Great evening at Pieve San Giacomo. Wim Janssen is an excellent musician and a lover of contemporary violinmaking; in his wonderful music room we have started a very important, new activity: we would like to draw our attention to the sound of instruments, because we think it is one of the most relevant features; very often people talk about how instruments are made, while we are interested in playing them or hearing them played. Thanks to Wim's contribution, we are now in a position to do that. To begin this “adventure”, we were pleased to hear the sound of the viola made in 2010 by Riccardo Bergonzi, a Cremonese violin maker who carries out his activity in his very nice workshop in Cremona. Riccardo studied at the International Violinmaking School, got a school leaving certificate in 1979 and was awarded the “G. Marola” prize as best student of the year. He opened his workshop in 1980, at 45 via Garibaldi. He taught for 10 years at the Violinmaking School and has been working full time since 1990. He has also taken part in several competitions and was given awards and honourable mentions. Bergonzi pays particular attention to sound; in fact he loves defining his instruments as “sound sculptures”. Moreover, the immense response towards set up has made his workshop an international reference point. The viola chosen for the audition is one of the violinmaking maestro's own models, inspired by a 40 cm long Stradivari instrument. The bottom, the ribs and the scroll are made of good quality ripe maple wood, the front part is in spruce wood from Italian Val di Fiemme and the strings fitted are Evah Pirazzi. Playing a 40 cm viola well is a challenge and Riccardo is satisfied with his outcome. He says: “ I am convinced that Wim Janssen is the ideal musician to test this small viola, as besides being an excellent professional player, he also has long experience”. Janssen studied at Milan Music Academy, where he got his diploma in 1975. He has been not only a viola player, but also a regular violin player. He has been invited to perform in several concerts worldwide, mainly with the Cremona band Musica Insieme. He also was prima viola in the Parma Toscanini Orchestra, in Milan RAI (Italian Broadcasting TV channels), at Turin Teatro Regio and Mantova La Camera Orchestra. The room where Janssen tested the Bergonzi viola is 11 metre long, 6 metre wide and 3.30 metre high; the ceiling has the typical wooden beams. The evening is fresh and dry, the acoustics excellent. Wim started testing the viola through scales and arpeggios. Initially, the instruments sounded slightly “rigid”, in particular the D string, while A, G and C did not show any apparent problem. After warming the instruments up, the musician asked to modify the position of the soundbox. So Bergonzi, with light touches, slightly loosened the tension by placing the soundbox further from the bridge and, as a consequence, greatly improved the sound. Wim then played in a more relaxed way : he executed Bach's Third Suite expressing a definitely positive opinion, which pointed out the easy handling of a small viola (he usually plays a 42.8 cm one) and the perfect balance between strings. “The instrument plays as a viola without nose shades, which are sometimes considered as positive features (while Wim thinks they are a drawback) . The tone is warm, the deep notes well-defined; the A is very pleasant and never obtruding, the sound never falters even when attacked”. Janssen palyed with intensity for 40 minutes using a Hill bow. I was struck by his enthusiasm and at the same time his seriousness; we have all been charmed by his ability. Our reviews will never be “complaisant”; as a matter of fact, we will try to evaluate the instruments in the fairest way, even on the basis of the musician's experience. What we have written can be perfectly verified : the viola can in fact be played if you make a reservation at Riccardo's workshop at 45, Via Garibaldi- Cremona. You can e-mail to agree on date and time. Till the next event!