Da Vinci’s viola organista debuts … 500 years after its design
posted at 12:00 pm on November 30, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
It looks and plays like a piano, but it sounds like a string quartet — and it took 500 years before anyone built it. Leonardo da Vinci’s flight of fancy in designing a hammerless piano, called a “viola organista,” has come to life half a millenium after da Vinci designed it, thanks to a Polish concert pianist and musical engineer. It couldn’t have sounded any better in da Vinci’s head (via Brad Thor and Dan Gainor):
A bizarre instrument combining a piano and cello has finally been played to an audience more than 500 years after it was dreamt up Leonardo da Vinci.
Da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance genius who painted the Mona Lisa, invented the ‘‘viola organista’’ – which looks like a baby grand piano – but never built it, experts say.
The viola organista has now come to life, thanks to a Polish concert pianist with a flair for instrument-making and the patience and passion to interpret da Vinci’s plans.
Full of steel strings and spinning wheels, Slawomir Zubrzycki’s creation is a musical and mechanical work of art.
‘‘This instrument has the characteristics of three we know: the harpsichord, the organ and the viola da gamba,’’ Zubrzycki said as he debuted the instrument at the Academy of Music in the southern Polish city of Krakow.
Update: Be sure to read Zombie’s comments and links. This isn’t the first time the viola organista has been built. Looks like the newspaper didn’t do its homework.