Stephen Barber & Sandi Harris, Lutemakers

Catalogue and Price List 2014

1  Six course lutes 8  Gallichone/mandora, colascione
2  Seven and eight course lutes 9  Mandolino
3  Basslutes 10  Continuo instruments
4  Ten course lutes, 9-course lutes 11 Renaissance and Baroque guitars
5  Wire-strung instruments 12 Vihuela, viola da mano
6  Eleven and Twelve course lutes 13 Student Lutes
7 Thirteen course lutes  14 Footnotes

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Continuo instruments

(including liuto attiorbato types)

The ongoing debate over the precise naming of the various lutes with extended necks makes life interesting for the modern lutemaker, and confusing sometimes for the player. We are basically using the terms described by Robert Spencer in his paper " Chitarrone. theorbo and archlute " (Early Music, October 1976) with some revisions, in the following descriptions. We are still evaluating which historical models are most appropriate for which solo or continuo context, and as more instruments are examined and measured - an ongoing process - this list will be revised and updated.

We have extensive information on several instruments not included in this list; please enquire if there is a particular model you are interested in, which is not mentioned below.

We respectfully thank the late Robert Spencer, a good friend and inspiration in the study of long-necked lutes.


We'd like to open this page of the website with these two composite images, the first of which shows the body of a large multi-ribbed, ebony-backed chitarrone based on a 1614 instrument by Mattheus Buechenberg (the 43 ribs of black ebony being separated by holly lines 0.6mm thick):

 

This instrument is a copy of a Buechenberg chitarrone made using ebony for its 43 ribs (No. 11 below); the delicate but pronounced fluting of the ribs – a stylistic and characteristic feature of large multi-ribbed backed lutes – is clearly visible in the image above.


The second composite image shows details of a version we built in 2004 of an original chitarrone made by Christoph Koch in Venice in 1650:

This instrument's triple rosette is closely based upon the Koch original; the fingerboard points and curved triangular inlay in the lower soundboard are mammoth ivory edged with a fine ebony line, the sides of the upper neck are veneered with walnut, and the upper pegox itself is made of walnut. The chequerboard pattern on the front of the upper pegbox is made from snakewood and bone squares. The black-stained bridge is surmounted by an inlaid panel of snakewood edged with bone and ebony; the 15-rib back of this instrument ids made from ebony striped with ghostly-white holly staves.

This is a 'fully decorated' version of this particular model: the triple white/black/white edgings to the upper neck are here applied not only to the front – which we usually offer as 'standard' – but also to the rear of the upper neck, and sweep around the curves of the upper pegbox. The instrument has double stringing on the fingerboard and single diapasons (as the original has) with a 7x2 / 7x1 disposition, at 860mm stopped string length, tuned to a (at 415).


All of the instruments on this page of the website can be ordered with varying levels of decoration, all of which is stylistically appropriate to the original and based upon our extensive research and documentation.


Archlute, arciliuto

The 'classic' archlute string lengths are 670mm stopped, and 1400mm diapasons (as found on the Harz instrument below) the stringing being 6 double courses on the fingerboard plus 8 single diapasons. This usually means that the player wants the instrument set up with the 14th course as a high f#. However, many modern players have chosen to have 7 courses on the fingerboard, with the 7th course single, thus becoming the first 'diapason', and allowing the high f# to be played on the fingerboard, thereby allowing a good, rich, low F as the 14th course. Please let us know your preferences when ordering.


 

1. Own design

33 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard with inlaid bone panel line; ebony pegs with bone pips; triple rose; available with either flat or cambered fingerboard.
String length: 670mm (diapasons: 1440mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1 or 1x1, 5x2, 1x1 / 7x1
Pitch: f#' (g' with a' = 415 Hz)

£6000

This instrument is built on the body of an instrument labelled: 1551 / in Padova Vvendelio Venere / de Leonardo Tiefembrucker (Leipzig, Musikinstrument Museum, Nr. 492; formerly collection of Musikwissenschaftl. Instrumentenmuseum der Univ. Leipzig). It has a flattened profile, which makes it comfortable to hold for long periods of time (think of opera timescales !) and this shape also helps give the tone great clarity and projection. A very popular model.


2. Own design

27 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard with inlaid bone panel line; ebony pegs with bone pips; triple rose; available with either flat or cambered fingerboard
String length: 650mm (diapasons: 1400mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1 or 1x1, 5x2 1x1 / 7x1
Pitch: f#' or g' (can be tuned to g' with a' = 440 Hz)

£6000

A slightly smaller body than the instrument above, and useful when it is likely that a lot of work is done with ensembles who play at a' = 440 Hz. We recently supplied one of these to the Hochschule für Künste, Bremen, as well as to Stephen Stubbs, the professor of lute there.

The instrument above is owned by Stephen Stubbs, Bremen; this example has a rio rosewood back. A version of this instrument was delivered to the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, in February 2005.

The most recent version was bought by Alfonso Marin, a renaissance lute and continuo specialist based in Amsterdam; we delivered the instrument to Alfonso in Utrecht on Monday January 30th (on our way back from Vienna) in Le Marché, where you can buy freshly-squeezed orange juice, good food and damn fine coffee. A bit like Ed's Diner; Agent Cooper would probably approve. We've decided to add this model to the repertoire of instruments which we offer as being 'For Sale', so that from time to time, versions of it will become available:

Instruments available for sale now

Having had the opportunity to play the new instrument, Alfonso emailed us:

"Dear Stephen and Sandi, I wanted to write you before to inform you about the archlute, but I am having a very busy period trying to catch up with all the work I could not do when I was ill (just a few days after I met you, I got a terrible influenza). With the illness and all the work after it, I almost didn't have time to really try the instrument out. First of all, let me tell you that I love the instrument and I am sure it will serve me well for probably the rest of my professional career. The craftsmanship of the instrument is amazing and it is the best I have ever seen (sincerely). It gives me a lot of pleasure to own such a beautiful instrument. Concerning the sound, I am quite happy, having in mind that in only a few practice sessions the instrument has evolved amazingly well. At the beginning, I had a feeling of a certain stiffness in the sound that is gradually disappering, evolving into a much more colourful sound.

I like its clear, bright sound. Although I haven't had the opportunity to try it with other instruments in a concert or rehearsal siruation, I have the feeling that it will project well and will be clearly heard when playing with large ensembles. That was my main goal when I decided to purchase an archlute. I will keep on reporting as I get to know the instrument better".


3. After Martinus Harz, Rome 1665  (Edinburgh University, Reid School of Music)

43 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; triple rose; beautiful and unique bridge design with delicate, crescent-shaped ends; available with either flat or cambered fingerboard; this instrument has an almost semi-circular, full rounded body.
String length: 670mm (diapasons: 1440mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: f#'

£6400

This instrument was discovered in Geneva in 1969, in its original case, along with another, identical archlute by Harz. Some have speculated that its neck has been shortened; this is possible, but we tend to the opinion that it was built like this originally, intended primarily as a continuo archlute; this seems to be further suggested by the fact that a matching pair turned up together. Martin Harz trained with Mattheus Buechenberg in Rome. Measured and photographed by Stephen in May 1976.

