Product Review: Larsen Virtuoso Strings for Viola
Simply for Strings is Australian musicians’ first choice for violins, violas, cellos, basses, bows, strings, servicing and accessories. We love advising customers on everything string. Here at Simply for Strings we have a tendency to get quite excited about any new developments in the strings world, and when we heard Larsen were releasing their popular Virtuoso range for viola, our resident viola expert Kieran couldn’t wait to get his hands on them.
Larsen are known foremost for producing perhaps the most popular professional cello strings on the market. However, over the last decade the Danish company has been steadily expanding its options for upper string players, with their range for violin now boasting four set options: the clear and balanced Original; the smooth and warm Tzigane; the powerful Il Cannone range; and their most popular, the rich and projecting, yet clear and responsive Virtuoso strings. But despite producing the most popular viola A string on the market, the alto-clef readers among us have had much less choice from the company—that is until now, with the release of Larsen Virtuoso for viola.
With the Virtuoso viola strings, Larsen set out to “create a new offering for the viola D, G and C that complemented and mutually enhanced their tried and trusted A”, aiming for a “golden, open and clear tone with a nice balance of warmth and brilliance”. And I’m pleased to say, I believe they’ve succeeded. From the moment I put the strings on my 2013 Helge Grawert viola, Larsen’s trademark clarity of sound was apparent, but never overwhelming—particularly impressive as my instrument naturally leans toward a clear and bright sound to begin with. Though not the most quickly settling strings, they achieved a respectable tonal stability within less than an hour, and within a few days had settled completely, with the power and richness of the strings becoming fully apparent during this time.
Indeed, the set perfectly complements the original A provided, yet the lower strings still have a hefty, full and well-projected sound. Though most obviously comparable to Pirastro’s Evah Pirazzi Gold viola strings, I find the Virtuosos provide slightly more responsive than the Evah Golds, particularly on the C, and a slightly clearer and more neutral tone colour, yet still backed up by more than enough richness and power.
However, though I do find the strings to be slightly more responsive than Evah Pirazzi Golds, the response time of the Virtuosos is perhaps my only gripe with the set. It can prove hard to balance richness with playability, but having just switched from Thomastik’s new PI Peter Infeld strings, I miss the remarkably immediate note production that the PIs provided. This is particularly apparent when in high positions on the lower strings, where the Virtuosos developed a slight “muffle” and resistance that the PIs manage to avoid. I also find Virtuoso D could be just a tad more open-sounding too. But as an owner of a viola which is on the small and clear side, I believe these hold-ups shouldn’t be as apparent to a majority of violists.
Indeed, my last month with the Larsen Virtuoso strings has led me to believe they could well be the most universally suitable professional viola string on the market. They’re rich and well-projecting, balanced with a tasteful amount of clarity and elegance. They’re clearer and more responsive than Evah Pirazzi Golds, and give me the extra warmth I was missing from the Peter Infeld PI strings.
Plus they come with perhaps the most versatile viola A on the market, meaning I don’t need to swap out the A for a different option, as is the case with nearly every other set of strings I try. This final aspect also makes them one of the better value-for-money professional viola string sets on the market, providing yet one more reason to give these fantastic strings a go.
About the Author: Kieran Welch is a professional violist, holding an MPhil in viola performance from the University of Queensland. The set of medium Larsen Virtuoso Viola strings he reviewed were provided as a complementary yet obligation-free trial set by the company.