Tag: Germany

stringed instruments

Anglo Saxon Lyre / Germanic Lyre

One of the oldest musical instruments is the lyre. This instrument is well known as the Anglo Saxon Lyre in the UK, but also as the Germanic lyre. In German it is also known as the Alemannische Leier or Alamannische Leier.

On the homepage of Paul Bultler (http://crab.rutgers.edu/~pbutler/aslyre.html) you can read:

The Anglo-Saxon Lyre is a five to seven (mostly six) string instrument used throughout northern Europe during the early middle ages. Known variously as a lyre, cithara, rotte, hearpe, etc., it has a couple of forms. Primary research on this instrument has already been done in a number of places, including several places on the web, so I’m not going to duplicate that information here (see below for various links). The most famous “example” of this instrument is the Sutton Hoo lyre, small fragments of which were found in a burial mound in SE England, dating from the 7th century C.E., which are presently on display in the British Museum along with a reconstruction of what the instrument might look like (I believe originally made by Dolmetsch).

The lyre of Sutton Hoo has been excavated during the 1930s, a reconstruction of this lyre can be seen in the British Museum in London. This lyre very often served as a model for reconstructions of the Anglo Saxon Lyre.

Michael J King builds reconstructions of lyres including a reconstruction of the Sutton Hoo lyre and presents them with some youtube videos and on his homepage (http://michaeljking.com/sutton_hoo_lyre.htm)

The lyre was especially popular in Germanic tribes in the South of Germany. In 2001 a very good preserved instrument was found during the excavation of a grave in Trossingen. This is the best preserved lyre that has been found until today. The wood used for this lyre has been dated to the late 6th. century, this makes it probable that the instrument has been constructed around 600 A. D.

You can find information and pictures about this instrument in the wikipedia: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trossinger_Leier

Some weeks ago I had the chance to play a reconstruction of this Trossinger Leier. This instrument is really beautiful. Table and back of the lyre are decorated with a kind of engraved and blackened celtic pattern.

The instrument I played is owned by Eberhard Kummer, a singer from Vienna, Austria. Eberhard Kummer is especially known for his medieval ballads and the medieval Nibelungenlied.  Eberhard Kummer used the Trossinger Lyre to accompany a medieval ballad.  He used the technique known as “block and strum”. Strings that should not sound are blocked by touching them with the fingers of the left hand, the right hand strums over the strings to produce a chord. A very simple song that can be realised with this technique ist the song: “What shall we do with a drunken sailor.” with chord changes between C-Major and D-Minor.

Here is an example of this “block and strum” technique playd on a lyre by Michael J King:

Anglo Saxon Lyre 2

Another example of the “block and strum” technique can be seen in the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucgIRUBy1Qc&NR=1

The museum of Ellwangen (Germany) does also offer workshops to build a lyre. A report about the construction of a lyre during such a workshop is available at: http://www.dieterle-design.de/leierbau.html

The instrument built during this workshop is used in the following youtube video. In this example the lyre is played with a simple picking technique of the right hand:

Alamannische Leier

The lyre seems to be a very simple instrument, but it offers many different playing techniques and it is possible to play very elaborate and beautiful music on a lyre.

As an example you can watch the following video of an ancient lyre. The player uses many different techniques that could also be used on a  Germanic or Anglo Saxon Lyre, including picking the strings with both hands, strumming with a pick, picking with the left hand and strumming with the right hand at the same time, even tremolo on a single string and picking chords with the left hand, glissando – its really fascinating:


Playlist Sutton Hoo Lyre

Addtional information

I have collected several interesting links about the lyre in my pinboard link colection: http://pinboard.in/u:mandoisland/t:leier/


guitar quartet

Heinrich Albert and the first Guitar Quartet in Munich…

Heinrich Albert was a German guitar player and composer at the beginning of the 20th century. He was born in Würzburg in 1870. He lived in Gauting for a long time where he died in 1950. During the first decades of the 20th century Alberts composition were regularly played in concerts.

Alberts guitar method Lehrgang des künstlerischen Gitarrespiels has been used as the main method for generations of  guitarists until 1950. Albert has also published a mandolin method and had one of the first mandolin orchestras in Germany. I have also used Alberts methods when I learned playing the classical guitar in the 60s and early 70s. And I do own a copy of Alberts mandolin method.

Very important was the first guitar quartet that has probably been founded by Heinrich Albert around 1909 in Munich. The first guitar quartet used different types of guitars – details about this first guitar quartet can be found in the referenced articles by Gregg Miner and Allan Morris.

Andreas Stevens has got original documents from the heirs of Heinrich Albert, including two diaries and the guitars by Heinrich Albert. Albert played a special type of guitar constructed by Gelas. If you are looking for information about Heinrich Albert you should visit his website.

