It may be a new "Golden Period" for violin and viola making, but what do those new instruments actually sound like?
Violists had a rare chance to hear 17 modern violas and seven bows on Thursday at the American Viola Society Festival at Oberlin Conservatory in northern Ohio. Not only that, but a number of the luthiers and bowmakers were also on hand at the event, as many will stay next week for the annual Violin Society of America's Oberlin workshop.
"It's a good time to be violist," said Elias Goldstein, the award-winning violist who played all these violas, ranging in size from 16 to more than 17 1/2 inches, in rapid succession. Goldstein started with his own 1860 Vuillaume, then played the modern instruments, which included violas made as long ago as 1937 (Francois Vial) and as recently as organizer Rodney Mohr's viola bow, which "I just finished yesterday," Mohr said from the stage. Several of the violas also were made in 2016. Beyond the various sizes, Martin Kasperzyk's viola also stood out for its unusual shape and sound.
We listened to violas by the following modern makers: David Burgess, Doug Cox, David Finck, Martin Kasperzyk, Stanley Kernoziak, Alex Leyvand, Steven McCann, Pio Montanari, Ansaldo Poggi, William Scott, Robert Spears, Francois Vial, Jason Visaltear, Marilyn Wallin, Isabelle Wilbaux and Ute Zahn. At the end, Goldstein played a c. 1590 A&H Amati. Goldstein also demonstrated wooden bows by Pierre Yves Fuchs, Eric Gagne, Rodney Mohr, Steven Reilly and for fun -- a Dominique Pecatte. The video below shows Goldstein playing a short excerpt from the Walton Concerto and then from the Courante from Bach's Suite No. 3 on 10 of the violas (These were just the videos I happened to get, I'm afraid I missed some good ones!).
"I have to say, this feels like speed dating," Goldstein admitted.
Here are some of the luthiers and bowmakers that were attending the Luthier Demonstration at the AVS Festival:
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