It’s startling to think of the multitude of objects Leonardo da Vinci conceptualized, and it’s a tad heartbreaking to realize he saw so few of them actualized.
But nearly 500 years after da Vinci sketched his plans for a musical instrument he dubbed the Viola Organista, Polish concert pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki spent more than 5,000 hours making da Vinci’s idea a reality.
In 2013, Zubryzcki debuted the instrument at the Academy of Music in the southern Polish city of Krakow. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, Zubryzcki said, “This instrument has the characteristics of three we know: the harpsichord, the organ and the viola da gamba.”
Watch the performance in the YouTube video below; you’ll recognize the pieces. And if you listen to the audio without watching Zubryzcki at the keyboard, you may think you’re hearing a small chamber ensemble rather than one person playing a single instrument.
• 1757 ~ Domenico Scarlatti, Italian composer and harpsichordist, died. He composed over 500 keyboard sonatas, using new techniques and achieving brilliant effects.
• 1796 ~ Franz Adolf Berwald, Swedish composer and violinst
• 1916 ~ Ben Weber, American composer and winner of the Thorne Music Award in 1965
• 1925 ~ Gloria DeHaven, Singer
• 1928 ~ Leon Fleisher, American pianist and conductor
• 1934 ~ Steve Lacy (Lackritz), Jazz musician, soprano sax
• 1941 ~ Sonny Dunham and his orchestra recorded the tune that was to become Mr. Dunham’s theme song. Memories of You was Bluebird record #11239.
• 1940 ~ Gary Stites, Singer
• 1943 ~ Tony Joe White, Country Singer
• 1945 ~ Dino Danelli, Musician, drummer with The (Young) Rascals
• 1946 ~ Andy Mackay, Musician, saxophone, woodwinds with Roxy Music
• 1947 ~ David Essex (Cook), Rock Singer
• 1940 ~ (John Donald) Don Imus, Radio DJ & talk-show host
• 1950 ~ Blair Thornton, Musician, guitar with Bachman-Turner Overdrive
• 1961 ~ Martin Gore, Musician with DePeche Mode
• 1966 ~ Frank Sinatra hit the top of the pop album chart with his Strangers in the Night. It was the first #1 Sinatra LP since 1960. The album’s title song had made it to number one on the pop singles chart on July 2nd.
• 1969 ~ Three Dog Night received a gold record for the single, One. It was the first of seven million-sellers for the pop-rock group.
• 2000 ~ Yoshimi Takeda, a former director of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, died at the age of 67 of complications from cancer. He had been music director and resident conductor of the NMSO from 1974 to 1984, holding the post concurrently with that of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Takeda made his debut with the Tokyo Symphony in 1958. He began his U.S. career in 1962 as a Kulas Fellow with the Cleveland Orchestra in a conductor advanced training program. He came to the NMSO in 1970 after six years as the Honolulu Symphony’s associate director.
• 2002 ~ Clark Gesner, who created the musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” died of a heart attack while visiting the Princeton Club in Manhattan. He was 64. Gesner’s well-known musical, based on Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip, opened in March 1967 in a New York theater and went on to tour nationally. The 14-song show featured Gary Burghoff as Charlie Brown and Bob Balaban as Linus. It made a monthlong leap to Broadway in the early 1970s, and was revived on Broadway in 1999. Gesner, who was born in Maine, attended Princeton and was active in the Triangle Club, the university’s theater troupe.