|Clearer Tone, Fuller Sound|
|Solving Sonic Problems|
|Possible Future Innovations|
Seven years ago Klemens Kleitsch met with Professor Sadlo of the Münchner Musikhochschule at the Richard Strauss Conservatory to turn over a specially-modified tenor hackbrett. At this very moment zither instructor Georg Glasl happened to pass by. A short time before, while visiting hackbrett instructor Birgit Stolzenburg, he had heard the contra hackbrett newly developed by Kleitsch for the composer Peter Kiesewetter. Georg Glasl, delighted with the clear and carrying sound of the instrument, asked the instrument maker if he thought that the bass zither could also sound like this. This moment was the beginning of a new development for the zither. "I would never have gotten the idea myself to make a zither," says Klemens Kleitsch thinking back, "because I always thought the zither had a set standard of quality."
Kleitsch already suspected during the conversation that developing a zither would become appreciably more complicated than developing a hackbrett, since the zither is basically two instruments in one: the fretboard, similar to a guitar, and the open strings.
What had to be corrected in relation to the traditional zither quickly became apparent: the unclear sound of the bass strings needed to be changed into a clear distinctive sound with a good keynote. This is his concern with all the instruments that he builds: harpsichords, virginals, clavichords, hackbretts. His goal is for his instruments to play polyphonic music so well that each voice is independently perceptible. His starting point is the harpsichord, with which he has worked the most.
It may also be an advantage for him that he never really studied instrument making. "Those who have studied perhaps have it harder, for they have to leave their old ways. I, on the other hand, didn't know a thing about tooting and blowing and so could take the matter up without preconceptions", he says. A secondary school teacher of mathematics and music, he was already 27 years old when he sought an apprenticeship as a prospective instrument maker. For three months he was apprenticed to an organ maker, the only "real" training he had in this field. While studying to be a teacher, however, he had supported himself as a piano tuner and had disassembled, cleaned, and rebuilt clarinets and pianos. In 1985 he bought himself his first and last set of harpsichord tools and in the course of time took a few more courses. And then he began to build harpsichords and virginals, then finally hackbretts.