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Violin & Viola d'amore maker

Viola d'Amore made for Henri Casadesus

This instrument comes with a history attached. According to the label, it was: ‘Made for Made for Henri Casadesus, copied from his own original Eberle, a gift of the author. by Chardon Pere et Fils 1936.’

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CLICK for images of my copy of this instrument

It was later played by his niece and currently I'm lucky enough to own it. I have used it for the last 10 years as a reference instrument for all my work on viola d'amore.

The back measures 420mm the string length is 368mm (modern standard viola string length)

The front, back and rib corners have very fine ebony bindings as well as purfling on the front. Unusually for a modern instrument, it has a baroque style peg-mounted tailpiece.

The original has a solid ebony fingerboard. I would hazard that Chardon must have considered that the solid ebony fingerboard was a great modern improvement despite the weight. I prefer to make a maple baroque style fingerboard with an ebony veneer which is around 50% lighter.

In the  image below (my copy not the original), it is just possible to see that the neck is subtly hollowed on the sides to reduce the circumference. The fingerboard is straight but the sides of the maple neck are concave. This is also a feature of the original.

Apart from the fingerboard I make very few alterations  to the model. I have moved the positions of the nuts on the head for the sympathetic strings to soften the angles, which helps the symps to slip. Chardon used ebony for the sympathetic nuts, while I make them wider, and I use bone or mammoth ivory for all the nuts. Ebony can compress and grab at the strings, especially wound strings, but bone is hard enough not to do this.

Here is a recording of my copy of the Chardon built for and played by Dieter Binkert. In this case it is set up with special Casadesus Tuning.  Dieter has recorded all 24 preludes on his YouTube channel. To hear more of this instrument, see my article Casadesus Tuning