The Steffen Nowak "Cutaway" Viola
This cut away model was commissioned by the violinist and viola player Deborah Hamilton. The general idea behind the cutaway design on larger violas is to facilitate the left hand shift in higher positions, which can be difficult for players with a "normal" hand span.
The cutaway model therefore can be of a fairly broad width which, combined with a manageable string length of 14 3/4" (375mm), makes a comfortable instrument, particular for those players who have difficulties with the 16 1/2" model or bigger.
The choice of wood for this viola was a deeply figured one piece slab back of English sycamore with matching ribs. The front was made from a fine straight grained piece of alpine spruce. The slightly softer slab back makes for a good response with a fine tenor quality, yet having strength and projection.