Thursday, July 23, 2015

Leonardo da Vinci Still Up
to His Old Tricks

It's a Cello with keys-- designed 150 years before the "Piano"

A bizarre instrument combining a piano's layout with keys, and a cello has finally been played to an audience more than 500 years after it was dreamt up by 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.  The flat bed of its interior is lined with golden spruce. Sixty-one gleaming steel strings run across it, similar to the inside of a baby grand.  Each is connected to the keyboard, complete with smaller black keys for sharp and flat notes.

But unlike a piano, it has no hammered dulcimers. Instead, there are four spinning wheels wrapped in horse-tail hair, like violin bows.

The effect is a sound that da Vinci dreamt of, but never heard; there are no historical records suggesting he or anyone else of his time built the instrument which he designed.

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