The Zither

A Musical Instrument of Parlour, Art and Folk Music 7 May to 24 August 2014

Die Zither1

Responsible for spawning a cornucopia of instruments over the past three hundred years, the zither delights every audience, every taste and every musical ambition - and suits every pocket.

The Häxeschit and the Schwyz and Glarus zithers are our ancestral folk instruments. Back in 1800 it was customary for players to make their own instruments. The Romantic era saw the nobility and the urban upper class develop an interest in the zither; this led to the development of the concert zither in the early decades of the nineteenth century and its appearance in middle class parlours, and hence in salon music.

From 1880 onwards fretless zither variations without fingerboards appeared on the market courtesy of the musical instrument industry. Thanks to relatively straightforward playing techniques and low prices, these new, modern parlour instruments - namely the autoharp, the chord zither and the violin zither - soon seized the public's imagination and established themselves both internationally and in Switzerland. "For humble abode and palace! Enchants the heart and soul by mingling joy with sorrow! Glorious sonority!" - advertising dating from around 1900.

Die Zither2

The exhibition - presented in association with the Trachselwald Zither Centre - comprises all the zithers that have ever played in Switzerland, from the earliest days to now. Adding a new dimension, the exhibition also spotlights the close relationship between the zither and music automatons at the turn of the nineteenth century, their reciprocal influences and mutual conceptual dependences.