Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Metzler's Tonal (and Workmanship) Comparisons of Contemporary American Violas


Recommended Posts

P323018305.thumb.jpg.c4244928ca0aafaa70d26671f9ddb95d.jpgEvery year, for the last 6 years or so (one 'Rona cancellation) Metzler's in Glendale has presented 3 nights of Tonal comparisons of American (North and South American, i.e., New World instruments) played by some of the best professionals in the LA area.

Though the Violas were third in order, behind Cellos and Violins - all on different nights, they are the easiest to describe, perhaps because tonal distinctions were somewhat evident.  This year, the violas were played by someone new to Metzler's: A new professor of viola at the UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, award-winning violist Che-Yen Chen who is a founding member of the Formosa Quartet and First-Prize winner of the 2006 London International String Quartet Competition. He was awarded the First-Prize in the 2003 Primrose International Viola Competition.

There were bows, too, played on all three of the nights, but for me the different bow sounds are  very hard to distinguish from labout one minute of playing, though I always had a favorite or two, and of course, much also depends on the player and the instrument. One archetier of note: David Samuels submitted bows for cello, violin, and viola, and though the most expensive ("overpriced"), I thought his bows were consistently some of the best. 

In general, I thought the varnishing was largely better than the violins as a group, and the workmanship was generally good. There were only two violas I thought did not sound good.  There were 2 or 3 exceptional samples, and the rest, though perhaps not as outstanding, were good, and some represented a bargain at the list price, IMHO.  The pricing generally was less than prior years;  though two were 40K plus, the others mostly ranged between $9,000. and $24,000.  

Professionally recorded streams should be up in a few days, courtesy of Metzler's, and I believe the facebook stream is now live for all 3 evenings.  I will also try to post my videos later, but it's a lot of GBs, and I don't have a good editing suite.

In terms of tonal comparisons, with 15 violas, versus the 35 violins, I was mostly able to concentrate and keep the samples separate in my mind and my notes.  My favorites were by Grubaugh & Seifert,  Theodore Skreko, and just a hair behind, Bill Scott and Helmut Keller (and son).  Others that sounded good (to my ears): Frederik Bethke, Douglas Cox, Stephen Lohmann, and Christopher White.  Some samples had a slightly different tone from my favorites, or I had trouble distinguishing in the short music sample time (2 minutes for violas), but overall were to my ears better than the ones not mentioned, were by: J. Michael Fischer, Jeffrey Robinson, and Sofia Vettori. Note that I don't play viola, and my seat was very near the front, a few feet to the side. Uniquely, Sofia provided a photographic book which shows pictures of that viola's construction.

Below are three or so views of each of the 15 violas, along with the Bio, which I captured only to keep straight which viola is made by what maker. I put each maker's bio before that maker's instrument. 


























Edited by l33tplaya
adding more pix out of order
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Metzler's Violas - Part IV.  I forgot to mention that the lighting was very uneven where the instruments were displayed.  Metzler uses the library next to his shop, and the lighting there, even with supplements, is not good at night. Some cool historical documents and paintings there from as early as the American Revolution. 



















Link to comment
Share on other sites

That’s quite a post! I’m glad to hear you liked David’s bows. He is a friend of mine going back to high school. We played in the same viola section and had the same teacher. I was very lucky to get one of his violin bows a while back.

this is us about 44 years ago. David is the one in the front with the backwards viola. I’m in the back on the left next to our teacher. 

He made our teacher a gold mounted bow as a gift. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Dwight Brown  I thought you would like the viola pron!  IMHO, Samuels had one of the two best viola bows (judging by sound only) and either the best cello or violin bow, I forgot which.  In the other, he was tied at the top, but all were more expensive - his bows were circa 10K, and most of the others were between 5-6.5K. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think his bows used to be 10K for gold mounted and something less for silver mounted but that was a while ago. Somewhere I have pictures of an amazing bow that he made with a clear acrylic frog and gold mounting he said he wasn’t sure he would ever do it again as it was really hard to work with.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you both.

Samuel's bows are fantastic in workmanship and assume playability but how crazy is this bow? Am currently in pursuit of a Kittel copy ( violin ) another waitlist viola bow, and then a Samuel's violin bow if unsold. The in addition to the workmanship, the stick is excellent.

I have missed several of these presentations. There are costs related to such events and commend the efforts.

The photos are awesome. Maestro Scott in Southern California is awesome. A Vettori in Southern California is awesome. Thank you for posting. l33tplaya, hope to meet sometime. Was going to beg to sneak in, but this is audition season. 

I love all shops for what they offer. But thank you Maestro Thomas and staff for such an opportunity. Lovely to see Dr Sloan.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, meant that the stick quality, proportions, camber are excellent. Not aggressive, FAT sound. Super playability or violin. Must locate a viola bow to try. Have not played any cellos bows...

My recent violin bow "purchase" plays very well.

A student's only comment was that it looked fat. Like a viola bow?!? It plays and sounds excellent, but their first observation was that it was larger in diameter. Does it play well? "Sure." Some kids are spoiled.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...