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My Instruments

renaissance models





A pre-Renaissamce Viola d'arco based on a altarpiece by a Ferrarese artist Lorenzo Costa (c. 1460 - 1535) from the church of San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna, Italy (Madonna in triumph and Saints, 1497). There are represented two angel musicians who are playing two different in size "da gamba" viols. One is smaller and the other slighttly larger with an unusual long neck. It's one of the first representation of a bowed viol in Italian art.

Those 5-string viola d'arco are instruments between a Medieval fiddle and the viola da gamba. It's reccomended for playing music of Quattrocento. The smaller version has a string length of 54 cm, the larger one has 66 cm.





viola da braccio

A five strings instrument made after an original of Hieronymus Brensius Bononiensis conserved in Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna, Italy. The belly is from quartered spruce with typical renaissance c-holes with wooden walnut insert rose. Back, ribs and neck are from walnut as wel as fingerboard and tailpiece which have also boxwood stripe veneerig. Pegs are from boxwood. The string length is 32 cm. A typical Renaissance instrument suitable for those ensembles who perform Italian music of the 16th and 17th century (eg. Orlando di Lasso and Claudio Monteverdi). Comparing with a violin it has a closer sound to viola da gamba and can be easly used for singers accompaniment.








A treble viol after J. Maria da Brescia is an example of an guitar-shaped viola da gamba. The carved scroll is in typical Venetian style. It belongs to the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford







Reconstruction of the alto-sized viol after Hainrich Ebert belongs to the Royal Conservatory of Brussels (inv. nr. 1402 - cat. Mahillon). It was a part of the huge collection of musical instruments of the Venetian count Pietro Antonio Luigi Correr . The almost entire ancient collection was acquired by the first curator of Brussels' museum Victor Ch. Mahillon (1841-1924) at the end of the last century ( probably in 1886). Clck here for a larger picture.




Another example of a tenor-sized renaissance viol. The original made by Antonio Ciciliano who is recorded in some Venetian documents in 1566, 1569 and 1581. It belongs to the Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna (inv. n 1761)





small bass

A 6-stringed small bass instrument with approximately 64 cm string length based on the original made by Batista Ciciliano, son of Antonio, from Brussels Museum. According to Silvestro Ganassi (Lettione seconda, Venezia 1543) was 'messer Ioanbattista Cicilian' a virtuoso gamba player. This instrument could be eventually used as a viola bastarda ( Muziekinstrumentenmuseum Brussel, cat. Mahillon n 1424).





An example of bass-sized renaissance Brescian viol which belongs to the Hill Collection of Musical Instruments at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The maker is Gasparo Bertolotti, better known as Gasparo da Salo` (1540-1609). It has a string length of 66 cm and a carved insert rose on the soundboard. The carved scroll is in a typical Brescian style. In shape it is very close to those made by his son Francesco from the Musikinstrumentenmuseum in Leipzig ( transformed in 13 stringed lira da gamba at the end of 19th century).



viola bastarda

The reconstruction of a viola bastarda according to German music teorist and composer Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) for whom " A good player can set himself to play madrigals or whatever else he likes on this instrument; with great effort he can produce the harmony and counterpoint of all the parts, playing up in the cantus, down in the bass... decorating the whole piece with divisions " Syntagma Musicum (De Organographia, Wolfenbüttel 1619), This instrument is unlike baroque build in a strict renaissance way without soundpost and bass-bar and can even in this way produce a strong and quite equal sound on all registers. The type of sound of this instrument (like music) is totally different comparing with baroque viols and the quantity of sound is even bigger.

click on the picture to listen the bastarda sound

from a concert of July 8th 2006 in Salle, Italy, played on it by Wieland KUIJKEN (Recercada quarta from D. Ortiz, Trattado de glosas, Recercadas for solo gamba, Roma 1553)






lira da braccio


A copy of an anonymus Italian instrument of the 16 th century which belongs to the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. Lira da braccio was a very popular bowed instrument in the Renaissance used by Italian poet-musicians to accompany improvised recitations.







lira da gamba & lirone

Lira da gamba and lirone were one of the most important bowed instrument of the Italian Renaissance. Because of the size they were played between knees.The instruments can combine both sound of chords and freely ringing strings (harp-like sound).

The lira da gamba can be rebuilt as a smaller instrument with 11 strings with tuning given by Scipione Cerreto (Della prattica musica vocale et strumentale, Napoli 1601) who call an instrument with 11 strings "strumento imperfetto" - not complete instrument, since does not have all chords. When this book was published Cerreto mentioning that only in Napoli were 5 excellent lira da gamba player (suonatori eccellenti di Lira da gamba) .





As the name already clearly says is lirone (Lirone perfetto mentioned by Praetorius or Arciviolatalira from Lodovico Zacconi, Prattica di Musica - 1592) a larger version of the lira da gamba. Because of lower tuning is much more useful instrument for continuo playing without being supported by another bass instrument.

Zacconi mentions this instrument among those which plays several parts together "... che sonano piu parte insieme". Any of original instrument has survived (there are some end-19th century works called lira da gamba in museum of Leipzig in Germany...see detailed informations) so I decide to reconstruct it on the base of German music teorist and composer Michael Praetorius' (1571-1621) Syntagma Musicum (De Organographia, Wolfenbüttel 1619), who offer us a set of carefully drawn, cut and printed woodscuts of some instruments mentioned in the text with exact measurements which consists of a ruler at the bottom of each page indicating a scale marked in Brunswick feet. This measurement was in use at the court of Brunswick (Germany) where Praetorius was at the service of the Duke, first as organist and later as kapellmaister and secretary. Praetorius' Syntagma Musicum has been long recognised as a reliable source for knowledge of late Renaissance musical instruments. The lirone is rebuild with 14-strings with tuning given by Praetorius and without soundpost. The bridge is rather flat which allows to play full chords. The effect of sound is increased by sympathetic vibrations of the strings.

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