Albert Caressa and Henri Français took over and renamed the firm of Gand & Bernardel in 1901. Français retired in 1920, and for the remainder of his working life Caressa made instruments for the company under his own name. This lovely viola dates from this last period of Caressa’s working life.
Caressa & Français ran the most illustrious workshop in Paris in the early 20th century. They represent a direct line back through Gand & Bernardel to the most influential makers of the early 19th century, and their house style is the archetypal French style, crisp and sculptural. This very fine viola is a typical example, beautifully preserved with all its sharp lines unsullied! The condition is very good – there’s a well repaired pegbox crack to the A peg, a small wing crack to the treble f-hole, and two minor saddle cracks. The button has also been neatly repaired, and there’s a degree of wear to the treble c-bout edge. However, these are all minor issues.
Violas come in such a profusion of shapes and sizes, but here we have the classic French C20 viola, just over 40cm, quite deep in the ribs, and eminently playable. Although this is quite a powerful instrument, it has a soft and smooth quality that’s very attractive. I just hear Debussy when I play this viola – sophisticated, restrained, a little mysterious.
The tone is consistent throughout the range, always sonorous and never harsh.
Length of back 40.1cm
Certificate: R&M Millant-Deroux, Paris 1966
Click or tap an image to enlarge it. Click or tap again to supersize.