I did not find many videos with works by Heinrich Albert at youtube. Zoran Anic has two videos with the Sonata No. 1 by Heinrich Albert:

Zoran Anic – H. Albert – Sonata No.1

The Tenth International Guitar Festival Belgrade, Serbia February 7 – 14, 2009

Then there is a duet played by a Russian guitar duo:

Heinrich Albert (1870 -1950) ~Duet~

The third video is a selection of classical guitar pieces, the third piece (from ca. 3:32) is a Fox Trott by Heinrich Albert, a piece that I have played too when I was young:

Six classical guitar pieces

Playlist Heinrich Albert

Additional Information about Heinrich Albert:

Andreas Stevens: http://www.stevens-gitarre.de/albert-info.htm

Gregg Miner: Heinrich Albert and the World’s First Harp Guitar Quartet: http://www.harpguitars.net/players/month-player,7-04.htm

Allan Morris: Heinrich Albert and the First Guitar Quartet: http://www.guitarandluteissues.com/morris/heinrich.htm

Heinrich Albert Guitar Competition 2007: http://www.digtone.com/gauting/albert/leben.html

Early Romantic Guitar Composers, with biographical notes about  Heinrich Albert: http://www.earlyromanticguitar.com/erg/composers.htm

Guitars by Gelas / Double resonance guitar by Richard Jacok: http://www.studia-instrumentorum.de/MUSEUM/weissg_doppeldecke.htm

CD tip (Amazon partnerlink):

Sharon Isbin – Journey to the New World

aa mandolin guitar

Music Fest of the BDZ Hessen 2009 – Mandolin…

In June 2009 the German Association for mandolin orchestras BDZ, district Hessen, had its music fest in Schlitz. Several videos of this event are available at youtube with interesting performances of some of the best mandolin orchestras in Germany.

There are several videos available with the mandolin orchestra of Hessen (Hessisches Zupforchester). The orchestra is conducted by Oliver Kälberer who ist known for his excellent work with orchestras. Oliver Kälberer has arranged an Intermezzo by Johannes Brahms for mandolin orchestra:

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Intermezzo in Es-Dur op. 117, Nr. 1, bearb.: Oliver Kälberer

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) Intermezzo in Es-Dur op. 117, Nr. 1, bearb. von Oliver Kälberer

The youth mandolin orchestra of Hessen (JZOH) has also played some interesting pieces. The first piece is an arrangement of a piece by Peter Maxwell Davies, Farewell to Stromness. I know this piece from a CD with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet (a video of this version is also availble at youtube), but the version for mandolin orchestra, arranged by Frank Wittstock, is also very beautiful.

Jugendzupforchester Hessen JZOH – Farewell to Stromness

(the video shows a different and incorrect title, obviously the program had been changed, which has not been recognized by the author of the video).

Here is a second example, a piece by Astor Piazzolla:

Tango Apasionada gespielt vom JZOH am Landesmusikfest 2009 vom BDZ Hessen

Jugendzupforchester unter Leitung von Sabine Geis mit dem Titel “Tango Apasionada” von Astor Piazzolla, bearbeitet von Sabine Geis im Rahmen des Landesmusikfestes 2009 vom BDZ Hessen

More videos of his music fest are available in the youtube channel 60erklaus http://www.youtube.com/user/60erklaus

More resources

Homepage of the music fest “Landesmusikfest 2009” with the programs and information about the orchestras (German):

Hessisches Zupforchester (German): http://www.hzo.de/

Jugendzupforchester Hessen JZOH (German): http://www.jzoh.de/old/index.html

Youtube channel of 60erklaus: http://www.youtube.com/user/60erklaus

Homepage of Oliver Kälberer: http://www.ok-music.de/

Amazon tip (partnerlink)

The Mandolin Picker’s Guide to Bluegrass Improvisation – by Jesper Rubner-Petersen


Fraunhofer Saitenmusik – Magic Strings – Hackbrett / Hammered…

The time around christmas is a time to listen to music like the music by this German group – the Fraunhofer Saitenmusik. The group is named after a location, an old guesthouse in Munich and was founded in 1978 by Heidi Zink and Richard Kurländer

Das »Fraunhofer« – eines der ältesten und schönsten Wirtshäuser Münchens – hat bei der Namensgebung der »Fraunhofer Saitenmusik « im Jahr 1978 Pate gestanden.

Hier haben sich Heidi Zink und Richard Kurländer kennengelernt  und die »Fraunhofer Saitenmusik « gegründet.  Zusammen mit dem Bassisten Gerhard Zink hat dieses Trio – zwischenzeitlich auch immer wieder mit dem Gitarristen Michael Klein zum Quartett verstärkt – seit nunmehr drei Jahrzehnten den Status einer musikalischen Institution.

The group uses traditional instruments from the Bavarian folklore, especially the Hackbrett, a hammered dulcimer, the harp, the guitar, recorder and double bass. The repertoir includes traditional music from Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, own compositions and old music like the following Hoboeckentanz by Tilman Susato recorded more than 20 years ago in 1986:

Fraunhofer Saitenmusik Hoboeckentanz (1986)


The group has recorded many CDs, including some special CDs for winter and christmas time. The arrangements of the Fraunhofer Saitenmusik are very special and very beautiful and create a very magic atmosphere.

I have collected the videos that I have found in the following playlist – just relax and enjoy the music!

Addtional information

Homepage: Fraunhofer Saitenmusik

Wikipedia: Hammered Dulcimer

CD recommendation (Amazon partenerlink)

Nordsud – Fraunhofer Saitenmusik

Fraunhofer Saitenmusik zur Weihnachtszeit Christmas Music