Die Drehleier

by Marianne Bröcker

This part of the website is an English translation of the definitive hurdy-gurdy reference book Die Drehleier (The Hurdy-gurdy), written by Marianne Bröcker. For general information about this translation please see the Index Page.

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Chapter 5: Curious Developments

[page 161]

A. The Nyckelharpa

The key apparatus which characterizes the hurdy-gurdy was also used in the development of other stringed instruments. The key-fiddle or nyckelharpa is a stringed instrument whose strings are shortened by keys like those of the hurdy-gurdy (ill. 204) [figlink]. The principal difference between it and the hurdy-gurdy is that its strings (always several) are not bowed by a wheel, but by a short bow, for which reason they are stretched over an especially flat bridge.

The player holds the instrument, which is supported by a shoulder strap, almost horizontally in front of him. He conducts the bow over the strings with his right hand and plays the keys from under the neck with his left hand (ill. 205) [figlink].

All representations of the nyckelharpa and preserved instruments have sliding keys which are situated as on the hurdy-gurdy; at the earliest then they could have been made in the late Middle Ages according to the hurdy-gurdy's example.

Aside from this the following and comparatively minor differences can be noted: In contrast to the hurdy-gurdy the nyckelharpa always has pegs which face downwards, and the keybox is usually not provided with a cover. The use of a cover would just serve to improve the looks of the instrument. Because the player's hand reached the keys from under the neck, they did not need to be protected from the player's arm. Although some of the keys are situation over the soundboard, the nyckelharpa always remained an instrument with a neck.

The spread of the nyckelharpa was limited to Germany and Scandinavia, where it is established that it was played since the 16th century [fn][161-1]. It was unknown in all the other countries


of Europe [fn][162-1], which is proven for example by the invention, in the 18th century France, of such an instrument by D'Laine (see page 168).

In general the nyckelharpa could have been found everywhere where the hurdy-gurdy was known, and therefore in the whole of Europe [fn][162-2], its area of actual use however indicates that it was invented in the northern part of Europe. It cannot be proven that it was first made in German and then introduced into Sweden, but this is very likely [fn][162-3]. According to the preserved sources the nyckelharpa existed in northern Germany and in Denmark up until the 17th century [fn][162-4]. After that it remained limited to Sweden where it was used as a folk instrument [fn][162-5].

Since the 18th century the tonal range of the nyckelharpa was extended and included some chromatic tones, but a completely chromatic nyckelharpa was first built in 1925 [fn][162-6]. Up until that time it had been played with constantly sounding drone strings. It had up to three drone strings which were usually tuned in c and g [fn][162-7]. As with the hurdy-gurdy tuned in C, two drones were tuned in c and one in g, and the principal keys were C-major/minor and G-major/minor. Similarly as with the hurdy-gurdy the melody string was not tuned to the primary note but to one lower, i.e. the lower minor third a' [fn][162-8]. Today the constant sounding of the drone strings is avoided; rather with each bow stroke an accentuation through the drones is strived for, which leads to a rhythmical drone accompaniment very important for dance


playing [fn][163-1]. The hurdy-gurdy was used in the same way when an accentuation is attained on the trompette string with the buzzing of the dog bridge (see page 58).

B. The Organized Hurdy-gurdy and other 18th and 19th Century Curiosities

The popularity of the hurdy-gurdy with the French aristocracy resulted both in building of a great number of hurdy-gurdies in France in the 18th century and in the attempts of instrument makers to improve the instrument or through the use of elements of other instruments to make it even more attractive. Because it was the most frequently duplicated, the most significant invention was the organized hurdy-gurdy, a hurdy-gurdy with organ pipes.

The idea of combining a stringed instrument with a wind instrument was not new. A claviorganum or organ-spinet, in French 'epinette organisee', was made already in the 15th century. The chamberlain of Queen Isabella of Spain, Don Sancho de Paredes, possessed two claviorganums in 1480; in the 16th century such an instrument was in the possession of Cardinal Granvelle [fn][163-2], and Henry VIII of England even had four such organ-spinets among his instruments [fn][163-3]. On the claviorganum the bellows of the organ apparatus, located in the lower part of the instrument, was operated by a pedal, and another pedal or a knee register was connected with a stop, whereby the organ part could be employed or not as desired [fn][163-4].

The organized hurdy-gurdy had a quite similar construction: the guitar shape of the hurdy-gurdy, the depth of which had to be considerably increased since not only whe wheel but a bellows as well was situated in the body, was used for this instrument (ills. 206, 207) [figlink]. The bellows was connected with two rows of pipes arranged over one


another on the soundboard, like the pan-pipes. When the player shortened the melody-strings, the key which was pushed in also opened the corresponding pipe-stop. Since the keys connected them with the melody strings the pipes had the same chromatic range of two octaves as the normal hurdy-gurdy. The shortened melody strings produced the same notes as the pipes in the lower row. The upper row on the other hand was tuned an octave higher so that the pipes and strings were always played an octave apart. There were also organized hurdy-gurdies with only one row of pipes which sounded an octave higher than the melody strings.[fn][164-1]

The organized hurdy-gurdy was strung the same as the hurdy-gurdy. The player could have the strings and pipe sounding simultaneously, or he could remove either the pipes or the strings. In case of the latter the strings were removed from the wheel with the help of a lever which could even be operated without interrupting the music [fn][164-2].

There were two different methods of operating the bellows. One type of organized hurdy-gurdy had an arrangement whereby the bellows inside the body was moved together with the wheel when the crank was turned [fn][164-3]. On another group of instruments a leather strap


was run through the bottom of the body, and on the end of this strap a loop was affixed. This loop was placed around the player's right foot, who by moving this foot pulled on the strap and thus operated the bellows [fn][165-1].

