This is a very attractive small viola made in Mittenwald in the early 1800s. It’s in good condition and it has surprisingly warm and full sound.

These smaller Mittenwald violas are very popular – they look good and they sound good. This example has the typical “one-piece” construction – one-piece front, one-piece back, one-piece bottom rib (though the bottom rib has been turned into a two-piece at a later date). It could have been made any time after 1800 but the lack of a scroll graft points more towards a date after 1820 or so.

The condition is generally very good but there are two small bending cracks in the ribs on the bass side, and there’s a button repair. Otherwise no cracks or damages and very little wear – the varnish is entirely original and very well preserved.

At 38cm I was expecting a much smaller sound – obviously an instrument of this size is never going to have the same character as a big viola, but it plays very well. The C string is gutsy, the middle register is warm and sonorous, and the upper register is quite solistic. It has a mature and rounded sound, but with a nice bite to the start of the note. It’s quite resistant, you can play with a strong bow, and it doesn’t seem to suffer from the flappiness of some smaller instruments.

All in all a very happy viola, and an ideal choice for a talented youngster or serious amateur.

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