In response to a statement quoted by Douglas Alton Smith in the Journal of the American Lute Society (Volume XXXII, 1999, on page 58) that – according to Lynda Sayce – the neck and pegbox design of this instrument is "identical" to that of the 1615 theorbo by Giovanni Tesler (No. 13, below) we would like to point out for the record that it is not identical, although there is a close resemblance (we have measured, photographed and extensively documented both instruments). The upper pegbox is a similar design; however, the long neck of the Harz is plain, whilst the Tesler has a distinctive and unusual 'moulding' carved along its sides, they resolve into the lower neck in a completely different manner and the handling, detailing and and carving of the lower pegbox differs markedly from one instrument to the other. Also, the Harz has 43 ribs, not 55 as stated in the article; a small point, perhaps, but worth noting.

There is simply not enough known for certain about the design of this type of long neck and pegbox arrangement to attribute it definitively to the early 18th Century and the Edlinger workshop, so it is wrong to state – as the article does – that the Harz in its current configuration dates from the same year as the Tesler's 'Edlinger' repair label; furthermore, the Harz is an archlute, not a theorbo! However, the shaping and resolution between the lower and upper necks of the rear surface of the Harz is extremely similar to that of the 'theatre theorbo' (No.22 below) two examples of which the whereabouts are currently known (three instruments are known to exist). This style can be seen in the image of No.2 (above). The Tesler upper neck, on the contrary, flows into the joint with the lower neck in a long, graceful curve, similar to that seen on many Venetian instruments (see No. 5 below).


4. After Magno dieffopruchar, Venice c.1610  (Vienna, Kunsthistorischesmuseum C45)

31 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard with inlaid bone panel line; ebony pegs; triple rose; also available with snakewood veneering of the upper neck and white stripes to the rear of the lower neck, as the original.
String length: 670mm (diapasons: 1420mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: f#'

from £6000 (yew ribs £800 extra)

This instrument seems to have survived in almost original condition. It has a rather small body, giving 10 frets to the neck, and is perhaps therefore more suitable for solo playing and small ensemble work than for continuo in larger ensembles.


5. After Matteo Sellas, Venice 1630  (Bologna, Museo Civico Bardini Nr.1748 - L.M.6)

33 ribs, in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; single rose.
String length: 640mm (diapasons: 1340mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: f#' or g'

from £6000 (yew ribs £600 extra)


An interesting archlute from the Sellas workshops, surviving in almost completely original condition, with a fairly small, flattened body profile. Perhaps more useful for solo playing rather than as a continuo instrument.

The instrument above is owned by Jonathan Brumley, Austin, Texas; it has a yew back.


6. After David Tecchler, Rome 1725  (Private collection)

15 ribs in ebony or rosewood with white (holly) spacers; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; snakewood panelled fingerboard with inlaid bone panel line; snakewood moulding around belly (original is tortoiseshell); ebony pegs; single rose.
String length: 710mm (diapasons: 1560mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: f' or e'

£6000

This instrument retains the basic layout of a Roman arciliuto, but has a longer body and a slightly longer stopped string length. The original is unusual in that its lower and upper necks are entirely veneered in tortoiseshell.

It is perhaps a suitable instrument for 18th Century archlute continuo, for Purcell and Handel, for example.


Chitarrone, theorbo

7. After Magno Diefobruchar, Venice 1608   (London, Royal College of Music Museum No. 26)

51 ribs in rosewood, snakewood or pernambuco, with holly spacers; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony pegs with bone collars and pips; ebony fingerboard with inlaid bone panel line; triple rose; inlaid mother-of-pearl heart in lower soundboard. Also available with multiple striped decoration to the upper neck and rear of the lower, as the original.
String length: 930mm (diapasons: 1700mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: g

from £7400

Apart from the bridge, this magnificent instrument seems to be in original condition, and it is probably the best-preserved example of Magnus Tieffenbrucker's continuo instruments, along with Vienna KHM C45 ( No.4 above). A fabulous, rich, full sound is produced, absolutely perfect for big chords and Monteverdi (if you have the reach !). The original drawings (by Ian Harwood) of this instrument were modified and updated by Stephen in 1979, following X-ray analysis.


8. After Magno dieffopruchar, Venice c.1610   (Stockholm, Nydahl Collection Kn26)

39 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; triple rose (the original has its rose painted burgundy red - apparently an original feature).
String length: 895mm (diapasons: 1700mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: a

from £7400 (yew ribs £800 extra; snakewood ribs £600 extra)

Extensive conservation work was carried out on this instrument by Stephen in 1987 in Stockholm, which involved removing the belly and X-raying the neck and pegbox joints. It seems to be in completely original condition (except for its missing bridge) and makes a very interesting comparison with other similar instruments by Tieffenbrucker.

The conservation yielded important information about Tieffenbrucker's construction methods, hitherto unknown, and made thorough and complete documentation possible.


9. After ' Magno dieffopruchar ....tia '  (Venice, c.1610)* (Private collection, Italy)

43 ribs in rosewood (or snakewood, as the original, to special order) with holly spacers; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; triple rose.
String length: 860mm (diapasons: 1690mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: a

from £7400 (snakewood ribs £600 extra)

This very interesting instrument had its original neck shortened, but probably sometime during its playing life rather than by a 19th Century faker or dealer. Although it has lost its original soundboard, nevertheless, we offer a reconstruction of it here because of its beautiful back - the original of which had ivory lines between its deeply-fluted snakewood ribs - and its intact upper neck & pegboxes. An elaborate decoration of little triangles of kingwood & ivory, arranged in closely-spaced rows over the rear surfaces of both necks, is complemented by a row of inlaid mother-of-pearl lozenges along the centrelines of the fingerboard and the front of the upper neck. We offer a version of this decorative scheme, with bone substituted for the ivory. £POA.

Conservation work we carried out on this instrument in our workshop in 1993 allowed us to thoroughly examine and document it. Part of the label inside is missing, presumably torn away by an earlier repair (*).


10. After Christoph Koch, Venice 1650  (Berlin, Musikinstrumenten Museum Nr 3581)

15 ribs in kingwood (dalbergia caerensis), rosewood or Indian rosewood, with plain holly or holly/kingwood/holly triple spacers between; ebony soundboard half-edging (white/black/white/black multiple binding [4mm wide] as the original also available); lower neck veneered with ebony, upper neck veneered with ebony front and rear; ebony or plumwood pegs (stained black) with bone pips; triple rose.
String length: 860mm (diapasons: 1700mm)

In its current state, its string length is 822mm, with diapasons of 1670, but the lower neck has been shortened; we are sure that the original stopped string length was in the region of 860mm.
Stringing: 7x2 / 7x1
Pitch: a

£6400 (plain version)

This beautiful instrument by Christoph Koch has a very elegant back of only 15 ribs (in beautiful condition, with little distortion) and has apparently enjoyed a long and active playing life. Its original set-up was with 7 double courses on the fingerboard, and 7 diapasons, but at some stage the lower neck was shortened, although it still retains its original bridge.

