Who makes the best viola in the history?

May 7, 2009 at 02:47 AM ·

I am a violin player who also loves to play viola. But I am not familiar to selecting good viola. Can someone tell me who makes the best viola in the history? Do best violin makers also make best violas? Are Antonio Stradivari, Del gesu, Guadagnini, Pressenda, Rocca, Fagnola and Poggi the best  and representive viola makers in their era, too? Any contemporary viola maker recommended?

Replies (9)

May 7, 2009 at 11:35 AM ·

Viola sound is a rather controversial issue. Some players and makers like a nasal sound and some don't like it, I'm included in this second group.

Del Gesù never made a viola.  Many violas made by modern Italians are considered too small for today's standarts.

The most copied models today are Andrea Guarneri, Fratelli (brothers)  Amati for Cremonese models; and Gasparo da Salò and Maggini for the Brescian School.

There are many good viola makers: Iizuka, Ravatin,  Walin,  etc.

I'm specialized in viola making also, from 16 to 17 inches, and my model is inspired in Andrea Guarneri. You can see my latest 16 inches viola "Fiammetta" (after a Roman courtesan) here:


You can see more and listen to sound samples here;





May 7, 2009 at 01:24 PM ·

Luis, your instruments are indeed quite beautiful...BRAVO

May 7, 2009 at 08:42 PM ·


that`s a really beautiful piece of work.  No chance of seeing a few photos of the muse is there?

Living in hope,


May 7, 2009 at 09:04 PM ·


Your instrument is very beautiful-- I love the varninsh work!


May 8, 2009 at 01:36 PM ·

The viola was a neglected instrument during the golden era of Cremonese violin making. Stradivari made perhaps14 or 16, including a couple of the very large tenor violas; del Gesu didn't make any at all. David Tecchler, a German who worked in Rome for 40 years, made only three. There is a long story about why the viola declined during this time. I've written about it on my web site http://singingwoodsviolin.com/. You might find it interesting. Look under the "octet" menu for some information on very large violas called allto violins. There are also sound clips of smaller violas here: http://singingwoodsviolin.com/html_pages/violas_for_sale.html

May 8, 2009 at 02:32 PM ·

Thanks on your kind words!!!

Yes, the viola output of many famous makers of the past  is very small indeed. And many old violas were reduced in size in a drastic way, rendering the number of good old violas to a very small one.

I know a top player to whom was offered to play the Strad viola on the Library of Congress in Washington in a concert there. After trying the Strad he declined the offer and preferred to use his contemporary instrument.

Perhaps the golden age of viola making is today. The level of knowledge about viola making today is quite high. Many top players are playing contemporary instruments.




May 10, 2009 at 01:54 AM ·

I always loved Erdesz's violas.  Thick and rich, a beautiful bridge between the cello and the second violin voice. 

Our 4tet's violist in Miami had one as her secondary instrument, after her old Italian viola (which to the rest of us was way too soprano and violin-like--the same complaint the Hills had about many Cremonese violas).


May 16, 2009 at 08:07 PM ·

Beautiful instruments, Manfio!

I like it when orchestral sections have big violas - but seem to like to hear soloists on slightly smaller and brighter ones. Primrose used Andrea Guarneri, (not huge) and though Strad violas are said to be too small Zuckerman is insurpassable playing one. My first instrument is violin, and I have always played on a viola just over 16" - viola players would say I sounded too much like a violin, while violinists thought I sounded like a 'cello. Whatever size of viola you have someone will criticise. Personally I have a 1993 Cremona viola (41cm) that cost less than the Hills bow I use on it, and I'm 100% happy with it. Generally, if a violin-player wants a viola that is not too big then maybe Andrea Guarneri is a better model than Strad, the center width I think is greater. It was Tertis's idea that you get a richer sound with the extra width - not mine!

Even J.B.Vuillaume would make violas too small. There are many good makers now, I think.

May 16, 2009 at 09:24 PM ·

Shao-hsuan hsia, there's less agreement amongst violists than there is among violinists about what constitutes a good instrument. Current taste seems to be going in the direction of violas with a bigger, deeper sound than most of the old Italian makers produced, and as already mentioned, these makers didn't produce quantities in proportion to the way violas are used in orchestral literature. Those may be a couple of reasons why violists were the first to strongly embrace new instruments, while violinists and cellists took a little longer.


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