da Vinci dreams up three instruments in one–Meet the Viola Organista

By Christina (Yelin) Chung

The Viola Organista. Photo by Josh Withers

spaceMore than 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci dreamed up an instrument that looked like a piano but sounded like a cello–the viola organista.
space However, this mechanism was not brought to life until Slawomir Zubrzycki, a Polish concert pianist, dedicated three years and over $9,000 to create it.
spaceThe viola organista is a piano-violin hybrid that plays like a piano, but instead of hammers that are normally found within the instrument–it uses cranks wound around violin bows that rubs the strings. These create a similar sound to the church organ and a cello.
space“Zubrzycki built the instrument from da Vinci’s original plans”, says Josh Withers, one of the many that attended the unveiling of the instrument on November 18th.

Pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki presents the “viola organista”. Photo by AFP/AFP/Getty Images

spaceAs for the pianist, Zubrzycki said, “I have no idea what da Vinci might think of the instrument I’ve made, but I’d hope he’d be pleased”.
spaceThe revealing of the viola organista was at Poland’s Academy of Music, and it was “widely welcomed as a work of art, as well as [being] a great musical achievement” said Withers.
space“This instrument has the characteristics of three [that] we [the general musical audience] know: the harpischord, the organ and the viola da gamba [viol],” Zubrzycki said as he explained his instrument with a hint of pride.
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