ORANGE — I've always found the viola to be the most mysterious and misunderstood member of the orchestra. It doesn't have front-and-center showboat status of the violin. Or the slippery slope of sound from a sliding trombone. Or the lyricism of a solo oboe's seemingly endless phrasing.
So when I asked Bob Becker, the principal viola for the Pacific Symphony since 1982, how he chose to play the mystifying viola, he laughed.
"It was actually pretty simple," he said. "Look at my wingspan."
Becker is 6 feet 4.
"You're in the fourth grade and somebody puts a violin in your hands and you kinda wrap around it like Ichabod Crane," he recalled.
So the violin seemed too small. But he said the others — cello and bass — seemed too big to lug around. So it boiled down to the viola, with its larger body and middle-ranged sound.
For Becker, 60, his classical training started in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn. Though the Music City is better known for its country music, a music academy there served him well.