Attack of the 8-string Riess Copies

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 (at left; readers may recall her name from the CDs I carry of hers at Harp Guitar Music).

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 simiar 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.

  1. Benoit Says:

    I love this kind of instrument, I sold some time ago a 4 bass one, very sweet sound.

  2. Mathias Says:

    Not only harp guitars – czech luthiers seem to know what their trade…

    A lot of acoustic players around here (Switzerland) seem to like Furch guitars. Furch also builds the “new Larsons”.
    And if you ever run across a BMG guitar – they’re definitely worth trying. They’re all hand made and the tone / price ratio seems to be better than with all the big brand names. However, I never got a reply when I e-mailed them if the they could make me a Dyer copy… 🙁

  3. Jake Says:

    Jan Tuláček’s is a fantastic luthier!

    But let’s not forget that Bernd Kresse been making copies of Brigitte Zaczek’s 8-string “Nicolaus Georg Ries” (from around 1840) for an even longer time, being that he’s Zaczek’s main luthier and restorer:

    Erik Pierre Hofmann has also built a 8-string copy of “J. Anton Stauffer”: (see 11th image)

    And so has Scot Tremblay:

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