This is a superb English viola by James & Henry Banks, sons of the great Benjamin Banks. Late 18th century England was really the golden period for smaller violas, and makers such as the Banks, Betts, Powell etc succeeded in making instruments which offer a rich viola sound in a smaller body.
This particular instrument has a back length of 38.2cm (15”), but it combines this with a broad outline, deep ribs, and pronounced lateral arching, giving a significant volume of air. The condition is excellent – there are a couple of neatly repaired cracks to the right of the table, otherwise no damages. The original varnish is near-pristine, and the corners and edges are very clean.
For a player looking for a big sonorous tone from a minimal back length, this viola really takes the biscuit. There’s plenty of depth on the C, the volume and response are great throughout the range, and the overall sonic character is full and mature. Easy to play, very comfortable for someone switching between violin and viola, but still a distinctive viola voice … and it’s a beauty!
Length of back: 38.2cm
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