Gofriller which was very good, but fighting a very fine pianist. Given that it is possible to hear a good cello sound that is familiar on CDs, in a car or at home, the quality of a solo, on a fine instrument in a nice hall was very special. 

How do you balance sensitive to power? What is your ratio? The viola texture is complicated...

 

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I own a David Caron cello and his violas are highly thought of. His smallest is a 15.5( i think) but he has multiple sizes. I know several musicians who own multiple David Caron instruments, including a colleague in my orchestra who owns two violas and one violin! David is no longer making and may not have a virgin viola, and they rarely come up for sale, but I would look for him first.

I echo the mention of Manfio. Last month he delivered three new instruments to his New York connection. I’ve seen one gorgeous David Burgess viola, and the offerings at Chicago’s William Harris Lee are very good: Garavaglia, Sisson, Kiernoziak.

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Go shopping!

Unless you've already played tons and tons of violas, chances are you won't know what you want until you know what's out there.  Take your time if you can.  I was shopping for a Baroque viola for years before I found one that was for me.

Remember that a viola that's perfect for one person can be bad for another.

So, I might mention that the Alessandro Tossani viola that my student bought a few years ago was one of my favorite instruments I've ever played (and certainly in your price range), but you might play it and hate it.  (Also, I don't think the guy makes many violas.)

Julie Reed-Yeboah had some nice shop instruments in her inventory around $8k or $12k.

Luis Claudio Manfio makes instruments in the size you're looking for, not sure his current prices.  You could call some of the shops that have them or send him a PM here on Maestronet.

Bring someone who can play with you when you go shopping.  If you have a teacher, ask your teacher if they'll go with you.

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One thing to keep in mind is if you buy a good instrument from an established dealer you are not signing a lifetime marriage contract!  Your tastes may change, your needs may change, you may come into some money!  If you buy from an established dealer you don't have to keep it for ever.  Most dealers will give you 100% credit if you want to buy another different viola.

Have Fun!

 

DLB

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4 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

Go shopping!

Unless you've already played tons and tons of violas, chances are you won't know what you want until you know what's out there.  Take your time if you can.  I was shopping for a Baroque viola for years before I found one that was for me.

 ( ... )

Luis Claudio Manfio makes instruments in the size you're looking for, not sure his current prices.  You could call some of the shops that have them or send him a PM here on Maestronet.

Bring someone who can play with you when you go shopping.  If you have a teacher, ask your teacher if they'll go with you.

The size restriction can make it difficult to go shopping. 

It is also expensive to go to try instruments in NYC - and there are mark ups realated to cost of living. Off season, NYC is cheaper. I would only got for a performance or auction - and stay in NJ. If there is a way, NYC has better instruments, but i think there are better cities out there for great instruments. I find the location with expertise but narrow-minded.

But yes, Ms Reed - Yeboah, should have instruments. Students do visit her shop.

Sometimes, you just have to purchase what is available locally to save the additional funds for case and bow. Or even have one or two mailed to you. Cellos are so expensive... but a viola or a violin is do-able. Ask for a call-tag ( return tag ) as their rates would surely be better than your personal rate. Recently, i had to ship a bow to Chicago and FedX, ripped me off. Unfortunately, i did not have time to use USPS, DHL or UPS that day, but paid about $80 more than USPS.

FYI- A day trip to NYC is a upgraded case. A few days is a fine BAM or GEWA case. If you include flight and stays in midtown, that is an exceptional workshop bow, especially if you stayed there last weekend for the marathon... three nights across from the park will buy you a contemporary French bow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, GoPractice said:

The size restriction can make it difficult to go shopping. 

It is also expensive to go to try instruments in NYC

Sometimes, you just have to purchase what is available locally to save the additional funds for case and bow.

FYI- A day trip to NYC is a upgraded case. A few days is a fine BAM or GEWA case. If you include flight and stays in midtown, that is an exceptional workshop bow, especially if you stayed there last weekend for the marathon... three nights across from the park will buy you a contemporary French bow.

15 7/8" is not particularly small.  Plenty of instruments that size.

The OP is looking in the $15k-$25k range...  not shopping carefully is for the very wealthy.

New York isn't an expensive day trip if you live nearby or if you have friends who live there willing to put you up.

Someone shopping in the $15k-$25k range is looking for an exceptionally fine instrument and they should be able to find it if they shop long enough.

I would also argue that spending the time to play many instruments, even paying the premium New York prices adds value if you end up with a superior instrument.  If you're a player, there is more value in a "players'" instrument than in a fancy case or in a difference of $5,000 or $10,000.  That's why there's so much wiggle room in the OP's budget.

But, yeah, NYC is super expensive and there are other places to shop.  LA, Chicago, Cremona, Paris, London...  I'm a fan of Robertson's in Albuquerque...

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Thank you all! Great information. Any input on a violas made by Stanley Kiernoziak? I should add this instrument is not for me—I am helping my niece. We are aware there are a lot of makers out there. We are just trying to narrow the universe. She’s looking for something responsive—not too bright in tone. 

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19 hours ago, Berto said:

Thank you all! Great information. Any input on a violas made by Stanley Kiernoziak?

Super-nice guy.  He showed up a couple of times at the VMAAI competition a few years ago, and got first place for all 4 violas he entered.  Of course, this is not the same level as VSA competitions, but it's all I know about him.

I'd offer to build one, but I'd have to double my price to get into your range.  And it would take 2 years.

2 hours ago, Urban Luthier said:

This thread might be of interest...