It seems to have survived intact since its playing days faded, possibly because of the beauty of its inlaid lower and upper neck rear panels, which are a delicate filigree leaf-trail of ivory inlaid into kingwood.

Set up with 7 double fingerboard courses and 7 diapasons, this has been a very popular model over the last few years, and has been ordered by several players, including Stephen Stubbs, who describes it as the best theorbo he has ever played, a very clear and powerful instrument. Its stopped string length of 860 actually allows it to be tuned to g, with a change of strings, as well as a, which is a feature found to be very useful by Stephen and others.

This version of the Koch chitarrone - built in 2003 and kept at our workshop - has extensive but subtle decoration: beautifully-proportioned, strikingly-attractive back of 15 ribs in ebony, dramatically striped with ghostly-white holly, with ebony/holly double spacers between; soundboard half-edging white/black/white/black multiple binding; inlaid bone curved-sided triangle rising from lower soundboard binding; lower neck veneered with ebony with white inlaid stripes, upper neck veneered with ebony front and rear, with triple white/black/white edgings, and with walnut along the sides; upper pegbox face with walnut/bone chequer design; ebony pegs with bone pips; triple rose; mammoth ivory fingerboard points outlined with an ebony line; ebony fingerboard with inlaid white panel lines. We've followed its original set-up, with 7 double courses on the fingerboard; we have drilled the bridge to allow single-stringing as an alternative.

Details of a similar instrument are shown at the top of this page.

£8600

With holly & ebony ribs, and with the decorative details shown above, and in the second image down from the top of this page.

The version shown above has its back striped from holly and ebony; this option adds £400 to the price of the instrument, due to the scarcity of large clear pieces of pure white holly, and the added difficulties of working it alongside ebony (one of the technical challenges is to keep fine black dust from the ebony from contaminating the grain of the holly, and keeping the crisp black / white contrast of the timbers pure).

We built one of these Koch chitarrone models for Stephen Stubbs in 1999, and it more than earns its keep: as well as using it for numerous continuo and opera recordings and performances, he also recorded in collaboration with John Surman, the renowned British jazz saxophonist, using it (available on the German ECM label). Stephen remarked recently that both this Koch chitarrone and the 10-course he'd acquired from us more than hold their own with John's saxes. A 2004 broadcast on BBC Radio 3 featured Stephen playing the 10c lute, improvising with John playing soprano sax.


Since we measured this very interesting but for a long time sadly neglected instrument, and began offering copies of it 8 years ago, it appears that certain other makers have jumped on the bandwagon, and offered their own versions of it, although to our certain knowledge we are the only ones to have actually measured it properly in Berlin (using the measuring device shown on our homepage).


11. After Mattheus Buechenberg, Rome 1614   (London, Victoria & Albert Museum No.190-1882)

39 or 43 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered upper neck; lower neck veneered with ebony or in a design of ebony heartwood (black) and sapwood (sand-coloured) lozenges, as the original; ebony pegs; ebony fingerboard; triple rose.
String length: 890mm (diapasons: 1600mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: a

from £7000 (yew ribs £800 extra)

This instrument is one of several by Buechenberg which were probably built on the same mould. It is not in completely original condition - the bridge, for example, is suspicious – but it is a beautiful example of the mature work of this famous Roman maker of large chitarroni.

This version of the beautifully-proportioned Buechenberg chitarrone was made using ebony for its 43 ribs, with narrow holly spacers; the deep fluting of the ribs and the characteristically-wider outer ribs are clearly visible.


12. After Mattheus Buechenberg, Rome 1608    (Brussels, MIM Nr. 1570)

23 ribs in lightly-figured maple, without spacers; lower neck and fingerboard in one piece of maple (ebony fingerboard also available); upper neck and pegbox in maple, without veneer; ebony pegs; triple rose.
String length: 984mm (diapasons: 1705mm)
Stringing: 6x1 / 8x1
Pitch: g

£7000

This fascinating instrument has survived in completely original condition. Its simplicity of design and use of plain materials without decoration – there is not even a half-edging to the soundboard – shows us that basic models of these very large instruments were probably made in significant numbers (23 ribs is a lot quicker than 43 to assemble, it covers the mould much more rapidly) in order to satisfy the demand for them in the burgeoning opera productions then exploding onto the musical scene. Diana Poulton owned a Buechenberg chitarrone body, which was of identical size, but with 41 ribs in shaded, heartwood/sapwood yew.

The fact that this intact Buechenberg has survived at all is a wonder, given that during the 19th Century, plainer instruments were often subjected to falsification and 'beautification' in order to satisfy the growing clamour from collectors and connoisseurs (falling off the wall in the museum in 1980 probably didn't help, either – although that unfortunate accident at least allowed better examination of its interior details). It has the most elegant and beautifully-carved bridge of any of the surviving Buechenbergs, as well as a stunning triple rose.


13. After Giovanni Tesler, Ancona 1615 (Dresden, Kunstgewerbemuseum; formerly private collection, Potsdam)

65 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; triple rose.
String length: 900mm (diapasons: 1600mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: a or g

from £8400 (yew ribs £800 extra)

This is the only known example of a chitarrone by Tesler (also known as the maker of a guitar dated 1618, now in the Museé Instrumental, Nice [v. cat. Nice No. 1]; this guitar has a vaulted back, and its entire back and sides are built up from a mosaic of zig-zag wooden strips - the evidence of this guitar and the chitarrone described here suggest that Giovanni Tesler was a very skilled maker). Its magnificent back of 65 fluted ribs, of striped heartwood/sapwood yew – obscured by a dark, muddy over-varnish until recent restoration by Wolfgang Wenke of Eisenach – is complemented by a beautifully-carved triple rose.

We were fortunate to be the first modern lutemakers to have measured the instrument, when it was in the hands of its previous owners in Potsdam, just after the fall of the Berlin wall, at the workshop of our friend, the violinmaker Tilman Muthesius. We thus have colour photographs of the state of the Tesler prior to its subsequent restoration, which testify to the condition it had been in for a very long time. We have conjectured the original string lengths.


The theorbo of Sylvius Leopold Weiss?


