- Laurence Libin
Plucked lute of Ukraine. It resembles the theorbo in having a set of unfretted bass strings (typically four or six) off the fingerboard, extending to a separate pegbox, but it also has 12 to 14 unfretted treble strings (prystrunky) off the fingerboard on the opposite side, tuned by pegs inserted into the shoulder of the pear-shaped, ribbed soundbox. The torban also resembles the kobza, which however lacks the unfretted bass strings and their separate pegbox. The torban’s invention has been credited speculatively to a monk, Tuliglowski, from Jasna Gora, about 1735–40, but the term was used earlier, indiscriminately, for any type of lute-like instrument. The torban proper was occasionally encountered in 19th-century Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. Because of its complexity and cost it was considered an instrument of the upper classes, and it attracted some virtuoso players and a small independent repertoire in Eastern Europe before falling out of fashion during the Russian Revolution. Some 40 old torbans are preserved in museums, with a group of 14 in St Petersburg (...