Mandolin - Spain, Italy, USSR


Spanish mandolin, purchased in Madrid, Spain ca. 1967 - 70


It has five single strings.  It is one of the instruments that is used by the Tunas group in Spain.  Tunas are groups of University students that roam the streets, especially the plazas and quaint restaurants around the plazas in the older parts of cities.  Each department within the University – Engineering, Medicine, Law, Architecture, and so on—has Tunas.  They dress in medieval clothes.  The instruments used, besides the mandolin, are bandurrias, guitars, and rhythm instruments like tambourines and castanets.  It is truly lovely to have them serenade you while you are eating some of the wonderful Spanish dishes.  I bought this mandolin sometime between 1967 and 1970 in Madrid at an antique store. 


Purchased in Sicily, 1978

I bought this mandolin in Sicily, Italy in 1978 from the shop where they are made.  The brand name is Sicilimusica.  Donated to my collection from Marian Olson who lives in Sarasota, Florida.  She was teaching in Sicily when she bought it.  It has four double strings.  When I think of Italian love songs and folk music I think of the mandolin.  It is such a popular instrument in that country. 


Purchased in St. Petersburg, USSR, 1962

 This mandolin has four double strings.  Like the Balalaika, it is very frequently used to play their folk music.  I bought the mandolin in St. Petersburg during my first visit to Russia – April 1962. 

From Graciela's Notes

This musical instrument was probably copied from the lute, a much older instrument.  The mandolin is shaped like a pear cut in half lengthwise.  The body is made of strips of wood – varied kinds of wood – glued together.  It has four or five double strings made of wire, a fretted neck and a flat headpiece with tuning screws.  The player produces a tone with a rather stiff plectrum or pic, which he holds between his right thumb and forefinger.  Musical sounds can be sustained by trilling (shaking the strings rapidly).  The four stringed Mandolin, that is the one most commonly used, is tuned in fifths, like the violin.  It is often used to accompany informal singing.  The mandolin is the smaller member of the lute family which originated in Italy in the 17th century.  The name itself is the diminutive of mandola.  Progressively large sizes of the mandolin ae the mandola, the mandoloncello and the mandolone or mandocello.  An ensemble consisting of mandolins, combined with guitars, is popularly known as a Neapolitan Orchestra.  Although the mandolin is generally known as a popular or traditional instrument, Mozart and Beethoven wrote for it.  Neapolitan Mandolins, like the ones we see today, date back to the 17th century and can be seen in music museums, especially throughout Europe. 

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