There have been recent claims by André Burguete that it was altered in the early 18th Century by Thomas Edlinger in Prague, for Weiss; the implication being that it was altered for German d-minor continuo playing, which involved shortening the lower neck, and adding a curved fingerboard.
The first problem with this claim is that the 'Edlinger' label is handwritten and does not look like the only other known handwritten Edlinger label (in an instrument in the Shrine To Music collection, South Dakota). There is also no documentation whatsoever which proves that Weiss bought this instrument (presumably in Italy) and took it to Edlinger in Prague, or to positively link this instrument to Edlinger having worked on it for Weiss – let alone anything that unequivocally places the instrument as having been the property of Weiss. Burguete claims that Weiss was in Prague the same year as the date on the 'Edlinger' label (which is actually overlapped by the Tesler label – we do not know what André Burguete's explanation for that is) but this common date does not of itself prove any link between this instrument and Weiss – and that presupposes that the 'Edlinger' label is genuine, which is far from proven or accepted. And interestingly, when Wildhagen tried to sell the instrument around 70 years ago, there was no mention in the surviving paperwork (which now resides in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg) or of an Edlinger label being present inside the instrument . . .

It is unfortunate that it has been claimed as the theorbo of Sylvius Leopold Weiss by Burguete, a fanciful attribution with no proveable foundation. André Burguete claimed in a paper read to the Dresden Lautentage conference in April 2000 that the instrument was brought from Rome by Weiss; quite how he feels able to make this claim is anybody's guess, since when we first measured the instrument in Potsdam in the early 1990's, its then owners – a family who possessed many art treasures – had nothing in their family archive connecting the instrument to Weiss. Burguete has produced no documentation which links this instrument to Weiss, although we're interested in a recent suggestion that the instrument was bought for a 5-figure sum and sold for a 6-figure sum. Burguete has recently written to us and peevishly complained that we have questioned his claims regarding this instrument; however, we stand by what we say, and until Burguete produces genuine documentation which unequivocally links this instrument to Weiss (and explains why the handwriting of the 'Edlinger' label it bears is different to the other extant handwritten Edlinger label) our position is that this instrument cannot be regarded as having been in the possession of the great lutenist. Facts, evidence and proof are one thing – surmise and fanciful conjecture something else; this sort of sloppy 'scholarship' would not be tolerated or accepted in any other sphere of historical research.

Regarding a statement quoted by Douglas Alton Smith in the Journal of the American Lute Society (Volume XXXII, 1999, on page 58) that – according to Lynda Sayce – the neck and pegbox design of this instrument is "identical" to that of the 1615 theorbo by Giovanni Tesler, we would like to point out for the record that it is not identical, although there is a close resemblance (we have measured, photographed and extensively documented both instruments). The upper pegbox is a similar design; however, the long neck of the Harz is plain, whilst the Tesler has a distinctive and unusual 'moulding' carved along its sides, they resolve into the lower neck in a completely different manner and the handling, detailing and and carving of the lower pegbox differs markedly from one instrument to the other. Also, the Harz has 43 ribs, not 55 as stated in the article; a small point, perhaps, but worth noting.

There is simply not enough known for certain about the design of this type of long neck and pegbox arrangement to attribute it definitively to the early 18th Century and the Edlinger workshop, so it is wrong to state – as the article does – that the Harz in its current configuration dates from the same year as the Tesler's 'Edlinger' repair label; furthermore, the Harz is an archlute, not a theorbo! However, the shaping and resolution between the lower and upper necks of the rear surface of the Harz is extremely similar to that of the 'theatre theorbo' (No.22 below) two examples of which the whereabouts are currently known (three instruments are known to exist). This style can be seen in the images of No.2 (above) and No.16 (below). The Tesler upper neck, on the contrary, flows into the joint with the lower neck in a long, graceful curve, similar to that seen on many Venetian instruments (see No.14, below).
Moreover, the veneering of the front of the Tesler upper neck is a patchwork of various pieces of ebony of a very poor quality; is it really very likely that a great player of Weiss' stature would have accepted such rough work? If Edlinger was responsible for this veneering, it doesn't say much for the skills of his workshop.


14. Own design   (Based on Vienna KHM C47)

27 ribs in ebony or rosewood with 2mm thick holly spacers; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard with inlaid bone panel line; ebony pegs; triple rose; single strung. String length: 800mm (diapasons: 1600mm)
Stringing: 7x1 / 7x1 (double stringing on fingerboard is also available)
Pitch: a

£6400 with rosewood back, £7000 with ebony back.

For players who have difficulty playing larger instruments, we recommend this model in preference to instruments of, say, 840mm - 880mm string length; it produces easily as much volume and quality of sound as much larger theorbos, but it is obviously easier to finger. For this reason, several leading players have ordered this model. Mersenne, writing in 1637, describes the Tuorbe pratiqué à Rome as having 14 courses, singly strung in A.

The back of the instrument shown above right is from ebony striped with snakewood; the back of the instrument seen in three of the other three images is from ebony, quite deeply-fluted, with 2mm thick holly spacers. The theorbo soundboard shown on the left has an upper rose made of limewood, inset and gilded, and the heart-shaped inlay below the bridge is bone inlaid into ebony; the bridge - from plumwood - is surmounted by a snakewood panel edged with bone.

The ebony-backed instrument is owned by Franco Pavan, of Milano; the striped back instrument, the soundboard of which is shown lower left, was played by the late Tom Finucane.


English theorbo

15. Designed by Stephen Barber, 1984   (After Thomas Mace, James Talbot and iconographical evidence)

39 ribs in yew or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips; single rose.
String length: 780mm (longest diapason: 1600mm)
Stringing: 13 courses - 2x1, 5x2 / 1x2. 1x2, 1x2, 3x2 or 10 courses - 2x1, 4x2 / 1x2, 1x2, 2x2
Pitch: g or a

from £7000 (yew or snakewood ribs £800 extra)


This instrument, some of its details blatantly copied by another luthier in recent years, was originally developed for playing the Lawes Harp Consorts and for accompanying 17th Century English songs. It was designed with reference to iconography and our considerable experience of making large, long-necked lutes.

The first 3 pairs of its diapasons are on stepped nuts mounted on the front of the upper neck in the case of the 13-course version, and the first 2 in the case of the 10-course.

Research indicates that the English theorbo was not like the large Roman type, but a smaller instrument, usually played with only the first course tuned down an octave, and with the second course 'high'. There is a tantalisingly-inaccurate representation of one in Thomas Mace's Musik's Monument of 1676, as the 'English' half of the Lute Dyphone.

James Talbot, Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, gathered together information on various musical instruments that were in use in his time, apparently with the intention of writing a book on the subject. The book never appeared, but Talbot's notes – written between 1685 and 1701 – were fortunately preserved by Dean Aldrich, of Christ Church, Oxford (Christ Church Music MS 1187). Talbot is a mine of interesting if sometimes conflicting and confusing information; he mentions the English Theorbo, and we designed this instrument partly with reference to his measurements.


French theorbo

There existed during the 17th and into the 18th Centuries two distinct sizes of theorbo in France; the smaller instrument, often referred to as the théorbe pour les Pièces or théorbe de pièces, would have been used for playing solo music, such as the works of Robert de Visée and Denis Gaultier. The larger instrument, which was probably not as big as contemporary Italian instruments, would probably have been used only for continuo, as a théorbe d'Accompagnement.

