This video captures a performance by Slawomir Zubrzycki on the Viola Organista – an instrument originally designed by Leonardo da Vinci 500 years ago.
The keyboard combines elements of the harpsichord, organ and viola da gamba. The performer pumps a pedal that turns a crankshart. When keys are depressed, turning wheels press against strings, creating the sound of a string ensemble.
The instrument was apparently never realized in da Vinci’s day, but is reminiscent of the Wheelharp that we covered earlier in the year.
Check out the performance demo – and let us know what you think of the Viola Organista!
Update: There’s debate among musicologists about the accuracy of calling this modern instrument a version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Viola Organista.
According to Professor Edmond Johnson, this instrument would be more accurately described as a reconstruction of the instrument described as a ‘Geigenwerk/GeigenInstrument, oder GeigenClavicymbel’, in the second volume of Michael Praetorius’s Syntagma Musicum. Praetorius credits the instrument’s invention to Hans Haiden of Nuremberg.