The Soul

Choosing your very own instrument is one of the most crucial and challenging decisions of our profession.

At some point, each of us is searching for the ideal instrument; our own voice and personal soul. An instrument with the right sound and projection – but equally important – the right size.

The misleading presumption that ‘a large instrument equals a big sound’ has caused much damage to the health of countless players. No matter how relaxed our manner of playing may be, playing the viola puts an incredibly one-sided strain on our bodies. So the conclusion is inevitable: size does matter!

I have played on various instruments during my career, repeatedly getting confused and having to rethink my optimal concept of sound, the right blend of dark tonal colour and core to the sound. I have switched back and forth between a beautiful, old Italian instrument made by Gasparo dal Salo, a Vincenzo Sannino and two contemporary instruments.
In 2004 I visited Andrew Finnigan and Pia Klaembt in their workshop in Bremen to play on a newly- built viola. After playing for about three minutes I knew that this was the kind of instrument that could realise my ideal sound, provide me with sufficient challenge and become my musical soul.

  • Giving me the opportunity to create my ‘personal’ sound ideal with a big tonal range
  • Providing a sufficiently dark, brilliant sound that still cuts through
  • Projecting all dynamics, not just the fortes but, even more importantly, the softest of pianos
  • Delivering different colours on each string, to give me maximum scope for choosing ‘musical’ fingerings

My instrument is a modern copy of an Andreas Guarnerius viola. The Guarneri model is one of the most frequently copied ones, due to the unique qualities of the original instruments. One of the most beautiful examples is the 1690 Andreas Guarnerius of my former teacher Nobuko Imai.

Whether I play solo suites, solo concertos or chamber music, the instrument blends whenever this is required, but never loses the edge of personality. It projects all the way to the back of the hall and I dare say that it easily measures up to the most beautiful Italian originals.
Since our first encounter in 2004 I have maintained close contact with Andrew and Pia, we have exchanged expertise on a regular base, they have made a number of beautiful instruments for me and we have become close friends. I am extremely grateful to them for opening up the world of acoustics to me.

Most of the time I use a Pierre Guillaume gold-mounted bow (70 gr) with my instruments; however, I also promote the fascinating technology of the Arcus Bow (57 gr!) that makes use of the latest carbon technology.

The emancipation of the viola in the 20th century has presented contemporary makers with the challenge of building instruments to match the swiftly growing requirements. The result is a large number of exceptionally gifted ‘new’ makers who provide us with fantastic instruments.