Unfortunately, no French theorbos seem to have survived, so we have developed these two instruments from contemporary descriptions, iconography and the stringings and tunings that we know were used.


16. Lesser French theorbo, own design   (Built on the body of the former Vienna KHM AR.969*)

11 ribs in rosewood or ebony with holly spacers, or figured, flamed maple; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; single rose (triple rose also available).

String length: 760mm (diapasons: 1400mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1, 8x1 / 6x1, or 7x1 / 7x1
Pitch: d' (or a, depending upon stringing)

£5800 with rosewood ribs; £6400 with ebony ribs, ebony striped with rosewood, or flamed or figured maple ribs. These prices are for an instrument with a plain ebony fingerboard.*

A very loud and clear instrument; more than the equal of much larger instruments, demolishing the modern myth that so-called 'small' theorbos don't have much sound (never mind the silly ill-informed canard that 'small' theorbos – which this isn't by any stretch of the imagination – didn't exist – there are several surviving historical examples around this size). We beg to differ; and it's practical too, its shallow body making extended playing comfortable, and also of course helping its excellent projection, as a large number of satisfied owners would happily testify. A model that we have refined, having made a large number of examples of.*

With its comfortable stopped string length, this instrument is suitable for the solo repertoire, including the pieces of Robert de Visée, when tuned in d'. As well as being a good all-round instrument, it is also quite suitable for small ensemble continuo playing.
In order to facilitate the various permutations of stringing for solo French theorbo playing which modern players like to use, provision can be made in the upper and lower pegboxes for the requisite number of pegs, and the bridge can be drilled to allow either single or double fingerboard stringing; the instrument illustrated below has provision for double fingerboard stringing, as requested by the player.

Talbot's Lesser French Theorbo as described by Crevecoeuer, and the théorbe pour les Pièces of Sauveur (1701).

The back of the Lesser French theorbo above is in ebony striped with rosewood, with holly lines between the ribs; the fingerboard is a bookmatched panel of olivewood

£7000

*The olivewood panelled fingerboard as shown above adds £400 to the price of £6400 for a back striped with ebony and rosewood; a snakewood panelled fingerboard is also available as an option, also at £400.


There has been comment on the internet and elsewhere in recent years that the original instrument which we use as a basis for this theorbo is a fake, made by Edlinger of Prague; having examined the former AR969 when it was still kept in the Vienna KHM, and in June 2004 examined an instrument with almost identical back geometry and dimensions (and interestingly made from figured maple, with no spacers between the ribs - in contrast to the ebony with ivory spacers of the former AR.969) we disagree. The instruments we measured – the former KHM / AR969 and 1409E in the Lobkowicz Collections at Nelahozeves Castle, Czech Republic - were immediately recognisable for what they are – and what their labels say: the work of Magno dieffopruchar. Their outlines are larger, yet almost parallel to the outline of the 6-course Magno dieffopruchar lute in the Charles Beare collection, London, and the geometry of their backs is similar, suggesting a relationship between these two sizes of instrument from the Tieffenbrucker workshops.

We've measured so many original lutes now, and after all these years, you get a feeling for what is 'right'. The ebony-ribbed former AR969 certainly feels so, and we are as certain as we can be that it's a Tieffenbrucker, not an Edlinger.

Nobody has produced a shred of convincing evidence that either of these instruments were made by Edlinger, instead a mutually-supportive 'rumour-mill' has taken it upon themselves to promulgate the misleading claim that Edlinger faked them; quite what their motives are is anybody's guess, but it's disrespectful to the legacies of both Tieffenbrucker and Edlinger. It may be convenient to claim that an instrument which bears a J.J. Edlinger repair label as well as an earlier label must be a 'fake' by him, but it is not proveable, there is no hard evidence to support such a claim.

Meanwhile, this Tieffenbrucker 'AR969' body makes an excellent basis for a lesser French theorbo, which is why we use it.


*Notwithstanding the silly, inaccurate description of theorbos of this size as 'toys' by some ill-informed and inexperienced 'theorists', this is a theorbo which is the equal of many instruments which are much larger. We've probably made more theorbos than any other makers around in modern times; we've worked with and for most of the leading players, we listen to and learn from players, and as luthiers with decades of experience behind us, we bring this knowledge and skill to everything we make, including this model. We know what works and what doesn't, and we would not offer this model if we were not only 100% confident that it works extremely well, but also because it is based upon historical examples and our own careful research.

This model is equally useful for solo and continuo playing.


Clive Ray, a recent purchaser of one of these instruments, flew to London from Trieste to collect his instrument, and sent us this message upon returning home with it:

" Dear Sandi and Stephen - well, we both arrived safely in Trieste; when I did open the case at home, my wife and daughter were both stunned by the beauty of your craftsmanship. I certainly appreciate, in both senses of the word, the effort you went to in order to get the instrument ready on time despite the unfortunate circumstance of the burglary at your flat.

And the sound! It's as though you've managed to pack the acoustics of a small concert hall into the sound box. Notes plucked on my old guitar sound like dull thuds in comparison. So thanks again. I'll let you know how I get on as I learn to play ".


Available with snakewood fingerboard points extending into 'bee-stings' with inlaid bone hearts, as shown above,

£300 extra


17. Greater French theorbo, own design   (Built on the body of Vienna KHM C47)

15 or 17 ribs in rosewood or ebony with holly spacers, or figured, flamed maple; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; chanterelle peg in little separate outer pegbox (as per the illustrations in La Rhétorique des Dieux, c. 1665); single rose.
String length: 840mm (diapasons: 1500mm)
Stringing: 6x1 / 8x1
Pitch: a

£6600

The James Talbot manuscript of 1650 describes 2 types of French theorbo, one of which he calls 'lesser French theorbo'. This is the larger instrument, which is more suitable for continuo playing in orchestras; the perfect context for such an instrument is, for example, the operas of Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-87).

The larger type of théorbe played in France was known as the théorbe pour jouer la Basse continüe, or the théorbe d'Accompagnement. The Indian ink drawings by Abraham Bosse which illustrate each title-page in the manuscript collection of pieces La Rhétorique des Dieux by Denis Gaultier (c.1665, Codex Hamilton, Berlin) show for example, on the Sous Dorien (Dorian mode) page, 2 apparently identical theorbos with single roses, and relatively-short upper necks, with 14 single courses, 6 pegs in a longish lower pegbox, an upper pegbox with a reverse scroll and 8 pegs, and a body with fairly broad outer ribs; further details of the characteristic pegbox scroll can be seen in Bosse's other drawings in this book.

This type of upper neck design is similar to that found on the lute known as an angélique (for example, the unsigned instrument in the Cité de la Musique collection, Paris, No. E.980.2.317). The well-known engraving by Nicolas Bonnart (c.1637-1718) Damon, joüant de l'Angelique (1687) shows a very similar arrangement. The angélique appeared in France around 1620, and is claimed by some as a particularly Parisien instrument, similar in appearance to the théorbe.