It cannot be determined to whom to attribute the invention of the organized hurdy-gurdy. The first instruments however must have been built before 1750, since in 1739 a hurdy-gurdy teacher mentioned that he wished to make a organized hurdy-gurdy out of a guitar: "je vous en ferai faire une Vielle organisée" [fn][165-2]. The organized hurdy-gurdy was known outside of France as well, as the most famous player of this instrument, King Ferdinand IV of Naples, proves; Joseph Haydn wrote concertos for him (see page 322). Around 1750 an organized hurdy-gurdy was built in England by a Frenchman living there [fn][165-3], and the Austrian Norbert Hadrava, who lived at the court in Naples and played organized hurdy-gurdy with King Ferdinand (see page 321) boasted in 1783 to have "perfected and refined (this instrument) as much as is possible" [fn][165-4].

Although the organized hurdy-gurdy was decorated just as the 18th century French hurdy-gurdies were, it was not


a good-looking instrument, since the addition of bellows and organ pipes and the depth of the body which was accordingly necessary made the instrument very clumsy and unmanageable: "L'appareil était d'aspect déplaisant, lourd à mouvoir, massif et encombrant" [fn][166-1] [trans AH: "The device was of unpleasant appearance, heavy to move, massive and encumbering."] But despite the unattractive outside appearance a rather large number of these instruments were built, of which however only a few have been preserved. Their tonal quality was not especially good, since considerable difficulties arose when pipes and strings were played together. The irregularity of the bellows made it hard to sound the notes of the pipes at the same time and in the same pitch as those of the melody strings [fn][166-2]. As Bricqueville said: "Et remarquez bien que, la plupart du temps, les deux parties ne sont pas d'accord entre elles" [fn][166-3] [trans AH: "And notice that, most of the time, the two parts are not are agreed between themselves."] This correspondence was especially difficult to attain on organized hurdy-gurdies whose wheel and bellows were connected. Since this instrument was also supposed to be played so that the notes were sounded separately and rhythmically, the air flow had to be constantly interrupted. That this type of accentuated playing was intended for the organized hurdy-gurdy as well as for the normal hurdy-gurdy is established by the fact that it also had a trompette. When the pipes and strings were used together though this technique must have been impossible, since on account of the constantly interrupted turning of the wheel the bellows would have been operated completely unevenly and hence there could simply have been no correspondence between the string notes and the pipe notes. And even when the wheel was turned evenly there were problems: there was indeed an even flow of air, but this did not allow the pipes to speak evenly since the instrument did not have a wind-case which could produce an uniform pressure. These technical deficiencies probably also led to the operation of the bellows becoming independent t from the turning of the wheel


by drawing a strap through the bottom of the instrument which the player operated with his foot.

Aside from this particular invention of the organized hurdy-gurdy it was often attempted to improve the hurdy-gurdy or develop new instruments from it. The desire of the aristocracy to have costly and elegantly fashionable hurdy-gurdies produced such as whose function was no longer primarily musical and whose construction therefore was not determined primarily by musical qualities. Since the society ladies preferred especially richly decorated, delicate hurdy-gurdies, there arose miniature salon instruments, in the construction of which a beautiful external appearance predominated over the best possible tonal characteristics (ill. 208) [figlink]. On account of the small body sized of such instruments only two melody and two drone strings and-most drastic of all-only twelve keys be attached [fn][167-1]. People were even ready to abandon the tonal range which had been extended with such trouble in favour of a correspondingly pleasing external appearance.

One of the more peculiar instruments of the 18th century is the so-called Harfenvielle (ill. 209) [figlink] [fn][167-2] from Catajo, Italy. It has only eleven keys and one melody string, but 14 drone strings, and one further peculiarity, which Julius Schlosser described as follows: "the crank sets a double wheel in motion; the smaller wheel (which has pins in it) sounds the middle string" [fn][167-3]. The information about the function of the double wheel is false. The Harfenvielle has not 14, but only 2 drone strings which together with the melody string are stretched over the large wheel and bowed by it. Indeed the instrument has in total 15 strings, but the other 12 are stretched over only the small wheel which has four crest-shaped curves and end between both wheels in a tailpiece.


The crests of the small wheel are not continually grabbing these strings, but touch them only lightly and thus produce a tonal effect similar to that of sympathetic strings. Since the instrument's body is very small, the additional strings were probably strung over a correspondingly small wheel in order to achieve a fuller tone.

Just how much the hurdy-gurdy with its limited musical potential interested 18th century virtuosi and lute-makers is shown by he further attempts at improvement and the novel constructions with strings and wheel which arose in this period.

D'Laine, a hurdy-gurdy teacher in Paris, attempted several times to perfect the instrument. He started first with the apparently greatest defect with the instrument, the constantly sounding drones. He found a means of quickly removing these from the wheel and again putting them back [fn][168-1]. It is indeed not clear if he invented a special device for this or if he removed the drones by pushing them aside on the bridge, as is still done today while tuning. This can as a matter of fact be accomplished by a swift motion of the hand.

Two years later D'Laine converted the hurdy-gurdy, in French "vielle à roue", into a "violon à touches". With this new invention he took the key arrangement of the hurdy-gurdy and placed it on a violin body; the strings were no longer stroked by a wheel but by a bow [fn][168-2]. The instrument however was poorly suited to the use of a bow [fn][168-3], probably because D'Laine maintained the position of the hurdy-gurdy and of the playing hand, and these were unfavourable for playing with a bow. The replacement of the wheel with a bow does not seem to have caught on, since in this next invention, a "violon-vielle", he returned the wheel. He transplanted this and the hurdy-gurdy key arrangement onto the body of a descant


viola da gamba. The instrument had two strings which were shortened by 24 keys. D'Laine especially emphasized that the keys could be operated without making any auxiliary noises, in contrast to those of a normal hurdy-gurdy . The new feature of this iinstrument was a lever located in the keybox with which each of the two strings could be removed from the wheel. This was a device comparable to those on the Bohemian folk instruments (see page 139).

