Do you have any advice for aspiring violists?
I would recommend trying to follow Maestro Pinchas Zukerman. Watch his videos, observe how he plays the viola, see him in live concerts if possible. His approach to viola, to me, is the most ideal. I would also recommend every violist watch the video of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante performance by Igor (violin) and David (viola) Oistrakh and pay special attention to David Oistrakh’s beautiful and effortlessly effective vibrato on viola.
I think that the viola is more complicated to being played well than the violin in many ways, simply because the viola is not a well-proportioned instrument. Viola is supposed to be very big for what our register is. It developed over time in Italy. In the early days of the so-called string quartet, one small viola played alto, and the big viola played tenor. Some of the violas today had to be cut down to be able to be played. The commonly used viola size today is not very suitable for the register it covers. I suspect it killed a lot of the overtones of the instrument in comparison with violin and the cello that has a much more natural and easier way to produce a good, pleasing sound. We violists must be more sensitive about how to create a good sound on the viola. To achieve such ability, one has to be very sensitive at all the time about the relationship between the pressure, contact point, and bow speed. I learned so much from Pinchas Zukerman’s bow arm concept and approach. Anything he talked about and demonstrated in playing the viola is what I will always follow.