Among the myriad fantastical devices dreamed up by Leonardo Da Vinci in the Renaissance was the Viola Organista, a kind of cross between a piano and a cello that the famous inventor never got around to building. More than 500 years later, Slawomir Zubrzycki, a polish pianist and instrument builder, has fixed that. In a recent concert in Krakow, Poland, he debuted his version of the unique instrument, performing a selection of pieces from the baroque and classical periods. Inside the device are 61 steel strings and four spinning wheels wrapped in the same kind of horse hair used for a cello bow. Each time Zubrzycki presses a key, the corresponding string gets pressed down onto a wheel, sort of the inverse of what happens with a cellist's bow. You can get a look at the process at the 3:48 mark in the (Polish-language) video below:
Zubrzycki is not the first to attempt to build a viola organista; Japanese harpsichord builder Akio Obuchi performed on a much smaller one in 2004. "I have no idea what Leonardo da Vinci might think of the instrument I’ve made," Zubrzycki told AFP. "But I’d hope he’d be pleased."