With the alternating use of the strings D'Laine got a greater tonal range than previously, since he could tune one of the strings higher. He did away entirely with the drone strings and replaced them with twelve sympathetic strings situated on the soundboard, in order to produce a stronger and more silvery tone. [fn][169-1]

A special type of construction was attempted by the instrument maker H.V. Engelhard, about whom unfortunately nothing is known. Two of his hurdy-gurdies have been preserved dating from 1742 and 1743 [fn][169-2]. Engelhard re-positioned the crank and the pegs on the left side of the instrument. The wheel remained on the right side, so that its shaft ran the entire length of the body. The pegs were inserted into a structure on the soundboard. (ill. 210) [figlink] The keys sit in a box on the soundboard and are connected with a keyboard which looks like that of a harpsichord. The strings are shortened by tangents attached to the keys. With twenty keys the chromatic tonal range from a' to e''' is somewhat smaller than the normal hurdy-gurdies of this period. This is due to the fact that the equal widths of the keys take up more space.

The two instruments built by Engelhard are the only ones of their kind which have been preserved. However there must have been several, because a French notice of the year 1739 indicates that these


instruments were known in France at that time: "On a inventé une nouvelle Vielle avec un Clavier de Clavessin. On la touche de la main droite, et on tourne la Manivelle de la main gauche. On la tient sur ses genoux, affermie par une tresse or cordon, qui passe sous les pieds de ceux qui en joüent"[fn][170-1]. ["A new hurdy-gurdy with a clavessin keyboard has been invented. One plays the keys with the right hand, and turns the handle with the left hand. One holds it on the knees, held by a braid or cord that passes under the feet of the player."]

Dr. Schmidt, a university and secondary-school choral teacher in Greifswald invented another instrument in 1824, which he called the "Hierochord". He adopted its design of a wheel and string-shortening keys from the hurdy-gurdy. It is described as a monochord with keys and a wheel, which consisted of a box 68.6 cm long, 20.3 cm high, and 22.9 wide. A single string was stretched over the soundboard, and this was shortened by the left hand with chromatically arranged keys. The right hand turned the crank which set the wheel in motion [fn][170-2]. According to Wilhelm Schneider the instrument had two chromatic octaves from c' to c''' and 25 keys [fn][170-3]. Since the unshortened free (string) gave as its lowest note c', only 24 keys were needed for this tonal range. Schneider most likely gave an incorrect number of keys since it is improbable that the free string was tuned one note lower, to b, and that the first note produced by a key was c'. If though when the free string was bowed c' sounded, then with the 25th key the semi-tone c-#''' could be produced, except that it would be beyond the tonal range reported.

Although the keys shortened the strings chromatically, they were positioned at one level so that they might be handled easily by inexperienced players and shaped uniformly, and the inventor placed above the individual keys not the note symbols but the letters of the alphabet without distinguishing whole and semi tones, so that for the beginning musician he had only to prescribe a series of letters, each one sustained for so-and-so many


revolutions of the wheel [fn][171-1].

The keys were attached in such a way that they unalterably made contact with the string always in the same place. This is in contrast to hurdy-gurdies, on which a fine tuning of the melody strings can be accomplished by turning the tangent slightly. The instrument must have stayed in tune well, since in its appraisal the durability of the Hierochord's tuning is especially emphasized. Durability of tuning, easily manageable, penetrating tone and a sound similar to the organ's "vox humana" [fn][171-2] were the characteristics of this instrument which recommended it for choral work and the teaching of intervals. Even the organ was supposed to be more easily tuned with the Hierochord. The sound was apparently quite loud and full, which Gottfried Weber supposed that the inventor achieved through the use of several sound-boards. How this fullness of sound was achieved [fn][171-3] and how the key mechanism functioned remained the secret of the inventor, who out of fear of imitation did not publish any details [fn][171-4].

This Hierochord did not represent any new invention in principle. Since only one string was utilized, it was similar to the monochord, which had been used since antiquity in masses and demonstrations to determine intervals. Its use, as seen by its inventor, in school and in church either as a tuning-aid for the organ or as a substitute for it corresponds to the use of the medieval hurdy-gurdy as a choral accompaniment and its function as the predecessor of the organ in the church (see page 244 , and page 372).

A German "Amtsschösser" [fn][171-5] from Thuringia by the name of Biedermann is supposed to have also made improvements on the hurdy-gurdy around 1780. He is praised on account of his very great knowledge of music, his playing of the piano-forte,


but above all for his perfection of the hurdy-gurdy, which he introduced in 1786 in Erfurt with great success. "He has brought this common instrument to the highest pinnacle of perfection, and possesses several of these which have been made according to his directions. The marvel increases however to the greatest degree when this virtuoso player lets his instrument sound. He plays solos as well as works for full orchestras on it, which music he has partly himself composed and partly arranged for his instrument. He also accompanies the violin in the now popular piano trios, from the score" [fn][172-1]. Unfortunately nothing is known about his improvements.

C. The Streichklavier

The hurdy-gurdy made it possible to sustain notes indefinitely, but did not permit the use of chords, since all the melody tones lay on one string. Therefore it was attempted to combine the chordal features of other keyboard instruments with the sustaining feature of the hurdy-gurdy, and this succeeded with the construction of streichklaviers. Since the 16th century in these instruments wheels, circular bows or cylinders were combined with the keyboard and the corresponding number of strings of other keyboard instruments. On the streichklavier however not only were chords possible, but the instrument also possessed an amazing wealth of tonal colours (see page 182). Above all however it could, like the hurdy-gurdy, be played forte and piano (see page 183). This achievement was first matched on other keyboard instruments only with the hammerklavier. The importance of this ability for contemporaries is shown by the name 'pianoforte' or the hammerklavier.

Even after the introduction of the hammerklavier and the development of the harmonium the attempts with the streichklavier were not abandoned, and the combination of a sustained bowed tone and polyphony in one


instrument remained a problem until the 20th century [fn][173-1]. Even in the 1890's professional periodicals in the area of musical instrument building reported constantly of new inventions [fn][173-2], newly advertised patents [fn][173-3], and about the attempts of the 18th century, for example the Bogenflügel of Kohlfeld [fn][173-4].

The name "Bogenflügel" is often used to widely denote all such further developments, which sometimes received fantastic names from their inventors [fn][173-5], but can only appropriately denote those instruments whose strings


were stroked by a bow. Despite the various methods the stroking of the strings which is characteristic of these instruments makes the use of the likewise common term "streichklavier" seem more appropriate as a general name.