Some modern luthiers and organologists have suggested that the French in the 17th Century often converted existing bass lutes to use as théorbes.


German theorbo

Silvius Leopold Weiss, in addition to his exquisite and consummate skills as a composer and performer of solo music for the thirteen-course baroque lute, was also renowned as an accomplished theorbo player. He states in a letter written in 1723 in Dresden that he had altered one of his instruments for basso continuo in the orchestra and church; this instrument, he writes, had the power, size and sonority of a theorbo, but was tuned differently; this may well imply that he had simply removed the highest string, which would still allow him to think in terms of playing continuo on a 'familiar' fingerboard and tuning layout. Baron (1727) also tells us that Weiss played thorough-bass exceptionally well on lute or tiorba. The tiorba was scored for, during the 18th Century in German-speaking lands by, amongst others, C.H. Graun (Montezuma, Berlin 1755), and J.J. Fux (Orfeo ed Euridice , Vienna 1715, and Costanza, Prague 1723).

Given that we know that there were several Italian theorbo players working in Germany at the time, presumably using the relative or old lute tuning for their instruments, it nevertheless seems reasonable to assume that when Weiss played the theorbo, he would use the d-minor tuning which he played and composed upon the lute with, as suggested by comments made by Weiss himself and Baron.


18. After Sebastian Schelle, Nürnberg 1728   (Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum MI574)

11 ribs in birds-eye maple; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; cambered ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; beautiful, inset limewood rose.
String length: 865mm (diapasons: 1610mm)
Stringing: 1x1, 6x2 / 7x1
Pitch: d (think D-minor tuning, without the chanterelle)

£6800

This very interesting theorbo by Schelle makes a wonderful sound; it has a large, full body similar to other 'German' theorbos from the early 18th Century (e.g. by Mathias Alban 1704, and Georg Aman 1707). It seems to be in substantially original condition and makes an excellent model for D-minor continuo playing, for German 18th Century music, as an alternative to the larger Italian theorbos. As far as we are aware, this beautiful instrument by Schelle has always been in Nürnberg, where it was made.

The original instrument has a large hinge in its upper neck, just above the lower pegbox, which may be original, and intended to make transportation easier; we build it without the hinge, unless requested otherwise !

A close copy of the large Schelle theorbo, as described above, which we made in 1994; owned by Axel Weidenfeld, Oldenburg, who has been playing 'D-Minor' continuo with it since then, probably the first modern player to do so. This instrument was made before the GNM's drawing was published, making it the first modern copy of this important lute. Axel and other players we've made this instrument for have experimented with stringing it with either the chanterelle string present, thereby doubling the 4th course (as it would be tuned down an octave) or more usually without, making the first string a D (using the rest of the D-Minor tuning).


19. After Matthias Alban, Bozen 1704   (Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum MIR908)

19 ribs in lightly-figured maple; ebony-veneered lower neck, black-stained upper neck; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs; single rose.
String length: 865mm (diapasons: 1582mm)
Stringing: 6x2 / 8x1
Pitch: a

£6800


This relatively plain, simple and elegant instrument seems to have been built in the Italian style by a distinguished German violin maker working in the Tyrol, whose violin-making was heavily-influenced by the Cremonese Amati form. We know that there were a lot of Italian theorbo players working in Germany at this time, and perhaps this instrument was built according to the wishes of such a player, as an alternative to the D-minor instrument represented by the Schelle, or perhaps it was built 'in the Italian style', with the intention of stringing it in D-Minor (or the 'old' relative tuning – food for thought . . .). This instrument by Alban is clearly more influenced by the Italian school than the Schelle above, and its body is slightly shallower.

Although almost a quarter of a century separates them, like the Schelle, it is simple and elegant, and they probably, each in their simplicity of design, both represent a typical player's instrument. Originally from the Salzer collection, Vienna; restored by Friedemann Hellwig in 1969.


Matthias Alban (1634 - 1712) worked initially in Bozen, an important city in the Tyrol on the trade route between Augsburg and Venice. He is registered as being a violin maker there in 1671, at the time of his first marriage; it is not known who he learnt his violin-making from, but the varnish of his violins suggests that he was probably trained in Italy. The presence of the large Markt in Bozen meant that its instrument makers could both sell their products and obtain their raw materials easily; varnish ingredients and timber for instrument making were known to have been traded in this important Markt.

Alban's theorbo has exquisite little design details, such as the smooth resolution between the upper and lower necks - clearly intended to ease the tying of the first gut fret (which is always a problem with long-necked lutes, because of the length of the joint between the necks).

This intriguing instrument makes one wonder just what Alban's contemporary, the great Tyrolean Jakob Stainer (c.1617 - 1683), working some 90 kilometres to the north of him in Absam, just to the east of Innsbruck, would have produced, had he turned his hand to lute-making.


Tiorbino

This wonderful little instrument is one of the best and most convincing surviving examples of a tiorbino, and is one of only 2 known examples of the work of Hieber & Pfanzelt (the other is a liuto attiorbato in a private collection in London, No. 23).

As well as its obvious use as the instrument pitched an octave above the larger theorbo for Bellerofonte Castaldi's 'Capricci a due stromenti cioe tiorba e tiorbino e per sonar varie sorti de balli . .' (1622) the tiorbino has a very interesting sound, which Paul O'Dette recently described as a cross between a lute, a baroque guitar, and a harp when he played it in the Vredenburg concert hall in Utrecht - where it could be clearly heard right at the back of the auditorium.

It seems quite obvious that this is a very useful and interesting continuo instrument, and a valuable addition to the tonal landscape available to the continuo player.

 

20. After Johannes Hieber and Andreas Pfanzelt, Padua 1628   (Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire Nr IM80)

19 ribs in yew with ebony spacers, or ebony or rosewood with holly spacers; ebony-veneered upper neck; lower neck rear striped with 19 white lines; ebony pegs with bone pips; triple rose.
String length: 484mm (diapasons: 753mm)
Stringing: 1x1, 5x2 / 8x1
Pitch: a'


£5000

Shown above (left) next to a copy of the Royal College of Music's 930mm string length Magno Tieffenbrucker chitarrone (No. 7 above) for comparison.

Both instruments owned by Axel Weidenfeld, Oldenburg.


21. Chitarrone Francese - or the theorboed guitar ?

Although this archlute-like instrument is included in this, the continuo instruments section of the website, we have done so because it appears to represent an overlooked approach to playing figured bass. The instrument depicted in this very accurately-draughted painting has five courses on the fingerboard (with the top string clearly single) and nine diapasons - compared to what would be expected on a similarly-sized archlute: six double fingerboard courses and eight diapasons.

There is a reasonable likelihood that it was, in fact, used by guitarists who strung and tuned the fingerboard courses like a guitar, and who would be used to reading from the bass clef, so that they could realise a figured bass part and play continuo on a theorboed guitar, rather than learn the completely different archlute tuning. The player's left hand almost exactly corresponds to chord 'L' in the alfabetto system (L corresponds to a difficult fingering for a C minor chord) Sanz uses engravings of hands to illustrate the chord positions in his 1697 book.

