A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Archlute

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ARCHLUTE (Fr. L'Archiluth; Ital. Arciliuto; Ger. Erzlaute). A large theorbo or double-necked lute, large especially in the dimensions of the body, and more than four feet high;—that in the figure is 4 ft. 5 in. over all. The double neck contains two sets of tuning pegs, the lower—in the subjoined example in South Kensington Museum—holding 14, and the upper 10. The strings of catgut or metal were often in pairs, tuned in unison, and comprised a compass of about two octaves from G below the bass clef. The archlute is described by Mersenne ('Harmonie Universelle,' 1636) and Kircher ('Musurgia,' 1650), but not being named in Luscinius (1536) it may be assumed to be of later introduction than that date. It was used in the 17th century in common with the chitarrone and violone (bass viol) for the lowest part in instrumental music and accompaniments, particularly in combination with the clavicembalo for the support of the recitative. Early editions of Corelli's Sonatas had for the bass the violone or arciliuto, and Handel also employed the archlute. The sound-board, pierced with from one to three ornamental soundholes, was of pine, and the vaulted back was built up of strips of pine or cedar glued together. The frets adjusted along the neck to fix the intervals were of wire or catgut, examples differing. A wealth of ornament was bestowed upon the necks and backs of these beautiful instruments, in common with other varieties of the lute and cither. The chitarrone had a smaller body and much longer neck, and differs so much as to require separate description. In the photographs published by the Liceo Comunale di Musica of Bologna, the application of the names archlute and chitarrone is reversed. (See Chitarrone, Lute, Theorbo.)

[ A. J. H. ]