Nice thread... from before I found MN.  Interesting to see some of the same design decisions I went through in developing my own small viola design.

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8 minutes ago, Zeissica said:

Claudio Manifo and Shinichiro Yoshikai are two of the contemporary makers you should look at for violas. 

OK , but I will ask how you arrived at that conclusion. Have you tried every contemporary viola in the world, or what?

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21 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Have you tried every contemporary viola in the world, or what?

I have, every one. I wouldn't have posted an opinion if I hadn't.

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Here my two cents about choosing a good viola, as a maker a player.

Avoid monochrome instruments. Look for many colours and contrast, you can have that only when you have a good dynamic range.

With a good viola you can work with the bow to create colours. In most violas you will change your bowing and nothing will happen.

With a good viola when you draw your bow from the fingerboard towards the bridge increasing the weight you will notice a big change in volume and  sound color. Just good instruments offer that.

The viola must not choke when you play FFF near the bridge.

Avoid hollow sound, look for a focused sound.

Clarity is important too, when playing quick passages the notes should not mix.

Check the instrument in the upper regions of the C and G strings. You may not be using the 7th positions of the C string now but as you start studying more difficult pieces you will have to do that. Just good violas will sound good in high positions of the C string, in general you will have many wolves and rasped notes there.

Playing comfort: not only the size matters here but also string length, upper bouts width, rib height, weight, feeling "under the chin". Try to play in high positions of the C string.

Look for a quick response too.

 

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2 hours ago, David Burgess said:

OK , but I will ask how you arrived at that conclusion. Have you tried every contemporary viola in the world, or what?

If this is your oblique and typically modest way of letting us know that you're trying to unload one, just go ahead and post photos, specs, and a video, so we can begin critically deconstructing it, while consuming the usual refreshments.  :ph34r:  popcorn-and-drink-smiley-emoticon.gif.c694b6e169ee85be35551aef1865b9c3.gif

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4 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

If this is your oblique and typically modest way of letting us know that you're trying to unload one, just go ahead and post photos, specs, and a video, so we can begin critically deconstructing it, while consuming the usual refreshments.  :ph34r:  popcorn-and-drink-smiley-emoticon.gif.c694b6e169ee85be35551aef1865b9c3.gif

While I don't like some posts from Mr Burgess, I think here he makes a very valid point. It's clear that at times, people just throw out names they have seen regularly on the internet, and have no clue personally how their work sounds.

If Zeissica can expand on their suggestions with personal experience it will certainly help the OP, otherwise it's just a well-meaning suggestion.

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On 11/5/2019 at 2:00 PM, Berto said:

Thank you all! Great information. Any input on a violas made by Stanley Kiernoziak? I should add this instrument is not for me—I am helping my niece. We are aware there are a lot of makers out there. We are just trying to narrow the universe. She’s looking for something responsive—not too bright in tone. 

I owned a Kiernoziak cello until I bought my Caron, and my colleague who inspired my to buy my Caron also had a Kiernoziak cello, made coincidentally the same month as my own. His Caron is 173, mine is 176.

a colleague owns a Kirnoziak viola right now and she likes it very much but it trying to upgrade because she’s been advised to buy a better viola for major auditions. She would like a Caron but can’t find one for sale. I personally think her Kiernoziak sounds great and looks better but she’s the boss.

This may sound like a slap to Kiernoziaks but it isn’t. They are very fine instruments, and will take you a very long way. I would never recommend against them.

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25 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

 ( ... )

If Zeissica can expand on their suggestions with personal experience it will certainly help the OP, otherwise it's just a well-meaning suggestion.

This is a bit harsh.

I have not heard of a Yoshiaki viola and now I am interested and grateful that it was mentioned.

I have not played a Manfio instrument but have him followed his development as well Maestro Noon for the past decade and have seen their expertise excel. They are committed to what they do and my respect for that is overwhelming. My work has not progressed nary as much since the early 2000s and instead have chosen to purchased several 3d printers and more in festools than i have in artisan chisels.

I have played at least 3 dozen ( tried many more ) Matsuda violins and violas because I have wanted one for decades and like his clean work which suits my playing when am performing well. I purchase wood from the same vendors that supply Matsuda as do many here on MN and have the same wood of the Plowden above my bench in suspended animation for 8 years. When the desired character was found, it was always too expensive... and this was expected. 

There were several Kiernoziaks that were at a shop i worked at and Sisson is also a favorite for larger violas. Kiernoziaks have a very generous sound and play well while the Sisson is beautiful but aloof or stand-offish, meaning perhaps they were harder for me to play and though playable, I struggled due to their size. I have not played a <16" from the artisans of our great patron WH Lee, though Lee's workshop instruments of the size are very nice and should be considered at a different price point - wider deeper bodies in the past. If one was in the central US, these are the instruments one would go to play. A Darnton <16" viola? if it were possible to find one... did he ever make one? Based on his violins it would be a bargain. A few weeks ago, I re-read a Darnton 2004 ( GAL #87 ) lecture that was so important to me at the time, that it provided the language allowing me to better articulate thoughts and "see" what could be discussed to greater detail than before. Re-read all because of the huge ( i will call, the ) Beard thread which I am also grateful for... The thoughts were always there but the common usage was not developed as richly as it is now thanks to many participating in advancing the art.  

Maestro Wallin, though I think she finds me unpleasant, has also grown the viola aesthetic. I follow Mr Brown and he has me 3 of 3.  But would it be possible to find a smaller Dilworth? 

So the quest to play a Yoshiaki is new. There are several Iizukas in the area, none of which i have played but sound great because the players are great.

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