Carlo Lamberti Tertis/Jay Haide violas

Edited: April 20, 2019, 9:32 AM · I am currently renting a viola from SHAR. It's pretty entry-level, but the highest level that they offer for viola rentals.

I will be looking to purchase a viola within the next year. Yes, I will ultimately try the instruments myself before buying. But I'd like to ask whether anyone has had any experience with SHAR's Carlo Lamberti Tertis or with Jay Haide à l'ancienne violas. This could potentially influence whether I continue to build rental equity at SHAR or switch my rental to Johnson String to build equity there. I don't have a ton of money to put aside towards this purchase, so the use of rental equity is a real bonus.

I'd love to hear about anyone's experience. It's probably relevant to add that I may not be able to go larger than 15.5" - this is one of the reasons that I have my eye on the Tertis model. But I have yet to see any reviews of these violas, beyond the handful published on SHAR's website.

Replies (14)

April 21, 2019, 5:33 PM · A few years ago I tried Jay Haide violas at the local dealership. All of them, from least to most expensive had the same problem: weak D string. It was not only weak, but had a completely different sound than other strings. Outer strings, C and A ranged in quality from good to great.
April 21, 2019, 7:05 PM · That could be a setup issue as much as anything, and the first thing I would try to fix that would be to move the post closer to the bridge. We have found the Haide Maggini model violas to be exceptional. Tertis model violas always sound like large violins to me, but my experience is only with the Tertis-period English-made ones.
April 21, 2019, 7:43 PM · You may also want to consider a Gliga Gama viola. I have one - a 16 in - and it is a very good instrument
April 21, 2019, 10:04 PM · I play a 15.75" American made Tertis-pattern viola (I realize Tertis himself would say it isn't a Tertis viola because it's not 16.75"), and would agree that, at least in the upper half of its range, it sounds like a big violin. But the C string is a cannon, which I'm told is common with Tertis violas.
April 21, 2019, 10:57 PM · I rented a 16" Jay Haide Maggini a l'ancienne viola from Johnson a few years ago. I really liked it, though I was a different, less experienced player then, and probably didn't know what I was listening for. Still, I found it very playable.
April 22, 2019, 10:08 AM · Thank you all for the replies. Very interesting to hear two people speak of a violin-like sound to Tertis models - just confirmation of how different real people's experiences are from marketing copy (the SHAR website makes a big deal of their Tertis model's "big cello-like sound").

Thanks also for the feedback on the Haide violas. I am now leaning towards renting from Johnson. It would almost certainly be an upgrade over the rental I have now, though their website does not guarantee that their "master" rental would be a Haide.

Talk about annoying D strings - the D on my rental sounds like an oboe. The other three strings are perhaps on the bright side, but the D string really stands out in brightness/reediness.

April 22, 2019, 1:44 PM · M.D. wrote:
"Talk about annoying D strings - the D on my rental sounds like an oboe."

I happen to think that the sound of an oboe is very charming. Perhaps it is your other strings which need to come up to speed with your D?

April 25, 2019, 12:40 PM · So much can depend on how what strings are on the instrument, what bow is used to play it, what room it is played in and what rosin is used. My own violas are very sensitive to these variables. I even carry a cello bow in my viola case to use when I want my viola to sound as deep and rich as possible.

I tried a Tertis (that's the lopsided viola model, isn't it?) a little bit at a chamber music workshop some years ago - I was a cellist at that one. I was not impressed by its sound (under my chin) - but it sure makes a difference if you hope to play above the first octave.

Edited: April 25, 2019, 1:43 PM · The Tertis is not the lopsided model -- that would be the Rivinus Pellegrina. The Tertis model has wide lower and middle bouts, high ribs, and relatively flat plates, and its soundpost and bass bar are placed a little wider than is typical. If you see one in an orchestra, it's not going to look too different from a more typical viola model at first glance.
April 25, 2019, 1:53 PM · Also, regarding that "big cello-like sound": that's true of my viola as well, but only at the low end. The impression I've generally gotten is that Tertis violas have a bit of a split personality. My viola has a brighter, reedier "big violin" sound from approximately E4 upward, and a booming "little cello" sound from about A3 downward.
April 29, 2019, 11:15 AM · Interesting about the split personality - I wonder what it is about the larger lower bout that causes that phenomenon. Now I really want to try one, as I'm curious to hear this for myself.
Edited: May 7, 2019, 11:27 AM · Real Tertis-Model violas often sound like a french horn doubled by an oboe.
He increased the internal air space to get the air resonance right down to F on the C-string; but the main wood resonance depends more on the length of the body, and stays at around F on the D-string. Only a 20" viola will have this resonance at middle C on the G-string.

Also, I find videos of other fat-bottomed, narrow shouldered-violas have this reedy quality. My own viola is only 15.75", but with wide shoulders and almost no middle bouts: a symetrical two-cornered model from Bernard Sabatier inspired by Gasparo's Lyra-Viola in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, U.K. The tone is warm, like a plummy contralto rather than a tenor, and very well integrated; not nasal, and with a singing non-brassy A-string.

BTW, I find Jay Haide's "Maggini" model viola much better than their "Strad" model, for the same body length.

May 9, 2019, 4:18 PM · Funny that you say that, Adrian - I'm primarily a French horn player, so clearly that's a sound that appeals to me. But as I kind of gave away above, reediness on higher strings is not my favorite sound.

I keep hearing about the Haide Maggini model - I'll have to see if I can get my hands on one of those. What do you prefer about it compared to the Strad model?

May 9, 2019, 5:01 PM · I find their Strad model more nasal. My own JTL viola (ca.1900) is like this. Narrow body?
Also on many violas, the C# on the A-string has a "pinched" sound; on my Lyra model, less so. Wide middle and upper bouts?
BTW I love the French horn, and the oboe!

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