Viola by Bernard Bossert, Geneva, Switzerland, 2015

 
 
 
 


Acquisition — Custom Made
Several of my colleagues play instruments by local maker Bernard Bossert, and I've found his violas in particular to sound very impressive. So when I finally admitted that my cheap factory beginner viola was hurting my career, asking him became obvious. We are surrounded by fantastic makers in this early 21st century, why not partake in this incredible artistic emulation? Since my husband's family bears a glorious coat of arms dating from the Middle Ages, we thought it would be fun to have it pictured on the viola, following the heritage of decorated violins by Andrea Amati for the King of France in the 1500s. Bernard was graciously open to the idea.
The spruce for the top comes from Rougemont, in the Swiss Alps.
After some brainstorming (paint? above or under the varnish?) we opted for laser engraving with ebony mastic filling. But first, we had to choose the pattern and wood...

Tone — Sonorous
The tone realm of this famous Andrea Guarneri pattern is exactly what we like about the viola: melancholic, dark and full, but without the bitterness or "wiry" tinge that can make some violas sound dry. It incorporates the best tonal qualities of the violin and cello, enlightening the middle voice in the string family. Now this specific Bossert sounds on the quick and bright side, scintillating, strong, supple and extremely responsive.
Roughing out the arching of the back.
When selecting spruce for the top, we tapped and chose the sharpest sounding board. I had heard so many violas sound late... I wanted instantaneous emission. And it worked! This viola sounds so reactive, clear, free, eloquent and big, it's unbelievable.
The maker added under the label, "Made after a viola by A. Guarneri Cremona 1690."
Its carrying power doesn't come from a specific overtone distribution, from a tightly pushed setup, from a boosting bass side, or who knows what trick. It's just very loud, in all its frequencies, as if someone had turned up the volume.
Bernard Bossert varnishing this viola, first coat.

Maker — Traditional
The coat of arms de Brossin de Méré consists of a blue (horizontal stripes) chevron on silver (blank), topped by a marquis crown. The lions symbolize courage. Its Latin motto "virtus aspera vincit" means courage overcomes adversity.
Born in Geneva, Switzerland, Bernard Bossert learned his craft at the excellent Swiss School of Violin Making in Brienz under Hugo Auchli and Ulrich Zimmermann. Since 1977, his workshop at the musical heart of Geneva — near the Victoria Hall, the Grand Theater and the Conservatory of Music — has catered for the city's discerning strings players. Several musicians from the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande play his instruments. Some Conservatory students have gone on to win prizes at international competitions playing his violas. It's kind of funny that the stereotype of Swiss quality and discretion thoroughly apply to this luthier. Faithful to ancestral practice, he works by hand with the simplest tools, alone, following proven models and techniques. He builds about two instruments per year.

In accordance with its model, this viola scroll exhibits a somewhat upright spiral and cello-style shoulders rendering a noble stand. To ease playability, Bernard set a T-shaped nut with strings slightly close together.

Bibliography
More about Bernard Bossert:
  • Bernard Bossert's Website
  • "Luthiers de Suisse Romande - Quarante-neuf Portraits" by Antonin Scherrer, Revue Musicale de Suisse Romande, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1999, pages 49-51. 
  • "Die Geigen- und Lautenmacher vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart" by Willibald von Lütgendorff, volume 3 by Thomas Drescher, Verlegt Hans Schneider, Tutzing, Germany, 1990, page 65.
  • "Dictionnaire Universel des Luthiers" by René Vannes, volume 3 by Claude Lebet, Les Amis de la Musique, Brussels, 1985, page 20.
Measurements & Data
Maker: Bernard Bossert (1953-)
Made in: Geneva, Switzerland
Year: 2015
Number: 95
Made For: Isabelle de Brossin de Méré (1971-)
Back Length: 408 mm *
Upper Bouts: 193 mm *
Middle Bouts: 129 mm *
Lower Bouts: 235 mm *
Stop Length: 218 mm
Rib Height at Neck: 35 mm *
Rib Height at Endpin: 37 mm *
Thickness of the Top: 3.3 mm
Thickness of the Back: 4.1 mm
F-hole Length: 86.3 mm *
Distance Between F-holes: 49 mm *
Distance Edge-Purfling: 4 mm
Scroll Width: 44.5 mm *
Weight: 533 grams
Label:
Bernard  Bossert
Genève  2015
Fait d'après un alto de
A. Guarneri Crémone 1690

Label Translation:
Bernard  Bossert
Geneva  2015
Made after a viola by
A. Guarneri Cremona 1690

Brand: "B. BOSSERT GENEVE" branded inside the back, top, and on the bridge.
Inlay: de Brossin de Méré coat of arms in the upper back, with motto "VIRTUS ASPERA VINCIT."
Condition: Brand new.
Certificate: Bernard Bossert, Geneva, Switzerland, 2015.

* measured with a caliper

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