The classical and new music community was surprised a few weeks ago with the grand unveiling of Leonardo Da Vinci’s conceptual string organ at the 2013 International Royal Cracow Piano Festival in Poland.
Though Da Vinci never created technical blueprints or an actual instrument, his idea for this string organ (coined viola organista by Da Vinci himself) was developed 500 years ago and it is said that he never created the instrument himself. Only recently was it brought to life by enthusiasts.
Polish pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki premiered his version of the instrument on October 18th of this year to huge critical acclaim and viral recognition. Though it seems like this is the premiere of the viola organista, records show that a version was crafted in 1575, and more recently versions of this instrument were created in the early 1990’s and 2000’s.
The instrument works similar to a hurdy gurdy in that there is a constantly rotating wheel that acts as a bow. Each key corresponds to a string that is lowered to the wheel, producing the string-like tone audible in the video. The video below shows this carefully assembled instrument in concert – and it sounds fantastic.