I am a viola da gamba player and an instrument maker; sometimes conductor and often instrumentalist.

         It is uncommon to combine the life of a musician with that of luthier tools. In my own case I see it as a necessity: from each of these lives I learn what I need for the other. And I enjoy.

        I believe that the construction of instruments is a way to understand the interpretation of different musical styles covered by those who are devoted to early music. Due to the lack of performance tradition, each instrument with its characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, is a teacher of performance and technics and confronts us with the aspirations and intentions of the composers who created works for them.

        For this reason I try to make copies as accurate as possible of existing instruments in museums, or privately owned by collectors and interpreters; in order to build those copies you need to make an exhaustive study of the originals.

        Almost every instrument of the past arrived to us has suffered changes over the years, either by accident or repairs (sometimes poorly made), or by the the express wish of owners to make changes in its structure to fit the post-construction time musical tastes: alterations in necks or in inner structures, such as bass bar, and even more radical changes i.e. transforming violas da gamba into celli, with consequent damage, collapse or mutilation. This story, often hazardous, of each musical instrument calls us to investigate its origins: how it was conceived by the author. And the best way to understand it is the knowledge and practice of the design techniques that were used in it, the proportions, the materials, the tools used and the building process. And of course the knowledge of the music for which it was concived.

        I apply a similar method to those instruments only preserved in images paintings, sculptures and tapestries, because of its age. This is the case of medieval instruments: the performer who, like me, is interested in music from the XII, XIII and XIV centuries, has to deal with the almost total lack of information about the instrumental practice of those times. Herein, it becomes more severe the need to achieve reliable instruments that fulfill more than ever its educational role. Not by chance my work is mainly based on the study of the instruments represented in the Portico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (s. XII) and in the Chapter Hall in the annex Palace of Xelmírez (s. XIII). The quality of the sculptures, the geographical proximity of both buildings and the dates of construction of each one offer a unique panorama in European iconography regarding the instrumental changes between twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Francisco Luengo. Musician & luthier