Is this instrument depicted by Grammatica - being played alongside what is obviously a 'classic' vaulted-back five-course baroque guitar - possibly what was played when a 'theorboed' guitar was required ? The word chitarrone, after all, meant 'large guitar' in Italy in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries.


There are several references in surviving books of guitar music to theorboed guitars and guitars fitted with diapasons (although no 'guitar-shaped' instruments have survived from this period with seven - or even nine - diapasons):

Giovanni Battista Granata's book Soavi concerti di sonate musicali per chitarra spagnuola, 1659 contains five pieces for chitarra Atiorbata which require five fingerboard courses and seven diapasons, starting at G and going down to low AA.

A manuscript volume by Henry de Gallot (c. 1660-1684) includes twelve tablature pieces for la guittare Theorbée which also requires five fingerboard courses and seven diapasons. Two chordal tunings are required for the tablatures: c-e-g-c'-e' and c-e flat- g-c'-and e' flat on the fingerboard and diapasons G-F-E-D-C-B-A.

Ludovico Fontanelli's manuscript books Sonate per il Chittarone Francese (1733, in tablature and notation) state the tuning of the Chittarone Francese (sic) to be: e'-b-g-d-A on the fingerboard followed by G-F-E-D-CC as the diapasons; the fourth course (d) is a unison and the 5th course (A) has an octave string, with the first course being single.


We were inspired to build this instrument by Robert Spencer 's fascinating article The Chitarrone Francese published in the journal Early Music, April 1976, in which he discussed the instrument held by the player in the painting below. He suggested that the long-necked lute in this painting may be an elsewhere unrecorded type of guitar, since it has only five courses on the fingerboard, rather than the six we would expect to find (were it an archlute of some sort) and there is a five-course guitar next to the player on the table. Robert states in the article that he had acquired two small manuscript books of music by Ludovico Fontanelli, Sonate per il Chittarone Francese dated 1733. Whether or not this music was meant to be played on the type of instrument in the painting is obviously open to conjecture and speculation, but Grammatica's depiction is intriguing, given the apparent accuracy of the other details in the work, the clothing, hand positions and so on.

Suonatore di Liuto, by Antiveduto Grammatica, 1571-1626 Galleria Sabauda, Turin

Robert refers to this instrument as a chitarrone francese; however, one wonders if it is actually a theorboed guitar, since its size would permit stringing and tuning it with octaves like a baroque guitar, as well as like an archlute. In a recent discussion with baroque guitar specialists, the suggestion arose that this may also be the instrument that Granata had in mind in the pieces which conclude his Soave Concerti published in 1659 (quoted above) where we find pieces for a theorboed guitar.

Roberto Meucci recently wrote about small lutes, revealing that in Italy they were called chitarra, so as not to confuse them with the chitarra alla spagnola. Sources from the early 18th Century also declare that the chitarra italiana or chitarrino is in reality a small lute.

The Chitarrone Francese shown above was made in January 2004 for Jim Bisgood, the English baroque guitar player.

22. Own design   (Based on the painting Suonatore di Liuto, by Antiveduto Grammatica, 1571-1626 Galleria Sabauda, Turin)

15 ribs in yew or rio rosewood; ebony-veneered upper neck; lower neck veneered with ebony, with 15 white stripes to rear; white edging and stripe decoration to front of upper neck; engraved mammoth ivory panels on front of upper pegbox; large, single rose.
String length: 660mm (diapasons: 1040mm)
Stringing: 1x1, 4x2 / 9x1, as in the painting, set-up as a Chitarrone Francese

Pitch: e'

e'-b-g-d/d'-A/a (Fingerboard) G-F-E-D-C-BB-AA-GG-FF (Diapasons)

(Stephen Stubbs has recently suggested that, because in the painting the bottom two diapasons have been rendered by the artist as thinner strings than course 12, this may well indicate that courses 13 and 14 could be, respectively, G# and F#).

(1x1, 5x2 / 8x1 stringing is also available as an option)

£5800 with rosewood ribs £6400 with yew ribs

We were able to closely examine the original Grammatica painting when it was included in the London Royal Academy of Arts 2001 exhibition The Genius Of Rome. This reinforced our long-standing feeling that the draughtsmanship of the two instruments depicted was very likely reliable, and had been painted using real examples as models. Working from iconography in this way is always challenging, and of course we couldn't resist a shot at such a famous painting (it is reproduced, inter alia, as the cover of a CD by Rolf Lislevand of Libro Quarto d'Intavolatura di Chitarrone / Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger / Roma 1640 on Astrée Auvidus E8515, on which a chitarra battente by us can be heard { No.17. on the guitar page}).

There are certain problems with working from the painting - the rose is not circular, but slightly ovoid, and its details not entirely legible or symmetrical; the chiaroscuro style of the the work throws shadowing over the bridge end (which is otherwise visible) and obscures its exact design; the body shape is also asymmetrical, and the alignment of the necks and strings had to be adjusted to allow a playable string band. But there is a wealth of inspiring detail to refer to in this wonderful painting, and we hope that our version of the instrument has done justice to Grammatica's vision - it certainly works very well as a theorboed guitar, clear and powerful, and very familiar under the fingers of a guitarist, although an archlute player would of course not find it too unfamiliar.

We have built this instrument on the body of the Matteo Sellas archlute (Bologna, Bardini Nr. 1748 - L.M.6 / No 5. above), since it appears to be very close to that instrument in outline. There are certain problems with transcribing information from the painting: the rose, for example, is painted not circular but slightly oval, and the body is asymmetrical in outline. The Sellas seems to us, however, to be reasonably near to the shape, style and probable size of the instrument depicted .

Regretably, we do not have available here images of the first chitarrone francese that we built in 1998, since the player who ordered it asked, for reasons of his privacy, that images of it be kept off of the website.

In early 2004 we built another example for the English baroque guitar player Jim Bisgood - and he is more than happy to have images of his example posted here (see above). It is very closely modelled on the Grammatica painting, including the decoration and rose design. Jim intends to use it as a theorboed guitar, as a complement to the Checchucci 5 course guitar we built for him in June 2003.


Theatre theorbo

A unique and fascinating metal-strung 14-course chitarrone or theorbo with 8 fixed metal frets in a meantone temperament, probably intended to be played on stage (in costume too, presumably - a toga ? bad news for those with knobbly knees !). The obvious context is Orfeo or a similar opera based on a myth of ancient Greece or Rome, since the instrument is designed to look as much like a kithara as possible, whilst retaining the 'feel' and layout of a chitarrone.

