Historical review of the Lyre-guitar

Original by
Gennaro Fabbricatore, Naples 1804
Copy by M° luthier
Gerardo Parrinello, Rome 2004.

Regardless of the lyre-guitar's high melodic, harmonic and timbre capabilities, the instrument is not at present broadly known. Only few models preserved in museums exist.

The specific type I brought back from the past is a copy of a lyre-guitar built by luthier Gennaro Fabbricatore, at the beginning of the XIX century.

Instrument of neoclassic aspect, the lyre-guitar had been popular in Paris between the end of the XVIII century and the first two decades of the XIX century, and then diffused throughout the entire Europe .

In the Neoclassic period, with the revival of the Greek-roman antiquities, the guitar became a lyre-guitar, particularly recalling the appearance of the Greek lyre. At that time, the classical style became popular: especially the ancient Greek-roman customs were taken as a model.

Therefore, the lyre-guitar became a fashion thanks to its ancient pastoral, mythological and fabulous character, which was played to give a special taste to the Parisian Salon evenings.


“Dame à la lyre M. lle Rivière”


In that convivial environment of high society salons, the instrument was associated with the gentle sex. In that epoch, many famous painters portrayed women in an ancient Greek costume, playing the lyre-guitar (for instance, D. Ingres painted Luciano Bonaparte's family individuals, among which a lady with a lyre-guitar).

The instrument became so popular that it was considered a status-symbol, which could not be missing in a noble family (also Maria Antonietta, Empress of Austria, played the lyre-guitar…!). The original and sophisticated repertoire includes very expressive music by important Italian and French composers, not only for solo lyre-guitar, but also for lyre-guitar with singer as well as with violin and flute. Besides, the repertoire embraces pieces for lyre-guitar and string orchestra. In the text, the evocation of stereotypical love affairs and pastoral portraits is always present and recalls emotions of the middle XVIII century's courteous style. The high musical quality project I present owes its originality to the rediscovery and revaluation of a forgotten instrument and repertoire. Until now, despite the lyre-guitar's incredible artistic and historical value, it has not been contemplated by the general public and often by musicians themselves.


Some examples of lyre-guitar