Already towards the end of the 15th century people began to tackle the problem of producing sustained tones on a stringed keyboard instrument. The sketch of an instrument by Leonardo do Vinci represents the first established attempt (ill. 211) [figlink]. "...in the so-called manuscript B dated 1488097 is found a drawing of a 'viola organista', and instrument operated by the force of weights and wheels, in which already a principal characteristic of the later geigenwerk or bogenklavier appears: a constantly revolving band which replaces the bow [fn][174-1]".

The first steichklavier of which a picture has been preserved (ill. 212) [figlink] as well as the inventor's description comes from Hans Haiden (1536-1613) of Nürnberg, who was the first to succeed in building a playable instrument. His streichklavier has become known under the name of the 'Nürnberg Geigenwerck'.

Haiden made the first Geigenwerk in 1575 and then attempted to improve it constantly until 1599. For the resulting improved Geigenwerk he chose the name "Musical instrumentum reformatum", which at the same time served as the title of the 1610 treatise on this instrument [fn][174-2]. For the Geigenwerk of 1599 he asked for and received a privilege from the Emperor Rudolf II, which entitled only himself and his heirs to the construction and marketing of this instrument [fn][174-3]. After the death of Rudolf II, his request for an extension was granted by his successor, the Emperor Matthias, for ten years [fn][174-4].

Haiden's geigenwerk created quite a bit of interest as a list of buyers prepared by the inventor shows. According to this list Haiden built 23 geigenwerk in all, of which 19 instruments are listed as sold and four as


gifts. Among 17 buyers are found eight princes, four of these Hapsburger. Rudolf II received two instruments [fn][175-1]. Haiden gave one geigenwerk away to the St. Sebald church in Nürnberg where he was an organist, and three instruments went to family members. From one of his sons, David, one of these instruments found its way into the possession of the Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Florence (died 1670) and later into the hands of his grandson, the Prince Ferdinand de Medici (died 1713). It was listed in 1716 in the inventory of the Medici's collection of instruments presided over by B. Cristofori [fn][175-2].

As is gathered from a notice in the "Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris" the Haiden geigenwerk was also brought to Spain: "On a retrouvé en Espagne, à l'Escurial, un vieil instrument qui parait être le prototype des pianos-violons et pianos-quatuors de nos jours. C'est un violicembalo, sorte de clavecin à archet, invente par Johann Heyden de Nuremberg, en 1606, et que le roi Phillippe III a fait venir à San-Lorenzo. Des roues cylindriques, frottées de colophane, sont mises en mouvement, par une manivelle; les touches attaquées par les doigts produisent, par l'intermédiaire de lames métallique, le contact des roues avec les cordes, et par conséquent un son se rapprochant de celui du violon et des instruments de la même famille." [fn][175-3] ["One rediscovered in Spain, in the l'Escurial, an old instrument that is seen to be the prototype of pianos-violins and pianos-quatuors of our days. This is a violicembalo, a type of bowed clavecin, invented by Johann Heyden of Nuremberg, in 1606, and that King Philippe III sent to San-Lorenzo for. Cylindrical wheels, rubbed with rosin, are put in motion, by a handle; the keys attacked by the fingers produce, by means of metallic blades, the contact of wheels with the strings, and by consequence there is a sound coming close to that of the violin and instruments of the same family."]

Haiden had wanted to protect his invention by an imperial privilege but already in 1608 complained that unauthorized persons were imitating his geigenwerk [fn][175-4]. Before Phillippe III had one of Haiden's geigenwerks brought to Spain, streichklaviers must have already been known there, since in a list of instruments which the archduke Albert offered to his friends before his departure from Madrid to the Lowlands (1595), a "orgue à roues" is mentioned, which a German, Ludwig Luren, is


supposed to have constructed.[fn][176-1] More about this instrument is not known; it could have been however a copy of Haiden's geigenwerk.

That Haiden's geigenwerk was imitated in Spain is proven by an instrument of Fray Raymundo Truchado, dated 1625. According to Georg Kinsky this instrument was played for a long time in the cathedral of Toledo. After its exhibition in 1893 in Madrid the Instrument Museum of Brussels bought it in 1903 and thereby came into the possession of the only instrument of this period to survive [fn][176-2] (ill. 213) [figlink]. This streichklavier had four octaves from C upwards, whereby the lowest octave is a 'short octave'. Compared to Haiden's geigenwerk it shows a somewhat different form of construction. The strings run over four wheels, which are not as on the Nürnberg instrument connect with a flywheel and a pedal, but with a hand crank which is situated on the side of the instrument. 45 strings are divided from right to left on the wheels in such a way that towards the bass the number per wheel decreases: 13, 12, 11, 9. Since the hand crank replaces the pedal, the player always needs someone who by turning the crank will keep the wheels in motion.

The wooden parts of the instrument are covered with velvet, the metal parts show signs of having been gilt, and two oil-paintings decorate the inside of the cover. Under the pictures stands in gold letters on a green background:


To judge by the name of the maker the instrument is of Spanish origin. Aside from the name nothing is known about the instrument maker Raymundo Truchado. For the source of the instrument there are however some indications: under the velvet were found various layers


of color. On the original surface water-color paintings could be seen which were similar to those of the Flemish instrument makers and there were in the borders a quite distinct type of arabesques whose form are identical with the ornamentations of the instrument makers in Antwerp. The Flemish decorations however do not exclude a Spanish origin for the instrument, since in that time many Flemish artists were living in Spain [fn][177-1]. That the instrument was built for use in Spain can be gathered from the height of the streichklavier. The keyboard is only 35cm above the floor, and therefore it was impossible to play the instrument sitting on a chair. The player had to sit on the floor or on a cushion. This explains also the transformation of Haiden's pedal into a hand crank, for with the low height it was not possible to attach a foot pedal.

The manner of sitting on the floor is an Middle Eastern custom introduced into Spain by the Arabs, and after the expulsion of the Moors from Spain (1610) it, like other customs, survived for a period afterwards. In the Middle East women perform music sitting on the floor, and this was taken into consideration when the streichklavier was built, just 15 years after the expulsion [fn][177-2].