23. After an unsigned instrument   (Vienna, Kunsthistorischesmuseum; formerly Nr. A66, now re-numbered as SAM61)

The body consists of a shallow, oblong semicircular box with 2 small soundholes, to which is fitted a neck of spruce, which also becomes the upper neck; the fingerboard is walnut, and it extends along the whole face of the upper neck, which terminates in a gilded violin-like scroll. The body has 2 supporting lyre-like 'arms' connecting it to the neck, which are carved, painted and gilded. The strings are anchored to a harpsichord-like bridge at the body end, they pass over a second bridge, guided by pins, to the first pegbox (6 courses) and to a long 'bridge' where they (the 8 diapasons) are stepped off to tuning pins.
String length: 793mm (diapasons: 951mm, stepped-off in stages to 1433mm, with the 14th course 996mm, a high f# !)
Stringing: 6x1 / 8x1 (metal: iron & brass plain wire)
Pitch: g


£6000

Although it is usually dismissed out of hand as a mere theatre 'prop', this very interesting instrument - one of 3 known - is set up as a playable instrument, and it is our firm belief that it was used in an opera or intermedi production; it is just possible that the 3 of them were built for the same production, since, although unsigned, they are virtually identical. This example, in the Vienna KHM, is the best-preserved and least 'restored'.

We are currently approaching completion of a copy of this instrument, using strings kindly supplied by the harpsichord maker Bill Jürgenson, of Lauffen am Neckar, Germany.


24.

And Finally, if all else fails . . .

A unique and fascinating plexiglass 4-course 'Toy' theorbo (despised by players who don't have girlfriends) for the Hippie Chick in your life . . . Made by Stefano Barbieri in Londinium, 1973, with acknowledgements to Orvillus Gibsonensis, Kalamazoo (sort of near the Venetian Lagoon).

Equal temperament fretting, 8' pitch, and only 4 strings to grapple with.

flyingVbass


 

Liuto attiorbato

These instruments are included in the continuo section, since many players use them for small-scale ensemble work, although they are probably better suited for the Italian solo repertoire of the early 17th Century.

Allesandro Piccinini, writing in 1623, claims that he invented the liuto attiorbato in 1594. He prefers to call it arciliuto because liuto attiorbato implies that it was developed from the tiorba, which he, Piccinini, knows to be untrue because he himself invented it:

'Dell'Arciliuto, e dell' Inuentore d'esso: Doue hò nominato il Liuto, hò voluto intendere ancor dell' Arciliuto per non dire, come molti dicono, Liuto Attiorbato, come se l'inuentione fosse cauata dalla Tiorba, Chitarrone, per dir meglio, il che è falso, e lo so io, come quello, che sono stato l'Inuentore di questi Arciliuti . . . io l'Anno MDLXXXXIIII ... andai à Padoua alla Bottega di Christofano Heberle . . . & li feci fare per proua un liuto . . . tal che ne feci far'un' altro con la Tratta al manico'


25. After Giovanni Hieber & Andrea Pfanzelt, Padua 1629 (London, Private collection)

13 ribs in ebony, rosewood or snakewood (original is ivory); ebony-veneered upper neck; lower neck rear striped with 19 white lines; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips; triple rose.
String length: 574mm (diapasons: 860mm)
Stringing: 1x1, 5x2 / 8x1
Pitch: g'

£6000

The earliest dated liuto attiorbato; this instrument by Hieber & Pfanzelt was originally in the Donaldson collection, and is illustrated in Musical Instruments, Historical Rare and Unique, by A.J. Hipkins & W. Gibb, London 1888, Plate XVI. The original is lavishly decorated, with its ivory fingerboard engraved with figures from the Commedia dell' Arte; the rear of the lower and upper necks is also veneered with ivory, and engraved with a view of Venice with shipping in the foreground, and a battle scene depicting Venetians bashing Turks.


26. After Christofolo Choc, c. 1630  (London, Victoria & Albert Museum Nr. 7756)

15 ribs in snakewood, ebony or rosewood; ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips; beautiful single rose in pierced limewood and parchment.
String length: 570mm (diapasons: 860mm)
Stringing: 7x2 / 7x2
Pitch: g'

£6000 with rosewood ribs, £6400 with ebony ribs, and £6600 with snakewood ribs

This instrument by the ubiquitous Christoph Koch seems to be in original condition, but at some stage it has been fitted with metal strings (as described by Praetorius - a testudo theorbata ?). It has a small body, which some players find convenient, similar in size to the example in Nürnberg by the same maker (Nürnberg, GNM MI55). The original instrument is fitted with bone pegs; these are available to special order.

The original instrument was drawn by Stephen for the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1978, these drawings are available directly from the museum.


27. After Matteo Sellas, 1638  (Paris, Cité de la Musique No. E1028 / C1054)

15 ribs in rosewood, snalewood or ebony striped with ghostly-white holly, or gently-figured 'Holbein' maple – also very white in tone (the original is ebony striped with ivory); ebony-veneered lower and upper necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips; single rose; 11 frets to the neck.
String length: 588mm (diapasons: 844mm)
Stringing: 7x2 / 7x2
Pitch: f#'

£6000 with rosewood ribs, £6400 with ebony & holly ribs, £6600 with snakewood ribs

A fortunately well-preserved example of a classic Matteo Sellas design, which we measured in 1984. This beautiful little instrument, in apparently original condition, is a little larger than the undated Choco (No. 24 above). It is almost identical in design, materials, decoration and dimensions to another Matteo Sellas liuto attiorbato, also dated 1638 (No.26 below).

They were probably built on the same mould; both have a dated label inside, and the engraved ivory etiquette on the front of the upper neck of both instruments reads:

Matteo Sellas
alla Corona In
Venetia


28. After Matteo Sellas, 1638  (Private collection)

15 ribs in ebony, rosewood or snakewood with holly spacers; also available with ebony striped with ghostly-white holly as shown below (the original is ebony striped with ivory); ebony-veneered upper and lower necks; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips; single rose.
String length: 610mm (diapasons: 1000mm)
Stringing: 7x2 / 7x2
Pitch: f#'

£6000 with rosewood ribs, £6400 with ebony & holly ribs, £6600 with snakewood ribs

The version shown above has its back striped from holly and ebony; this option adds £600 to the price of the instrument, due to the scarcity of large clear pieces of pure white holly, and the added difficulties of working it alongside ebony (one of the technical challenges is to keep fine black dust from the ebony from contaminating the grain of the holly, and keeping the crisp black / white contrast of the timbers pure).

This instrument was developed because it has a body large enough to give a more satisfactory tone and projection than many of the smaller surviving models produce, but to be smaller than many of the Sellas models, which tend to be 630mm - 660mm stopped string length. The original instrument as it exists today has had its lower neck slightly shortened, and we have conjectured its probable original string length, which we have concluded was around 610mm. Designed for players who wish to play solo repertoire as well as to work with small ensembles.

It is available with black/white striping to the rear of the lower and upper necks; and also available with 3 engraved fingerboard panels (in mammoth ivory) as many original Sellas instruments of this type have, to special order. Images of a recently-completed, decorated example with engraved fingerboard panels will appear here shortly.