Exhibitions > The work of art of the month > Archive > Baritone




This strange musical instrument is primarily associated with two names: those of Prince Miklós Esterházy (1714-1790) and Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The prince, himself an excellent baritone player, was partial to this soft-toned instrument and constantly urged his conductor to write pieces for it. In complience with the demand, Haydn,in the space of ten years, wrote more than one hundred and fifty works in which a baritone (that is to say, the prince) took the leading part. Haydn's first works for the baritone were written in 1765, suggesting that this precious instrument was already in the prince's possession by that time. One hundred and fifty years later the eminent cello player Béla Csuka (1893-1957) revived interest in the long-forgotten instrument, playing it at a concert with the permission of Dr. Pál Esterházy. During the Second World War the bariton, together with other art treasures, was stored in the Esterházy Palace in Buda, and it was only by good fortune that it ,survived undamaged. In 1949 it was taken over by the National Museum on the order of a government commissioner.

The baritone belongs to the group of gambas. In addition to numerous bowed strings on the fingerboard, it also has resonant strings, which have to be plucked by the player's left thumb, by which the player is able to produce unique effects. This baritone is made of pine and maple and lacquered in light yellow. The sides and the back are decorated with undulating lines of inlay; on its extra fingerboard there is a foliated scroll inlay of bone and wood. The peg-box ends in a carved, painted moustachiod head wearing a shako. The original case is covered with leather studding with gilded nails. The musical instrument was produced by the renowned Viennese violin maker Johann Stadlmann, as proven by the signature "Johann Joseph Stadlmann Kaiserl. Königl. Hof Lauten- und Geigenmacher in Wien 1750".

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has a baritone made by Daniel Achatius Stadlmann, the father of the master who made the one in the Hungarian National Museum : this instrument-as tradition has it-used to belong to Haydn.

  © 2005 Hungarian National Museum