The first description of the construction of a streichklavier comes from Hans Haiden and was reproduced by Michael Praetorius [fn][177-3]. The description of his instrument which Haiden gave is not very informative for us. In the first part of the treatise "Musicale instrumentum reformatu" of 1610 Haiden does not talk about the instrument, but has a lengthy discussion about music [fn][177-4]. In the second part he discusses his geigenwerk, but his descriptions are however so general and


fail to account for any of the details of the construction that Praetorius prefaced a more exact explanation [fn][178-1].

According to Praetorius' illustration [fn][178-2] (ill. 212) [figlink] the instrument had the shape of a harpsichord and apparently had a tonal range of over three and one-half octaves. There was a string for every note. The strings ran over five or six wheels which, displaced somewhat from one another, were installed in the resonance chamber. The top part of the wheels are visible but not the lower part with the turning mechanism. The steel discs were covered very uniformly with parchment and brushed with rosin or oil of lavender [fn][178-3]. The player sat in front of the instrument and operated the pedal with his foot [fn][178-4], whereby by means of a large wheel and various transmission rolls under the soundboard the wheels were set in motion. The turning mechanism was operated either by the player himself or by a helper with a hand rod on the side. The strings did not lie upon the wheels, but were pulled down to the wheel by little hooks on the keys.

The improvements which Haiden introduced on his instrument related above all to the strings and to the stroking process. Vincenzo Galilei reports of the first geigenwerk: "This instrument is strung and a manner similar to that of the lute; they are, like those of the viola, bowed by a strand set up just for that purpose and which is made out of exactly the same bristles as those which are used to make violin bows; this strand can be set revolving with great ease by the player's foot and by means of a wheel over which it runs constantly as many strings as the fingers demand " [fn][178-5]. The instrument of 1775 which Galilei describes was thus still provided with a stroking-band, which was later replaced by five to six


wheels [fn][179-1]. Gut was originally used for the strings, later brass and steel. The metal strings were bound with parchment whose thickness decreased as the pitch of the string increased. The highest strings were not covered at all but were simply of steel [fn][179-2].

Haiden calls particular attention in his treatise to the fact that with steel strings it was not necessary to continually tune them, as was the case with gut strings [fn][179-3]. There were apparently still gut strings on the instrument which Galilei met with in München (Munich). From Dresden the instrument, "strung with violin strings and (provided) with a pedal" [fn][179-4], was sent to Nürnberg and from there to München.

The metal strings used later by Haiden promised to wear better and did not fall out of tune as quickly [fn][179-5]. With these advantages of the metal strings came the disadvantage of an undesirably sharp sound. This explains why Haiden in the end preferred gut strings after all. Thus the geigenwerk in the Medici collection , which David Haiden sold to Florence, was strung with gut string [fn][179-6]. Other inventors of streichklaviers also used gut strings. Thus an "arched viall" had gut strings [fn][179-7], as did Kohlfeld's Bogenflügel, in reference to which it was said to be easily tuned [fn][179-8], and Truchado's streichklavier. On this there were still remains of the gut strings when the instrument museum in Brussels acquired the instrument in 1903. E. Closson and V.-ch Mahillon, following Praetorius had strung the instrument


with metal strings in place of the gut strings which were no longer serviceable. The result was not satisfying as the sound was screeching, so gut strings were put on, whose tones sounded considerably softer and more beautiful. [fn][180-1]

After Haiden and his imitators the ever-strived-for combination of a sustained and polyphonic string sound led in the times following to the evolution of very different principles of construction. J.I. Hawking invented a 'claviola ' with keys, several strings and a violin bow fastened in a guide [fn][180-2]. Müller-Braunau invented a 'Pedalgeige' whose strings were fingered but whose box bow was replaced by a stroking band led zig-zag over rolls and moved by a pedal [fn][180-3]. A horizontal circular bow which stroked vertical strings was constructed by R. Träubl in Dresden [fn][180-4]. F. Kühmayer built a streichklavier with several drive bands of leather [fn][180-5] and G. Baudet worked with cylinders on his 'piano-violon' [fn][180-6]. F. Gerhardt's 'saiten-orgel' was a complicated affair, on which each string "in a groove especially made for it' vibrated so long as wind entered a vent, opened by a key, which belonged to the same groove. [fn][180-7]

Haiden said very little about the mechanical action of his geigenwerk. On the other hand he lists all the advantages which his instrument has over others in great detail. It seemed especially important to him that on the geigenwerk the player could sustain notes as long as he wished, which was something not even possible on violins: "welches auff der Geigen (wegen des kurtzen Geigen Bogens) auch


nicht seyn kan" [fn][181-1]. [trans AH: "which also cannot be done on the violin (because of the short violin bow)"] Haiden also draws attention to the fact the instrument has a particularly soft violin sound when played in a small room with the lid closed [fn][181-2]. Above all Haiden emphasized the many uses to which the geigenwerk could be put. Thus he thought that it was suited to imitate the lute and zither and military music as well (with trumpets) [fn][181-3] and to replace entirely such instruments as hurdy-gurdy, the bagpipes, and the shawm. If played in the manner of these last-mentioned instruments, it could provide great pleasure even for people who are not especially interested in music, or even for drunks: "Zum Neundten / lest es sich auch auff gut Leyrerisch: Vnd zum zehenden wie Sackpfeiffen vnd Schalmeyen machen vnd hören: Damit man die Weiber vnd Kinder / so sich sonst der Musica nicht viel achten / auch wol grosse Leute / wenn sie in etwas mit eim guten Trunck beladen / erfrewen kan." [fn][181-4] [trans AH/babelfish: "To the Neundten / reads it itself also out of well Leyrerisch: and to the zehenden as well as bagpipes and shawms make and hear: therewith one the women and children / so itself otherwise the Musica not much eighth / also wol large people / if it in something with eim good Trunck load / erfrewen kan"] Shortly after this Haiden nevertheless defends himself against some critics who compare his instruments with the hurdy-gurdy [fn][181-5].

