This copy of Jacob Stainer’s contralto baroque violas is the first by a contemporary maker, to
my knowledge. Stainer’s violas were less numerous than the violins and now amount to only around five across the world. His violins were highly prized throughout the 18th century for
their silvery tone and exquisite aesthetics, and achieved greater prices than any other maker
including Stradivari. As Bach’s Coethen orchestra had Stainer’s, he will have conceived of
many works including the Brandenburg concertos with these in mind.
Staine’s contralto violas were beautifully proportioned for the player, with a back length
c.403mm and a light no-shoulder pegbox (the first maker to adopt this). Mine is based primarily on the beautiful sounding and well preserved 1660 viola in the Winterthur
collection, Switzerland, the original neck enabling accurate re-creation of the baroque set-up
with additional information from two extant violins and one tenor viola. The deep yet transparent varnish is based on walnut oil and conifer resins, as Stainer is thought to have done.
I have made for the Baroque collection of the RNCM and possibly the first contemporary baroque copy of an Amati 3 string double bass. Simon Jones, Head of Strings and Historical Performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and a player in leading UK ensembles, wrote of his baroque Strad copy: “…it has a special sound – very much so…a warm and generous sound which blooms out of the instrument… just the sort of sound that I wanted to make on a Baroque violin. I very much believe it was this sound, hopefully in
combination with my way of playing it, that helped my career to progress. I have lent it to various people and they all enjoy playing it but I feel a link still with it. It is a perfect example of the mysteries of violin making.”
Stainer model 1660. The two piece back of maple of medium curl descending across the back from the centre joint. The ribs of similar curl. The pegbox and scroll of plain maple. The front in two pieces of spruce of medium grain. The varnish of a rich, warm orange-brown colour on a yellow ground. Labelled ‘Martin Morris, Liskeard Cornwall, (signed in ink) 2018. LOB 403mm Strung with Nick Baldock C eq 246 and G eq 165 silver wound, Toro D 108 and A 76
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