Tuesday, September 11, 2018

BIG Violas and Lionel Tertis




Lionel Tertis

image from www.english-heritage.org.uk courtesy of Margaret and Robert Lyons


By Andy Fein, Luthier, Fein Violins
and Ivana Truong

Lionel Tertis was a giant of the viola world. He brought the viola and viola playing into the 20th century as a viola soloist and commissioner of new viola solo compositions. A true giant of the viola world. But he was not a giant of a man. More like an average sized guy. But he loved the big, deep, bass-like sound that big violas produce. Throughout his career, he played a 17'' Carlo Antonio Testore viola from 1735, as well as a 17 3/4'' Gasparo da Salo viola. He met his match in Paris in 1920 when he discovered a huge Montagnana viola that was made in 1717. The Montagnana viola was 17 1/8" ( 434mm). To play a viola that large comfortably and without injury from long term use, I'd insist that the player be well over 6'! Preferably, over 6'4". Alas, Tertis was 5'6'', not anywhere near that tall. What to do, what to do?