John Wilkinson was a highly talented English maker of the early 20th century, best known for the copies of classical instruments he made for J&A Beare. This viola is a lovely example of his copy style.
Astonishingly, John Wilkinson (1889-1961) made a career as a violin-maker in spite of very limited use of his left hand. There’s a great piece about Wilkinson by Albert Cooper (published in The Strad, July 1985) which tells the whole story.
This viola is typical of the instruments Wilkinson produced for J&A Beare, demonstrating very credible antiqueing, and showing the characteristic reddish Beares tint to the neck. The condition is outstanding, with no damage and very little wear.
It’s quite common for people who start out as players to turn to making after a catastrophic injury. It’s also an unavoidable fact that you can’t become a great maker unless you have a great ear. This is Wilkinson’s story in a nutshell, and our viola bears witness to his rare gift for sound. It’s a powerful and rich instrument with a great response, and with the all-important “cushion” so beloved of orchestral players. The voice seems to be located deep within the instrument, yet it projects with ease. Beautifully balanced from the low C right into the dusty reaches of the fingerboard, this viola would knock a good few fine C18 Italians off the top table.
Length of back 40.4cm, vibrating string length 369mm
Certificate: John Dilworth, London 2017
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