Musician Plays the Last Stradivarius Guitar in the World, the “Sabionari” Made in 1679

Last night, while the home team lost the big game on TVs at a local dive bar, my noisy rock band opened for a cham­ber pop ensem­ble. Elec­tric gui­tars and feed­back gave way to clas­si­cal acoustics, vio­lin, piano, accor­dion, and even a saw. It was an inter­est­ing cul­tur­al jux­ta­po­si­tion in an evening of cul­tur­al jux­ta­po­si­tions. The sports and music did­n’t gel, but an odd sym­me­try emerged from the two bands’ con­trast­ing styles, to a degree. The instru­ment above, on the oth­er hand, would have fit right in with the sec­ond act, whose old world charm would sure­ly find a place for a 1679 guitar—one craft­ed by the leg­endary mas­ter luthi­er Anto­nio Stradi­vari, no less.

If you know noth­ing at all about music or musi­cal instru­ments, you know the name Stradi­vari and the vio­lins that bear his name. They are such cov­et­ed, valu­able objects they some­times appear as the tar­get of crime capers in the movies and on tele­vi­sion. This Stradi­var­ius gui­tar, called the “Sabionari,” is even rar­er than the vio­lins. The Stradi­vari fam­i­ly, writes For­got­ten Gui­tar, “pro­duced over 1000 instru­ments, of which 960 were vio­lins.” Yet, “a small num­ber of gui­tars were also craft­ed, and as of today only one remains playable.” High­ly playable, you’ll observe in these videos, thanks to the restora­tion by luthiers Daniel Sinier, Fran­coise de Rid­der, and Loren­zo Frig­nani.

In the clip just above, Baroque con­cert gui­tarist Rolf Lisl­e­vand plays San­ti­a­go de Mur­ci­a’s “Taran­tela” on the restored gui­tar, whose sonorous ring­ing tim­bre recalls anoth­er Baroque instru­ment, the harp­si­chord.

So unique and unusu­al is the ten-string Stradi­var­ius Sabionari that it has its own web­site, where you’ll find many detailed, close-up pho­tos of the ele­gant design as well as more music, like the piece above, Ange­lo Michele Bar­tolot­ti’s Suite in G Minor as per­formed by clas­si­cal gui­tarist Krish­na­sol Jiménez, who, along with Lisl­e­vand, has been entrust­ed with the instru­ment for many live per­for­mances. Owned by a pri­vate col­lec­tor, the Sabionari went on dis­play last year in Basel and very often appears at lec­tures on restora­tion and con­ser­va­tion of clas­si­cal instru­ments, as well as in per­for­mances around Europe. The web­mas­ter has not kept the “Events” page up to date, unfor­tu­nate­ly, but you should scroll through it regard­less. You’ll find there many more videos of the gui­tar in action (like that below of gui­tarist Ugo Nas­truc­ci impro­vis­ing), links to exhibits, descrip­tions of the chal­leng­ing­ly long neck and Baroque tun­ing, and a sense of just how much the Sabionari gets around for such a rare, antique instru­ment.

via For­got­ten Gui­tar

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Musi­cians Play Bach on the Octo­bass, the Gar­gan­tu­an String Instru­ment Invent­ed in 1850

Why Vio­lins Have F‑Holes: The Sci­ence & His­to­ry of a Remark­able Renais­sance Design

What Does a $45 Mil­lion Vio­la Sound Like? Vio­list David Aaron Car­pen­ter Gives You a Pre­view

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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