The inventor particularly emphasizes also the possibilities of another use: in the first part of his treatise he even ascribes to his geigenwerk the ability to cure people with its pleasant resonance, whose ears have been injured or who have on account of a loud bang, as for example through the noise of a smithy, become deaf [fn][181-6].

Haiden's geigenwerk must have astounded his contemporaries. Just the large number of 23 instruments built alone indicates that it was respected and recognized by society in his time. Haiden's instrument was an attraction at the memorable concert held in Nürnberg on 31 May1643, which was intended to afford an overview of contemporary music. The programme included 22 pieces; with number 15 the first instrumental music appeared and "after this the newly-invented


Nürnberg geigenwerk of Herr Johann Heiden" [fn][182-1], which was introduced as a solo instrument. At this time, it is true, Haiden was already dead for thirty years and his geigenwerk was thus no longer 'newly-invented'. The instrument used was the one Haiden has presented to the church of St. Sebald and which later stood in the city hall. It was heard once again on 25 September 1659 at a large banquet-concert for the "Friedensmahl", where next to a theorbo, a choir of four singers and eight gambas it served as a general bass instrument [fn][182-2].

The impression which the instrument gave to listeners varied greatly apparently. Vincenzo Galilei gave a picture of the geigenwerk, which in 1581 during his stay in München he saw as 'Strumento di tasti molto artifitio e bello" [trans AH: "keyed instrument of great artistry and beauty." and described its sound. When it was played well one thought that one was hearing a choir of very softly playing violins [fn][182-3]. Others compared the sound to the "rustle of a bowed gamba" [fn][182-4] G. Gleichmann's 'klaviergambe' which was an improved geigenwerk built in 1709, was supposed to have had a "sound similar to a bowed viola-ad gamma" [fn][182-5]. Concerning the sound of Fray Raymundo Truchado's instrument which is the only 17th century streichklavier preserved, Ernest Closson reports that it did not have a sound similar to that produced by a bow-stroke, but that it was rather organ-like. Its tone had an astounding fullness, clarity, and was in the upper registers it was somewhat nasal. "Le son ne rappelle en rien, comme on pourrait le croire, celui des archets, mais bien plutôt de l'orgue - à cause probablement de sa prolongation et de son égalité...La sonorité proprement dite est d'une ampleur étonnante. Le timbre est très clair, même éclatant, un peu nasillard


dans l'aigu" [fn][183-1][trans AH: The sound does not recall, as one could believe it might, that of the bowed strings, but rather very much that of the organ - this is probably caused by the prolongation and equality of the notes...There is an astonishing extent of sonority. The timbre is very clear, even bursting, a little nasal in the upper notes.]

While the sound of other key instruments such as the harpsichord dissipated quickly, on streichklaviers it could be sustained as long as the key was held down. Besides there were more possibilities for providing nuances, for example crescendo and diminuendo, which could never be attained on the harpsichord [fn][183-2].

Haiden's geigenwerk could be played either forte or piano: "By pressing down more or less the tone can be strengthened or weakened at will or, in other words, increased or diminished" [fn][183-3]. It was said of Meyer's bogenklavier that it enabled the player "to sustain the notes as much as desired and so...have then either increase or again decrease" [fn][183-4], and of G. Baudet's 'piano-violon' (1865) a "beautiful diminuendo or crescendo" was effected by more or less pressure on the keys [fn][183-5]. In reference to F. Kühmayer's streichklavier it was particularly pointed out that some voices could be played forte and others piano at the same time, and that the sound produced by a light glissando was very similar to that of the aeolian harp [fn][183-6].

Aside from sustained tones, polyphonic sounds of the quality of a string quartet were supposed to be produced by those instruments. That the string quartet sound was strived for is indicated by, for example, the name 'Piano-Quatuor' of G.Baudet's instrument. A sound analogous to that of a string quartet was attained by his 'Piano-Violon' [fn][183-7]. The importance attached to a polyphonic sound is made clear by a remark of C.F.A. Kellermanns in reference to the execution of trills on Meyer's bogenklavier:


the trills played on the streichklavier were not as nice as those produced on the violin. "This fault can only be removed if the lyre's arrangement is given to the bogenklavier. This can indeed be effected, although then it would be possible to produce one voice, and thus the main purpose of this instrument would be missing" [fn][184-1].

Other builders of streichklaviers did not pursue the goal of reproducing the sound of the string quartet, but strove rather to unite the sound effects of various instruments. C. Greiner in Wetzler for example equipped his instrument with two manuals; on the top manual the piano (klavier) could be played, and on the bottom the geigenwerk [fn][184-2]. The streichklavier of J. Bajde of Littai (in Krain) likewise had two manuals: 'on the upper manual all the string instruments are played with the usual piano keys, and on the lower zither, harp, and bell tones. Both manuals can be used simultaneously" [fn][184-3].

As being characteristic of the streichklavier in the 19th century its expressiveness [fn][184-4] and similarity in sound to the harmonium was emphasized: "Full chords sound similar to those of the harmonium" [fn][184-5]. R. Kramer established that in particular the saitenorgel, on which the strings are set vibrating by a stream of air (see page 180), attains the tonal quality of the harmonium. On this instrument "an extraordinary spiritual expression is possible" and its expressive quality was considered superior to that of the harmonium [fn][184-6].

As the references to the similarity in sound of these two instruments indicate, in the 19th century there was a certain competition between the streichklavier and the harmonium. This however did not have as a consequences that with the greater success


of the harmonium the construction of streichklaviers ceased; it was attempted rather to improve both instruments. Only the invention of electronic sound production brought about an end to the development of streichclaviers.







1) O. Andersson, The Bowed Harp. A Study in the History of Early Musical Instruments, London 1930, 189.


1) T. Norlind, Geschichte des Klaviers, 30.

2) H. Panum, Stringed Instruments of the Middle Ages, London 1940, 317.

3) K. P. Leffler, Om Nyckelharpospelat på Skansen, Stockholm 1899, 25.

4) J. Ling, Nyckelharpan. Studier i ett folkligt musikinstrument, Stockholm 1967, 179.

5) J. Ling, Nyckelharpan, 119.

6) J. Ling, Nyckelharpan, 39.

