A Contemporary Viola by William Balmforth, 2021. 16 3/8”
William Balmforth grew up in Seattle surrounded by musical instruments in a house with his parents’ violin shop attached. He started playing cello at age ten, studying with Pierre Fournier’s teaching assistant Kristi Bjarnason. After earning a degree from University of Washington in Environmental Science, he started building instruments in 2017 under the guidance of his parents Alan and Sarah Balmforth. William endeavors to make warm, open, and powerful instruments. He builds based on classical Cremonese models, as well as modern and original designs that seek to make the player’s experience comfortable and undemanding.
This 16 3/8” viola was made by William in 2021 for Cohen Violins and represents not just one but two generations of the most successful innovators in ergonomic instrument construction. Though similar in concept to Iizuka’s “Maple Leaf” pattern, this model is a more traditional, yet carefully asymmetric approach to a cut-away shoulder viola; imagined for comfort and effortless facilitation in the upper registers: achieved through a straighter, less taxed wrist and corresponding hand frame, free now for greater pronation and flexibility in vibrato from the first knuckle. The craftsmanship is clean, effortless, and well considered, full of personality and with a marvelously textured varnish of luminous translucence and shading. It’s sound is even across the strings and more voluminous in the upper registers, immediately responsive, with both flexibility and clarity.