Early Medieval Lyres

Early Medieval Lyres by Rainer M. Thurau
An Alamannic Lyre, a highly interesting and important document of the history of music, has been discovered - so far as is known the first time ever - in 1810 in a cemetery of the 7th century at Oberflacht (near Tuttlingen in Southern Germany) and has been left unnoticed. Only 120 years later in 1933 those grave findings have been explored again. Those research documents got lost in the turmoil of war and only in early 90s of the 20th century. serious investigation of the graves contents were resumed.

With this resumption of research 30 years ago, Rainer M. Thurau has received
in 1984 already a first order by the Rhenish State Museum (Rheinisches Landemuseum Bonn) in Bonn to measure the fragments of the lyre from one of the graves of Oberflacht measure and to make a reconstruction of this lyre.
This first serious reconstruction of a Alamannic Lyre since 1300 years did call attention of German museums to the qualified analyses and skilled authentic reconstructions by Thurau.

As a result also the States Museum of Baden-Wuerttemberg / Stuttgart (Landesmuseum Baden-Wuerttemberg), owner of the fragments, ordered a reconstruction and additionally the reconstruction of a second lyre discovered in the tombs of Oberflacht. This instrument, formerly in the Berlin Museum, got lost after the 2nd World War and was reconstructed by Thurau with the aid of a rough copy of the '30s, located at the State Museum at Stuttgart.

In the following years Rainer M. Thurau reconstructed Oberflachter lyres for the Rhenish State Museum Bonn, for the Institute for the History of Islamic-Arabic Sciences in Frankfurt, for the Lyre Museum Jan Brauers in Baden-Baden and for the Alamannenmuseum Ellwangen.
Among these orders there were also reconstructions of Alamannic Lyre, which was found in a grave below the Church of St. Severin in Cologne.

After the discovery of a spectacular lyre in 2001, an ornate and completely intact lyre from a grave in Trossingen, Thurau has been contacted by the Archaeological Institute in Konstanz (Southern-Germany) to draft reflections to this lyre from the point of view of a maker of early musical instruments. He received orders by various museums to make replicas also of this lyre, included an order to make two replicas for the purchaser of this lyre, the Archaeological Museum of Konstanz.

Also specialists in Early Music such as the internationally highly respected director of the ensemble SEQUENTIA and renowned performer Benjamin Bagby (“Beowulf”), perform worldwide on Alamannic Lyres of Rainer M. Thurau.

Alamannic Lyres are very flat, have been made of oak or maple and are extremely light-weight with a very sensitive and fine crafted structure.
The resonance box of a lyre is hollowed out by hand, often including the yoke arms of the lyre. This work requires a lot of feeling and highly manual dexterity. The artistic craftsmanship and the subtle sound of the original early medieval Alamannic Lyres are extraordinary and demands respect for the achievements of the artisans in the 5th to 7th century.

For lack of historical tradition of tunings and pitches, stringing will be based on request of clients, with advice from Rainer M. Thurau (based on cooperation with various renowned lyre virtuoso.)

On request of Benjamin Bagby's (see above) a modern concert version of the Oberflacht Lyre Stuttgart has been constructed also. This model is about 10% larger compared to the early model. It is adapted to concert conditions of today and much louder than the original instrument. All other characteristics and the appearance of the original Alamannic Lyres have not been changed, so that the essence of this Early Medieval instrument is preserved.