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Viola, alto member of the violin family, having four strings tuned c g d1 a1 (c = C below middle C; a1 = A above middle C). About 2 to 7 cm (1 to 3.5 in) longer than the violin, and tuned a fifth lower, the viola varies more in size than do the violin and cello. Most violas are resonant and mellow in the lower range and have rich, full sounds in the middle and upper ranges. The earliest surviving examples are two fairly large violas by the Italian builder Gasparo da Sal?. Used prominently in such early works as the opera Orfeo (1607) by Claudio Monteverdi, the viola in the late 17th and 18th centuries took a secondary role, and smaller models prevailed. With the viola's resurgence in compositions such as the symphony for viola and orchestra Harold in Italy (1834) by Hector Berlioz, and other solo works by Brahms and Schumann, large violas again predominated. But since the 18th century, the viola's best known role has been its place in chamber ensembles, most notably of all in the string quartet.

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