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MMD > Archives > November 2013 > 2013.11.24 > 01Prev  Next

Viola Organista Instrument by Leonardo da Vinci
By Ingmar Krause

Hello MMD,  only due to a response I read yesterday was my attention
brought to this article by Joyce Brite.  However, reading news articles
is sometimes very deceptive!

> An instrument invented by Leonardo da Vinci more than 500 years was
> never actually built -- until now.  The Viola Organista was built by
> Slawomir Zubrzycki using da Vinci's design.

This is flat out wrong and not what real history is showing us.  Da
Vinci's design has been put into reality several times over through
the years.  Even Slawomir himself admits to that in one of the videos
on YouTube.

The instrument is simply known under a variety of other names:

 - Geigenwerk (Violinwork)
 - Streichklavier (Strings-Piano)
 - Bogenklavier (Bow-Piano)

An interesting article about all of that can be found under the
following URL: 

The first proven example of such an instrument dates back to 1575(!) by
a chap not far from my own hometown, Nuremberg: Hans Haiden (1536-1613)
There is, however -- as in many instances is the case -- a grain of
truth in all of this:

> How wonderful to hear at last an instrument that was invented by da Vinci
> more than 500 years ago!

The instrument built in Poland is currently the only instrument of its
kind that is performed on.  The only other known such instrument in
existence today is in a museum in Brussels: a Spanish imitation of the
instruments of its time, built by Truchado Raymundo anno 1625.  See also 

Why this instrument is not being performed on much should be quite
evident.  What is a much more intriguing question is why did this fad
never really fully catch on?  These instruments should be all over the
place but they aren't.

Before anybody else points this out, there are various differences
between even the instrument in the museum and the freshly built one:

- the wheels in the museum piano are cranked by a second person at
the very end of the piano, while Slawomir is using a foot-pedal action
to do this himself (having therefor himself also some more influence on
the speed of the bow-action);

- the wheels in the museum are covered with parchment, while Slawomir
is using horse-hair;

- the strings in the museum piano are gut-strings (they tried updating
to metal strings, but they sounded too sharp) and it is not clear what
Slawomir is using...

It certainly is most interesting, as the action recalls somewhat what
Hupfeld did with its Hupfeld Phonoliszt Violina -- or any automatic
violins, for that matter.  Also there is a crank-shaft involved,
in so far it is a somewhat mechanical instrument; alas, unless someone
convinces Slawomir to have a go with a push-up player, it ain't

... Shall we move on?

Ingmar Krause
Surrey, British Columbia, Canada 

(Message sent Sun 24 Nov 2013, 07:05:12 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  da, Instrument, Leonardo, Organista, Vinci, Viola

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