This instrument is from 2014 by Ko van de Beld. Ko concentrates on making violas, and this is the third one. The official label of the School was not yet in existence at that time.
This viola's model was the result of some experimenting, departing from a small viola by Gasparo Bertolotti: wide, short C bouts, long f-holes, well apart. Ko has contributed substantially to these experiments.
The main dimensions are: back length 413mm, upper bouts 195mm, C bouts 131mm, lower bouts 240mm wide (measured over the arching with a flexible ruler). The ribs are 37mm high and the string length is 377mm. All in all a reasonably average viola. We do make smaller ones at the School, also after Gasparo.
We do, on the other hand not believe in very big violas (back length 430mm or over). They are physically too challenging, and the bigger the viola, the more the sound will be like a cello's. Ok, they make a big sound, but in a chamber music setting this can easily be somewhat overwhelming, at the same time not providing the characteristically melancholy timbre typical of the smaller viola.
An inner mould is used in its construction, with blocks and linings of willow. The C bout linings have been let into the corner blocks. The maple of the ribs is obviously the crowning glory with its deep and regular flame. The front is of medium, regular and straight grained spruce.
We do not copy the very high archings of Gasparo. The idea being that we try to make the sound more even over the strings (instruments by Gasparo tend to favour the lower strings) by providing the Brescian model with a Cremonese arching. The results so far are quite encouraging.
The purfling is made of ebony and maple, the latter being deeply and narrow figured, resulting in a clearly pearly texture for the white strip. Although somewhat modernized, the f-holes do not conceal their Brescian ancestry. The scroll, after a model of the School, with the wide second turn, verges slightly to the sturdy, rather than to the elegant.
The wood has first been sealed partly with potassium silica, followed by a complete yellow golden sealing with linseed oil and pigments. Then followed a few layers of golden brown oil varnish we make ourselves, consisting of linseed oil, colophony and sandarac. This makes for a nice, very thin layer of varnish, the structure of the wood remaining clearly discernible, with a lot of colour.
Many details, apart from the varnish, speak of the care bestowed on this instrument: elegant corners and edgework, the scroll, cut neatly and with confidence, cleanly cut f-holes.
This viola will surprise you by its big, generous sound, as well as by the ease of producing it. The flexibility, in colour as well as in dynamics is quite satisfying, as is the evenness over the strings, with a clear and singing a, and a well-focused sonorous c. Without any wolves, I would rather call this a noble or classical sound, as opposed to the bright, "steely" quality now and then met with in modern instruments.
Taking into account the constructional and acoustical qualities of this viola, it may change hands for the moderate sum of €3750,00.