Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Leonardo da Vinci's Harpsichord Viola Debuts in NYC Thursday Morning

Nicole Tubman sends along the following info about a fascinating event coming up this Thursday morning at Discover Times Square Exposition in NYC, featuring Leonardo da Vinci's hypothetical-but-never-built Harpsichord Viola:
On Thursday, December 10, at 11am, to mark the unveiling of Leonardo da Vinci’s harpsichord-viola designed over 500 years ago, Piffaro, the Renaissance band, will play a short concert featuring the never-before-built musical instrument at Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop located at the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York.

Da Vinci’s Harpsichord-Viola - now a permanent part of the exhibition --combines the keyboard of the harpsichord and the technology and sound of the viola. It’s unknown whether Leonardo da Vinci ever actually built the Harpsichord-Viola, but he left detailed designs in his Codex Atlanticus (1493-1495). This model, created using authentic materials by Leonardo3, was built to da Vinci’s specifications, enabling walking musicians to play what amounted to a stringed instrument. A belt would allow the player to wear it and play while walking in processions. The internal “bow” grazes the strings when the keys are depressed and is continuously propelled by a motor activated by the musician's leg as he walks. Further, unlike a viola, which essentially plays one or two strings at a time, the harpsichord-viola can play chords, like on a piano, which didn't exist in Leonardo's time.

This special performance by Piffaro for exhibit ticket holders will take place on Thursday, December 10 at 11 am. The performance kicks off a special “Meet the Curators” weekend, where Massimilano Lisa and Edoardo Zanon, of the Milan-based Leonardo3 will be available from Noon to 6 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (December 11-13) to talk about the Exhibit and
demonstrate the Harpsichord Viola.

Collaborative Piano Blog readers: if you're going to this event, be sure to use the promo code VIOLA at the box office...

(Thanks, Nicole!)


  1. Fantastico...and I'll resist making some 'running-joke' about the Viola!!

  2. WOW! I'd love to see that in person! I'm Minne-snowed-a in!