Instrument Photo Shoot

My dear old Baroque Viola (and bow) had to have a little photo shoot a few weeks ago in preparation for our entry into Russia this week. Due to the restrictions on “antiques” leaving Russia, all musical instruments have to have a “instrument passport” prepared for them so that they can be sure that the instruments that you entered with, are the the same ones that you leave with.

That said, our “instrument passports” are not yet ready, and we leave for Russia tomorrow after our preliminary EU part of the tour is done. So, in a way, this will be an unofficial documentation of my friend BEFORE I enter Russia… not that it will count for much, but no harm in doing it I guess!

However, our contact in Russia says that everything is going to be just fine, and that there will be representatives at the border that will examine and sort out everything… Lucky for me, my instrument (this one at least) is obviously a modern recreation and not an original instrument!

Luckily I had remembered at the last minute that I needed to empty out my case of any extra equipment that wouldn’t be needed. I had two bows that I had to send back with a colleagues husband as they were not declared in the documentation. Actually, one bow was doubly problematic, as it contained ivory fittings as well….

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My Baroque Viola

It’s amazing, but today I only just thought about how long my viola and I have been together playing in concerts around the world. It’s been over 10 years, so in the mid range of my instruments. Some of my other instruments have been with me for a shorter time (5 years), and others have been with me for much longer (nearly 20 years). However, it is an instrument that I’ve played with often in concerts, and it is one of my favourite ones, so I do feel a great degree of attachment to it!

As you can see, it is a two piece back, with a nice lovely flame on the back. The maker also added embellishments in green around the edge, in between the double purfling that surrounds the outside edge of the wood.

Although it is a fairly normal length for a viola, it is quite a good deal thicker in the body. This gives it that little bit of extra volume for the sounding box, thus giving it a lovely rich and deep texture in the sound. It’s a nice change from playing on a violin, which is a much higher bright and treble sound.

A few years ago on a trip to China, the varnish was damaged due to the heat and humidity whilst playing. It’s something that I’ve been meaning to fix up on a trip to a luthier, but we always seem to be so busy between my life and it’s life! The damage is mostly cosmetic, however, it is something that should be dealt with before the wood is too exposed.

Unfortunately, on the front side, the same type of damage from the same tour. More noticable here as it has smudged and ruined the green patterning on the edge.

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My Baroque Viola Bow

The main partner for this instrument is this interesting Baroque Viola Bow. I used to have an amazing bow that was paired with this instrument, however, I dropped it and it shattered. So, at short notice, I had to buy a replacement. So I went to a bow makers who had imported heaps of factory made cheap bows. I tried over 20 of them, and this was the only one that was half way decent. Luck of the draw, sometimes the mass production can hit on a lucky strike! Ever since, I’ve used this bow, despite the fact that it is really nothing special other than a lucky combination of events that seem to have made it unintentionally into a really good bow!

The head of the bow, whilst having the normal Baroque style shape, is really quite roughly cut. Definitely not something that would expect from a hand-crafted one.

Likewise, the frog is completely functional and not beautiful at all. No ornamentation or embellishments, which in this case is actually a plus, as that means that there is no problems with prohibited materials (like ivory….).

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