7) J. Ling, Nyckelharpan, 153.

8) C. Claudius, Die schwedische "Nyckelharpa", in: Bericht über den 2. Kongreß der Internationalen Musikgesellschaft zu Basel vom 25-27 September 1906, Leipzig 1907, 244.


1) J. Ling, Nyckelharpan, 153.

2) E. van der Straeten, La musique aux Pays-Bas avant le XIX siècle. Documents inédits et annotés, 8 volumes, Brussels 1867-1888, Volume 7, Chapter 1, 45f.

3) F.W. Galpin, Old English Instruments of Music, 172.

4) C. Sachs, Reallexikon der Musikinstrumente, 283 s.v. Orgelklavier


1) V.-Ch. Mahillon, Catalogue déscriptif et analytique du musée instrumental du Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, 5 volumes, Ghent and Brussels 1880-1922, Volume III, Ghent 1909, 72.

2) F. Dom Bedos de Celles, L'Art du Facteur d'orgues, Volume IV, Facsimile reprint in 1778, Kassel 1966, 644f.

3) F. Dom Bedos de Celles, L'Art du Facteur d'orgues, Volume IV, 644ff. Instruments of this type are: one instrument in the Bavarian National Museum, Mu 95 (in K.A. Bierdimpfl, Die Sammlung der Musikinstrumente des Bayrischen Nationalmuseums, Munich 1883, 62 under No. 161); two instruments in the Musée du Conservatoire National de musique, Paris (G. Chouquet, Le Musée du Conservatoire National, I 50f, and in the 1st Supplement Volume of G. Chouquet, Le Musée du Conservatoire by L. Pillant, Paris 1894, 11) ; two instruments in the Musée instrumental du Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles (V.-Ch. Mahillon, Catalogue déscriptif et analytique, I 343 ID No. 522 and III 72 ID No. 1483).


1) Preserved instruments with strap: An instrument in the Musikinstumentenmuseum in Berlin, K 2609 (see ill. 207) [figlink] (C. Sachs, Die Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente bei dr staatlichen Hochschule für Musik zu Berlin. Beschreibender Katalog, Berlin 1922, III Nr. 2609; A. Ganse, Guide to the Musikinstumentenmuseum. Department III of tsieur l'Abbe Carbussus he Institutes, Berlin 1939, 24 No. 2609). In the new small guide through the music instrument museum of Alfred Berner (A. Berner, Die Berliner Musikinstrumenten-Sammlung. Institute für Musikforschung, Berlin 1952) no reference is found to this instrument because it had not yet been restored at this time. An instrument in the Snoeck collection (C C. Snoeck, Catalogue de la collection d' instrument de musique anciens ou curieux formés, Ghent 1894, 128 nr.s. 609).

2) Lettre de Monsieur l'Abbé Carbasus à Monsieur d(xxx) auteur DU "Temple du goust" sur la mode des instruments de musique, Paris 1739, 18.

3) C. Engel, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Instruments in the South Kensington Museum, 2nd Edition, London 1874, 345.

4) A. Scharnagl, Johann Xaver Sterkel. Ein Beitrag zur Musikgeschichte Mainfrankens, Würzburg 1943, 81.


1) E. de Bricqueville, Notice sur la vielle, 25f.

2) E. de Bricqueville, Notice sur la vielle, 26.

3) E. de Bricqueville, Les instruments de musique champêtres au XVIIe au XVIIIe siècles, in: E. de Bricqueville, Un coin de curiosité. Les anciens instruments de musique, Paris 1894, 48.


1) A. Hammerich, Das musikhistorische Museum zu Kopenhagen. Beschreibender der Instrumentensammlung, Kopenhagen 1911, 104 Nr. 440. D 49.

2) T. Norlind. Geschichte des Klaviers, 26f.

3) J. Schlosser, Die Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente, 72; compare also T. Norlind. Geschichte des Klaviers, 26.


1) Almanach Musical 1775, Paris 1775, 35.

2) Almanach Musical 1777, Paris 1777, 34.

3) "Cet instrument pour se servir des touches, n'est peut être pas la plus favorable pour se servir de l'archet, ..." (Almanach Musical 1775, Paris 1777, 34)


1) Almanach Musical 1781, Paris 1781, 61f.

2) W.L Lütgendorff, Geschichte der Geigen- und Lautenmacher vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart, 6th Edition, Frankfurt 1922, Volume II, 122 s.v. Engelhard. One instrument from 1742 is in the Musée de Cluny, Paris. The other is in the Musikinstrumentenmuseum in Berlin.


1) Lettre de Monsieur 'Abbe Carbasus, 23 Anm.

2) F.H. Bärwald, Die neuesten Erfindungen und Verbesserungen an den musikalischen Instrumenten, ... Leipzig 1833, 3.

3) W. Schneider, Historisch-technische Beschreibung der musikalischen Instrumente, Leipzig 1834, 115.


1) G. Weber, Das Hierochord, Erfindung des Herrn Dr. Schmidt in Greifswalde, in: Caecilia, Volume 5, Chapter 19, Mainz 1826, 166f.

2) F.H. Bärwald, Die neuesten Erfindungen, 5.

3) G. Weber, Das Hierochord, 163.

4) F.H. Bärwald, Die neuesten Erfindungen, 3f.

5) A "Schösser" is a tax collector (J. u. W. Grimm, Deutsches Wörtenbuch, Volume IX, Leipzig 1894, 1600).


1) E.L. Gerber, Historisch-Biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, ... I. Thiel, Leipzig 1790, 161.


