Last Tuesday I sold my first lute and on Monday 2-1-16, I received a brand new 8-course renaissance lute built for me by luthier Mel Wong of Blackbird String Arts in San Francisco. I am very excited about this gorgeous new instrument, and I thought I would share with you some pictures and a little information about it. I will be recording a few pieces with it over the next few weeks, so be on the lookout!
Mel based my new lute on a series of lutes made circa 1599 by a German luthier from Tieffenbruck in the Bavarian Alps named Michielle Hartung. According to Grove Music Online, Hartung purchased his freedom in 1590 and subsequently apprenticed under Leonardo Tieffenbrucker the Younger in Venice. Hartung was one of several influential German luthiers (including Leonardo Tieffenbrucker the Elder and Wendelin Tieffenbrucker) living in Padova, Italy around the turn of the 17th century. In fact, Hartung married Wendelin Tieffenbrucker's daughter. These German luthiers are sometimes referred to as the Füssen School due to their previous connections with that city's rich tradition of instrument building.
Padova is about 25 miles west of Venice. There has been a renowned University at Padova since 1222, which employed Galileo Galilei (himself a fine lutenist, and the son of famous professional lutenist, composer, and theoretician Vincenzo Galilei) as a mathematics lecturer from 1592 to 1610. Considering that the population of Padova in 1600 AD was just over 15,000 people, I don't think it's at all unreasonable to suggest that Galilei and Hartung may have known each other. I would love to read the Galileo letters to see if there is a mention of such a meeting. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell these letters have never been translated into English and my grasp of Italian is no match for early 17th century manuscripts.
Two of the original instruments on which my lute is based are actually bass lutes tuned in E and are currently housed in the Germanisches National Museum, Nurnberg collection, catalog numbers MI 44 and MI 56. Another is a tenor lute (like this one) tuned in G, and located at the Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna, catalog No. 1808. Hartung, like most luthiers, used labels inside the instrument to identify his works. His labels for these instruments read:
"M. Hartung in Padova me fecit, anno 1599" which translates to "M. Hartung made me in Padova in the year 1599"
My own instrument is a simplified version of the original body design. Looking at the original instruments listed above, it seems to me that the body shape is more like the MI 56 lute, but the rose is certainly the MI 44. The soundboard is Engelmann Spruce, the bowl is made of flamed maple, the neck is made of Honduras mahogany, the pegbox is made of beech, and the tuning pegs are boxwood.
I've included pictues of the instrument made for me by Mel Wong and pictures of MI 44 (bottom left) and 56 (bottom right) for comparison. I have not yet found images of the one at Bologna.
"Packington's Pound" was recorded on the new instrument, and is included below if you'd like to hear how it sounds!