The handsome and arrestingly modern pattern is truly pioneering
The ‘Conte Vitale’ is an important early small-size viola. The increasing prominence of the viola in the late 17th century meant that there was a need for smaller instruments that nevertheless retained the characteristic viola sound. Guarneri responded to this, and his handsome and arrestingly modern pattern is truly pioneering. Besides its striking asymmetry and Guarneri’s use of tightly figured and plain wood, it has rounded shoulders, to enable the player to reach high positions easily, and gorgeous f-holes set higher up in the top – following the Brescian trend – that allow for a reasonable and very comfortable string length. I love listening to James Ehnes play the ‘Conte Vitale’ on his Homage CD.
The violin maker and restorer, who is based in Asturias, Spain, made the first-prize instrument for the 2011 Primrose Viola Competition, basing it on the ‘Conte Vitale’