1) Compare to the numerous attempts: J. Adlung, Musica mechanica organoedi... 2 volumes, Berlin 1768, reprinted Kassel 1931, II 126ff.; E. Closson, Le Geigenwerck au musée du Conservatoire de Bruxelles, in: Guide Musical No. 18 from 1 May 1904, 403-406; F.W. Galpin, Old English Instruments of Music, 75f.; G. Kastner, Les Danses des Morts, Paris 1852, 263f.; G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, der Erfinder des Nürnberischen Geigenwercks, in: Zeitschrift für Musikwissenschaft 6 (1923/24) 213f.; T. Norlind, Geschichte des Klaviers, 45-54; C. Sachs, Reallexikon der Musikinstrumente, 360f. s.v. Streichklavier; H. Welcker von Gontershausen, Neu eröffnetes, Magazin musikalischer Tonwerkzeuge, Frankfurt 1855, 96f.; Röllig introduced his Xänorphica in 1800 and simultaneously criticized Meyer's Bogenklavier (Journal des Luxus und der Moden, February 1801, as well as an opinion by C.F.A. Kellermann, in: Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 3. Jg.No. 46, Leipzig 1801, 757-768.)

2) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1893/94) 120f. 706, 860; Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1896/97) 663.

3) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1894//95) 675; Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1895/96) 43, 778; Deutsche Instrumentenbau-Zeitung 3 (1901/1902) 172; compare also Patent No. 51 b, 37 / 51 d,24 / 51 c, 3, German Patent Office in Munich; English patent in 1901 (No. 10.087), in 1902 (No. 8213), in 1903 (No. 7147), in 1904 (No. 682,26.261), in 1906 (No. 14.897, 19.644), in 1907 (No. 10.543, 11.602, 22.392), and in 1908 (No. 15.543) (Patents for Inventions. Abridgements of Specifications. Class 88, Music and Musical Instruments. 1901 - 1904, London 1907; 1905-1908, London 1911).

4) Hohlfeld (born 1711) presented his Bogenflügel at the court of the Queen Mother in Berlin in 1753. This instrument became the instrument that C. Ph. E. Bach played (Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1895//96) 820).


1) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 193.

2) Part 2 of the treatise was reproduced in: Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 68-72.

3) E. Closson, Le Geigenwerk au musée du Conservatoire de Bruxelles, in: Le Guide Musical No. 14 (3.4.1904) 308.

4) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 201.


1) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 208.

2) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 210f.

3) Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, No, 7 (18.2.1872) 54.

4) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 201f.


1) "Un organo con mucha ymbençion y registros que se tâne con ruidas y otra de respecto que se compro de Ludovico Luren, aleman, organista, en el año de 1588" (E. van der Straeten, La musique aux Pays-Bas avant le XIXe siècle, Volume II, Brussels 1872, 311).

2) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 212.


1) E. Closson, Le Geigenwerk, in: Le Guide Musical No. 17 (24.4.1904) 380.

2) E. Closson, Un ancien instrument espagnol au musée du Conservatoire de Bruxelles, in: Revue musicale Belge, 15e année, septembre 1939, 8.

3) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 68-72.

4) E. Closson, Le Geigenwerk, in: Le Guide Musical No. 14 (3.4.1904) 308.


1) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 67f.

2) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II Table 3.

3) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 68.

4) Two pedals are reported somewhat later in Haiden's treatise (compare M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 71).

5) Translation quotes after G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 199.


1) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 68.

2) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 68/71.

3) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 71.

4) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 199. G. Kinsky presents this quotatation, but does not provide its source.

5) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 71.

6) G. Kinsky, Hans Haiden, 200.

7) F.W. Galpin, Old English Instruments of Music, 75f.

8) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1895/96) 820.


1) E. Closson, Le Geigenwerk, in: Le Guide Musical No. 16 (17.4.1904) 356f.

2) C. Sachs, Reallexikon der Musikinstrumente, 88 s.v. Claviola

3) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1895/96) 142f.

4) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1895/96) 778.

5) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1893/94) 860.

6) Bericht über die Welt-Ausstellung zu Paris im Jahre 1867 [Report on the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris], pub. by the K.K. Austrian Central Committee. 1st Edition, Book III. Instruments for art and science, Vienna 1867, 20. One of these instruments made by G. Baudet, invented in 1865 is in the Deutschen Museum in Munich.

7) Deutsche Instrumentenbau-Zeitung 2 (1900) 124f.


1) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 70.

2) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 71.

3) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 70 and 71.

4) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 70.

5) M. Praetorius, Syntagma musicum II 71.

6) E. Closson, Le Geigenwerk, in: Le Guide Musical, No. 15 (10.4.1904) 333, column 2, note 2.


1) W. Kahl, Das Nürnberger historische Konzert von 1643 und sein Geschichtsbild, in: Archive für Musicwissenschaft 14 (1957) 287.

2) W. Kahl, Das Nürnberger historische Konzert, 297.

3) V. Galilei, Dialogo della musica antica e della moderna, Florence 1581, 48.

4) H. Welcker von Gontershausen, Neu eröffnetes Magazin, 96.

5) J.F.B.K. Majer, Museum Musicum, Schwäbisch-Hall 1732, reprinted Kassel 1954, 90.


1) E. Closson, Le Geigenwerk, in: Le Guide Musical, No. 16 (17.4.1904) 357.

2) E. Closson, Histoire du piano, Brussels (1944) 63ff.

3) H. Welcker von Gontershausen, Neu eröffnetes Magazin, 96.

4) C.F.A. Kellermann, Auch ein Wort über das Bogenklavier zur Widerlegung und Berichtigung des von Herrn Röllig ... hierüber gefällten Urtheils, in: Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 3. Jg. No. 46 (12.8.1801) 767.

5) Bericht über die Welt-Ausstellung zu Paris im Jahre 1867, 20.

6) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1893/94) 860.

7) Bericht über die Welt-Ausstellung zu Paris im Jahre 1867, 20.


1) C.F.A. Kellermann, Auch ein Wort über das Bogenklavier, 766.

2) H. Welcker von Gontershausen, Neu eröffnetes Magazin, 97.

3) Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1893/94) 706.

4) C.F.A. Kellermann, Auch ein Wort über das Bogenklavier, 767.

5) F. Kühmayers Streichklavier, in: Musik-Instrumenten-Zeitung (1893/94) 860.

6) R. Kramer, in: Deutsche Instrumentenbau-Zeitung 2 (1900) 125.

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Alden and Cali Hackmann
Olympic Musical Instruments

© Original text in German copyright 1977, Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft GmbH
© Translation copyright 2005, Olympic Musical Instruments and the Bröcker Tranlation Group