Opulent Melodies: 4 Artfully-Crafted Musical Instruments

These four unique and exquisite musical instruments boast intricate and museum-worthy designs that make them works of art in their own right. 

Musical instruments can be more than just tools for creating great melodies. They also function as collector’s items and display pieces, either in a studio or home. Indeed, these objects are works of art in their own right, as it takes plenty of time and effort to create them—especially when they come from some of the most prestigious instrument-makers in the world.

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Below are five of these particular instruments that exemplify the unparalleled craftsmanship of their makers, both on a technical level and aesthetically: 

Steinway & Sons “Pictures at an Exhibition” Piano

Steinway & Sons is one of the leading piano makers in the industry, and has been the paragon of musical excellence since its establishment in 1853. Master artisans with decades of experience work to create every piano from scratch, each one featuring its own “personality” and sound. Dozens of music’s most renowned names have favored the brand’s pianos, from Diana Krall to Billy Joel. 

The Steinway & Sons “Pictures at an Exhibition” piano
The Steinway & Sons “Pictures at an Exhibition” piano/Photo from the Steinway & Sons website

As master pianist Joja Wendt once told Lifestyle Asia in an interview for its April 2023 issue: “It [the Steinway piano] responds to what I do so perfectly. So you almost have the feeling it plays itself.” Steinway & Sons also creates bespoke and limited edition pianos, which fully showcase their commitment to the craft through inimitable quality and beautiful design. A recent example of this is its “Pictures at an Exhibition” piano

Paul Wyse
Paul Wyse/Photo from the Steinway & Sons website

World famous visual artist Paul Wyse hand painted the entire piece, which is an art case Steinway & Sons Model D concert grand piano. Wyse, who’s a pianist as well, had conceived the idea in 2012, inspired by the musical masterwork Pictures at an Exhibition by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. 

The piece translates Mussorgsky’s immortal work into a classical painting, combining it with Russian history and Steinway & Sons craftsmanship. The result is a “capriccio,” or an imaginary landscape that combines elements of different places. In it is an art gallery or museum—a reference to Mussorgsky’s piece—as well as imagery from Russian history and folklore, including Baba Yaga’s clock hut and the Great Gate of Kiev. 

Fender Limited Edition Raphael Saadiq Telecaster®

Fender is one of the most famous guitar manufacturers out there, with legendary musicians like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix favoring the brand’s instruments. Guitarist, bassist, and Grammy winning artist Raphael Saadiq is yet another artist who’s created works with Fender’s instruments. 

In fact, Saadiq collaborated with the brand to produce a limited edition model that visually embodies the musician’s keen vision and vintage timbres through a design that perfectly fuses retro and contemporary elements. 

A closer look at the details of the limited edition Raphael Saadiq Telecaster®
A closer look at the details of the limited edition Raphael Saadiq Telecaster®/Photos from the Fender website

An ash body, maple neck, slab rosewood fingerboard with clay dots, vintage-tall frets that look like they came from the 50s or 60s, and bone nut reflect Saadiq’s preferences while maintaining signature elements of Fender’s craftsmanship. A custom-tooled graphic pickguard design completes the guitar’s entire look, lending an eye-catching, old-school look to its bold red metallic finish. 

Lyon & Healy Louis XV Special 

Harps have always possessed a kind of grandeur that’s entirely unique to the instrument. Their imposing size and ties to affluence make them quite special. In fact, harps that possessed intricate carvings and vibrant paint often indicated the wealth of a player’s patrons in medieval Europe. American company Lyon & Healy continue this tradition of fine craftsmanship, as the brand has been creating breathtaking harps for symphony orchestras and performers for decades

Lyon & Healy Louis XV Special
Lyon & Healy Louis XV Special/Photo from the Lyon & Healy website

In the same vein as Fender’s limited edition guitars and Steinway & Sons pianos, Lyon & Healy also creates special harps with distinct designs. A particularly lavish example of this is the brand’s Louis XV Special grand harp

The instrument takes inspiration from the rococo style of French King Louis XV’s reign. It features an elegant and elaborate design that incorporates leaves, flowers, and scrolled feet reminiscent of seashells. 

Lyon & Healy has been producing beautiful harps since the 1900s
Lyon & Healy has been producing beautiful harps since the 1900s/Photo from the Lyon & Healy website

With detailed carvings down its neck, kneeblock, and soundboard edges, the harp is the epitome of extravagance. It’s also gilded in shimmering, 23+ karat gold leaf, with a hand-painted floral trellis design on its soundboard that ties its rococo look together. 

Antonio Stradivari “Hellier” Violin

Many consider Antonio Stradivari to be one of the greatest violin makers who ever lived. Born at around 1644, the Italian craftsman made around a thousand instruments within his lifetime, namely his Stradivarius violins. However, only 650 of them survive, according to instrument auction house Tarisio

One particularly rare and beautiful example of Stadivari’s work is his “Hellier” violin, which Christie’s describes as “one of the finest Stradivarius instruments in existence.” It is a fine specimen, with its ornate flower and vine patterns, as well as its ivory inlays. Christie’s also estimates that Stradivari created the piece somewhere at the beginning of his career, and that it served as the blueprint for subsequent ones.

A close-up of the “Hellier” violin’s scroll
A close-up of the “Hellier” violin’s scroll/Photo from Museo del Violino via Google Arts & Culture

Experts suspect that the captivating sound of Stradivarius violins is due in part to the way their maker treated wood, especially in regard to the chemicals he used, according to Jennifer Ouellette of Ars Technica.

 With such attention to detail, craftsmanship, and provenance, it’s no wonder so many of the world’s greatest classical musicians seek a Stradivarius violin of their own. Those who own such instruments include violinists Joshua BellElizabeth Pitcairn, and Maxim Vengerov

Banner photos from the Steinway & Sons website.

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