Paul Bailly is the only maker from the Vuillaume shop who continued to work well into the 20th century, and his style is more individual and fluid than that of his co-workers like Maucotel, Derazey or Silvestre. This slightly undersized viola is a great example of his work in near-mint condition.
It’s always a thrill to see an instrument which has been as well looked after as this viola. After well over a century it’s still looking sharp – there are no cracks or repairs, the varnish is beautifully preserved, and the edges and corners are undisturbed.
The style is very characteristic of Paul Bailly – quite a heavily reeded front, a thin slightly greenish varnish reminiscent of Postiglione, fine neat workmanship which stops short of being clinical, and f-holes which are “just so”.
The tone of this viola is very distinctive. The first thing you notice is its smoothness – lots of sustain, and a lovely cushioned quality. This isn’t a big bodied instrument, and the sound is on the bright side of the spectum, but it’s still rich and full. It has a real story-telling quality too – very easy to sculpt the sound and to come up with new ways of expressing things.
After a century or more of professional violists crippling themselves on Berlioz-approved monsters, the pendulum is swinging back towards smaller instruments. Probably for orchestral players the big pedal C is still essential, but for chamber musicians and soloists the inreased articulacy and definition of this size of instrument are a real plus point. You can fly around it with great ease, and you won’t end up in a truss or a neck brace.
Dimensions: length of back 39.85cm, vibrating string length 36.3cm
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Interested in this Paul Bailly Viola?
Take a look at our other small violas.