Leonardo Da Vinci’s Viola Organista Finally Heard After 500 Years

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.

via Ben Jarvis, smh

21 thoughts on “Leonardo Da Vinci’s Viola Organista Finally Heard After 500 Years

  1. Kinda like a cross between a bowed psaltry and a hurdy-gurdy. That’s a classy presentation and a double-impressive building project. I would not expect to get the full level of expression he achieves when he has to pedal it from moment to moment, but as with the glass harmonica, I can synthesize a fair portion of it. Tweaking your envelopes carefully can give you some of the singing quality that makes them sweet to hear. Besides, you can’t play this little beauty at a Guitar Center near you. Building your own in-house is the next logical step up from what Slawomir did. I smell a classical release coming up.

  2. I suppose it would cost over 100,000 to make one of these in its elegant form…. And do you need to tune ever string before each session?

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