2011. augusztus 1., hétfő

Beat Wolf — a Swiss harp maker (biography)

Beat Wolf (Schaffhausen, 1952. -) Swiss harp maker, harp restorer and musician.

Beat Wolf 1985
(Photo: Wessendorf)
He was born in Schaffhausen, a well known town situated in the German speaking part of Switzerland. He finished an apprentisage as an architectural-draftsman in 1972. He became interested in old music and old instruments listening to British folk music. He used to play in amateur groups in different styles, mainly on hurdy-gurdy and woodwind instruments. So, at the start, his work was accompanied by musical activities from pop, jazz to baroque music, but mainly with a Renaissance-consort and (until 2002) early folk music with the band called “Tritonus”.

He is a maker of early instruments (hurdy-gurdy, rebec, cittern, regal, etc.) in his own studio since 1976. He made his first harp in 1980, which was a gothic harp. In 1987 he expanded the range of his historical harps, and also started to deal with restoration.

After he studied many early pedal-harps and their history he recreated a Louis XVI-type pedal harp in 1992. It was the first replica worldwide; with a single action crochet system, a handmade facsimile after 18th century masters. Although Beat could play a few notes on his first gothic harp, he never learned to play this musical instrument. To dedicate all his time to harp making he gave up his musical career in 2002.

Beat Wolf offers harp expert service, restoration and science support for museums as well as private clients from 1997. His specific experience of historical harps and his wide-ranging archive on harp related material are very useful for museums and collections. He worked, inter alia, for the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg), the Musée de la Musique (Paris), the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna) and the Musikinstrumenten-Museum (Berlin).

He published several articles and essays. He treats both technical and historical questions scientifically.

In 2001, Elizabeth Reta Swiss painter made a documentary film portraying Beat Wolf. The film also shows workshop footages, music and images of historical harps too, and was released on DVD. On the recording the harpists Masumi Nagasawa and Masako Shinto are playing on Beat Wolf’s musical instruments.



His catalog pictures the Gothic Harp (c. 1500), the Hook Harp (c. 1700), the Louis XVI Pedal Harp (18th c.) and the Small Harp.

Gothic Harp: These harps are found in numerous iconographic sources around 1500. Wolf’s model is built closely after the “Nuremberg” type, has 26 gut strings, its height is 110 cm and it weighs 2,5 kg. This harp has various tunings and pitches, 415, 440, 466, 494 Hz. (common example: G – d3 at 440 Hz).

Hook Harp: The so-called "German Harp" was well known in Bohemia, Germany and Tyrol in early 18th century. This model has 36 gut strings and is equipped with five retuning hooks per octave. Its height is 152 cm, weight is 4,5 kg, tuning and pitches: G1- g3 (415 / 440 Hz).

The Louise XVI harp: is a handmade facsimile; a pedal harp with seven pedals, 39 strings and a single action crotchet system. The harp weighs 15 kg and its height is 167 cm.

The tuning pitch can be 415/430/440 Hz. The original single action crotchet system (“à crochets”) gives the authentic prerequisite to 18th century playing techniques. The tone is full and warm with clear, brilliant voicing; Beat has kept the baroque-like sound of the period with bright treble, powerful middle and warm bass. The compass of 39 strings from F1 to b3 enables the harpist to play the entire French repertoire of the late 18th century.

The fore pillar and neck are marked with profiles and are crowned by an elaborately carved volute (scroll) with acanthus foliage. The sound board is painted with floral ornaments, with music trophies or fantasy landscape.

The Small Harp: is made after hook harps from around 1800 in late Baroque style with 34 gut strings. Its height is 146 cm and it weighs 7,5 kg, tuning and pitches: C - a3 (415/440 Hz). This model comes in three different styles with modern semitone-levers: French with a scroll, in Italian elegancy or in German style.

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