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date: 12 December 2019


  • Matanya Ophee


A plucked, guitar-like string instrument with a sound box shaped in the image of the ancient Greek lyre. It is classified in the Hornbostel-Sachs system as a chordophone. Its popularity grew in mid-18th-century France out of the fashionable infatuation among the upper classes with Greek antiquity. The instrument was also adopted by the emerging middle classes after the revolution, and with the general expansion of French influence during the Napoleonic era it spread to Italy, Germany, Russia, Sweden and, to a lesser degree, to Spain, England and the United States.

Attempts to reproduce the instruments of antiquity resulted in various hybrids whose value were rather more decorative than musical. The lyre-guitar enabled ladies of fashion to assume the gracious pose of Greek kithara players, an image inspired by the contemporary fascination with classicism in architecture, in drama, dance, literature and art. The bucolic symbolism of the peasant's musette, so fashionable in the arts in the earlier decades of the 18th century, no longer conformed to the aristocratic ideal. Many paintings from the time depict scenes in drawing rooms, gardens or river-boats in which elegant young ladies are playing lyre-guitars (...

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Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning
Allgemeine (deutsche) Musik-Zeitung/Musikzeitung (1874-1943)