This is one of my favourite viola models; I’ve made it many times and a number of my earlier versions are now playing full-time in orchestras including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and City of London Sinfonia. It’s based on a tenor viola that is in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, which I scaled down to a more manageable size. Its maker, Gasparo da Salo, was one of the principal makers of the early school at Brescia in Northern Italy, and was known principally for his fabulous-sounding violas. He worked in the late 16th century and this viola dates from c. 1580. It combines ease of playing with a rich and satisfying viola sound.
It’s been good to start a new instrument in the first week back in January. As ever, I begin by making the rib assembly. I use strips of maple planed to just over 1mm for the ribs, bent round a mould.
While I wait for the glue joints of the various stages of the rib structure to dry, I’ve been working on the scroll. I especially like the Gasparo scrolls – the volutes are undercut like a scroll of parchment, and they are rich in quirky character.