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Eloise Garland

A credit to the violists!

September 21, 2010 at 6:10 PM

 So, after a long and hectic week or so, I can finally write some blog! 

Today, I tried the viola for the first ever time. When I saw it, and even picked the instrument up, I felt fairly confident - 'Oh, it can't be much different to the violin' I thought, but you see, even though to an extent I was right, I was also shocked at the subtle yet noticable differences in the viola in comparison with the violin. 

The viola I played wasn't much bigger than my violin - in fact, I'd say it was a mere 2 centimetres longer, or there abouts. Sure, the viola has 4 strings like a violin, it uses a bow and is even held in the same position. But that can be deceptive. You see, when I placed the bow on those strings and played, it struck me that the viola seemingly has a darker all round personality in its sound. It is rich, almost like the cello. That full-bodied sound, I have to say, is what supports the violins in an orchestra, it is what is needed in an orchestra, yet us violinists take all the credit! It seems unfair that a lot of the time, the viola is not recognised as well as the violin or the cello. It is the 'lost instrument' in my view. So next time when you play in an orchestra, spare a thought for the violas! 

As I was playing along, (using some of my previous and present pieces but playing that 5th lower) I realised the viola seems harder to keep in tune. Many people say it is a gift to have a violist who can play perfectly in tune.

Not only that, but vibrato, staccato and other techniques have to be accentuated to get the effect you are used to. I found I had to more vigorously move my finger on the string to get a good vibrato, whilst on the violin it seems almost effortless in comparison. 

As I played on the lower C string, I found the vibrations almost 'cutting' through into my jaw. It gave off an amazing almost buzz-like sound and that richness shone through all the way. These subtle and frequent differences all came together and gave the viola its own voice. They all added up and created a very new sound to what I am used to. 

I may have started off slightly naive about the viola, but by God, now I realise how much effort playing the viola can be. And how different it is, even though the anatomy is practically the same. You never know, I might go out and invest in my own viola one day soon! 

So, I have to say, I give full credit to the violists!  


From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on September 21, 2010 at 10:40 PM

Watch out, Eloise, that C string is addictive.  Nothing on a violin has that dark, deep, smoky sound.  Viola intonation comes with a little practice.  The problem then is that the violins are always sharp, the cellos flat, and the poor violists are stuck in the middle with nowhere to go.


From Adam korczynski
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 9:12 PM

What a wonderful blog post!

I totally agree with you on the sound compared to the violin. In fact I came across a very interesting recording of Bashmet and Spivakov playing the Concertante by Mozart. I noticed that, as you say, the violin plays the melody very clear and exact, while Bashmet keeps his sounds "around" the violin - you might say expanding the violin. It is a very nice way of playing a duet with a violin as a violist, and it creates a very nice sound together. Of course Bashmet is a master of sound, and he has worked with this for many years, but this is what is possible with a viola.

Check out the video here to see what I'm talking about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IURznJe2Jm4

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From Eloise Garland
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 10:14 PM

 Thank you for the link Adam! This is a wonderful piece and I shall keep it in my bookmarks to come back to as well! :) 


From LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
Posted on September 23, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Nice! We viola makers need more and more viola players!

www.manfio.com


From Christina C.
Posted on September 24, 2010 at 2:20 PM

another one lost to the dark side.....


From Mendy Smith
Posted on September 24, 2010 at 9:38 PM

 welcome to the dark side!

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