They’re everywhere! How have I missed them (how have you)?
For those of us not attuned to the guitar scene in the Czech Republic, I supposed we can be forgiven.
This “mini-movement” of 8-string Riess-replica harp guitar players comes courtesy of luthier Jan Tuláček. who carefully measured and recreated the c.1840 instrument in the collection of Brigitte Zaczek.
Quick aside: While following the links on Jan’s site, I discovered that Brigitte also has a new 8-string prize, one by Anton Fischer.
Fischer is not a well-known name to most of us, but is part of the infamous Makarov story: Makarov, upon being told that Fischer was Vienna’s best guitar builder, commissioned a 9-string from him (but ultimately found Scherzer’s better). This 8-string – very similar to the Riess (the headstock probably copied from earlier Stauffer instruments) – is the first extant specimen I’ve come across. I added it to the Encyclopedia and Gallery 1a.
But back to the star of our story, Mr. Tuláček (who I’ll be adding to the Luthier page shortly). Jan wrote me recently with news of an even more impressive reproduction harp guitar he recently completed (I’ll save that for a new blog). Jan is a rare combination – he restores period guitars and builds perfect reproductions, while also playing new and period guitars in various ensembles, including the Prague Guitar Quartet (below; Jan is seated, second from right).
Jan’s pictured instruments include a couple of Stauffer reproductions and the Riess 8-string replica, but he lists many more. Continuing down the list of his links, I soon discovered four players with his 8-string Riess copy, which is in fact how many Jan has so far built.
The first is Karel Fleischinger, whose many ensembles include a duo with Jan himself.
Next is the duo of Fabrizio Ferraro (Italian) and Adam Marec (Slovakian), both of whom now play Jan’s 8-string instruments in addition to standard classical guitars.
Finally, young Petra Polackova is making incredible music with Jan’s 8-string, as can be seen on several YouTube videos. Selections include music by “historical harp guitarists” Mertz and Legnani. Interesting that the 2 floating strings aren’t limited to the notes D and C, but are sometimes tuned lower.
So, pretty interesting, don’t you think? Thanks to a friendly note from Jan Tuláček, we’re now hip to a whole new harp guitar sub-culture, full of new material and virtuosity, in full swing in the Czech Republic and beyond.