Zhu 907 Tertis Viola Review
We had been renting increasingly larger violas for a couple years, but this spring I started looking for a new viola to buy for my daughter. This would be her first “full-size” viola – one that she could play for at least several years, so I was looking for something that might match the quality of the well-aged rented instruments but on a more limited budget.
The pool of violas for sale in Winnipeg is pretty limited, and I had had some good experience with buying strings, accessories and bows online, so I so was ready to consider bringing in a couple of instruments from further away to try out.
I found Fiddleheads when looking up the maker of a line of instruments available though a local dealer. I liked the variety of violas at my price level, I liked that Rhiannon plays viola as well as violin, and I liked the kinds of things I read in the testimonials, so I sent off a message outlining what we were looking for and asking for recommendations.
Two days later I was treated to a generous couple of pages reviewing the potential best matches for us, and a month later we had a terrific viola – a Tertis style Ming Jiang Zhu model 907.
Over the space of three weeks we tried out every available viola in the city, and none sounded or felt right – they were hard to play, harsh sounding, or just hollow-sounding.
The Zhu was different.
Even in its box it was so elegant-looking with its warm brown colour and jujube fittings. The neck is particularly slender and light so it’s easy to hold up for a long time. And the sound was great from the start – smooth and warm across all the strings and in higher positions, and responsive with strong and full projection (not just loud)– just what we were looking for!
My daughter’s teacher was impressed with several of the instruments we had brought for her to hear, and this one was, hands-down, the best of the lot.
For me the next test came when, less than two months later, she was playing a duet with one of the leading violists in the city and to my ear there was no really obvious difference in tonal quality between her new viola and his larger and more valuable instrument.
Back in orchestra and ensembles this fall, it’s great to hear her lone viola richly filling out the bottom end and support her as she tackles increasingly complex repertoire. My daughter feels that, over the four months she’s been playing her new viola, the sound has warmed up even more, especially on the C string, the open string notes ring even more, and it resonates more when played or sympathetically when other instruments are played nearby.
I was really impressed by Rhiannon’s warm personal style, and investment in the process, balanced with practical business sense – it really was the next best thing to actually being in the store! When it’s time to move to a more advanced instrument, we’re sure to be back to Fiddleheads and to the Zhu violas!
- Ala, Winnepeg, Manitoba