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

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

  1. I love this new analog instrument but i didn’t understood if it has cv/gate or midi control in/out, i would prefer usb.

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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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  4. Thank you Mr and Mrs Synthopia for posting that kind of article.
    This is very valuable / instructive.
    Thx !

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