Did Beethoven write a piece for the world's first keytar?

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We ran across this fascinating instrument last month while visiting the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. The Orphica, invented by Karl Leopold Röllig (an official at the Vienna Court Library) in the late 18th century, is a portable "hammer piano" that could be hung from the shoulder or placed flat on a table. Although only a few were built, Ludwig van Beethoven is among the composers who wrote for it.

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The instrument in the photo above was built by Joseph Dohnal in Vienna, Austria, before 1800.

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Yet despite its rarity, the gentle sounds of the Orphica are available in a sample library from realsamples.de, which also features audio clips.

You can also hear it played on YouTube below.

A Quick Keytar History