I got to know Kazuko Matsusaka and her viola, attributed to Lorenzo Storioni, thorough our involvement with Yellow Barn and Eric Rosenblith’s summer International Music Institute in Fryeburg, Maine. I had expressed admiration for the simple, straight-forward approach to design and execution in this instrument, qualities I admire in Storioni’s work and which feel very congenial to my values and approach. The viola also exhibits Storioni’s willingness to use far less than perfect materials, a quality that intrigues me and refocuses the question of what makes an instrument good.
In 2004 Kazuko approached me about making a copy of her viola for her to use in the BSO while the original had some major work done. My opus #524 was the result; a close copy with the exception of not having the huge knot in the back of the original. The model has become a staple of my work because of its very comfortable 15 5/8” size and modeling, and excellent tone color range, with 8 violas finished and one still on the bench built on this form. I have used the model in explorations with unusual woods (birch, cherry, willow), in keeping with the conception of the model and Storioni’s aesthetic.
Anticipating retirement from the BSO, Kazuko has traded #524 back to me for a violin she can use in partnership with the original Storioni. It is interesting that she chose a copy of Arnold Steinhardt’s violin, a cut-down Storioni viola with an illustrative past. You can read more about my exploration of the Steinhardt Storioni violin here.
It is typical of my work that a first copy has more character and individual personality than subsequent instruments on the form. This is a very special instrument and I am pleased to make it available for a discerning player.