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Review: Lyre-guitar: Etoile charmante, between the 18th and 19th centuries

Review: Lyre-guitar: Etoile charmante, between the 18th and 19th centuries

Eleonora Vulpiani

Two volumes (Italian and English) plus CD

Rome, 2007

Originally published in American Lutherie #99, 2009

No one can question that the guitar has great popularity today and that the lyre-guitar is little known and all but forgotten, but few realize its past significance and the important role it played in the early days of the birth of the classical guitar. Rediscovering an instrument from a forgotten tradition brings with it many intriguing surprises, which is what Eleonora Vulpiani presents us in her self-produced book Lyre-Guitar: Etoile charmante, between the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a small window into the grand world of the lyre-guitar.

For those not students of history, let’s back up to the last quarter of the 18th century to a time when Western culture was entering into a Neoclassical era, both intellectually and artistically exploring aesthetics and values of a Graeco-Roman world. It was nothing short of revolutionary (note the American and French revolutions at this time) putting aside notions such as the rule by kings and various religious beliefs, and wanting to be guided instead by principles of reason based on evidence and proof. There was a flourishing of the sciences and a rise of the middle class at a time when people surrounded themselves with Greek inspired art, architecture, and literature. The music of this time celebrated clarity, simple structures, and folk-like melodies that were to be graceful and elegant.

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