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Ing. Benno Streu (1927 – 2007)

Certificated engineer

Born in Mannheim, he supervised the Liuto forte project as developmental engineer.
Trained in precision technology and electronics. Until his retirement in 1989 he headed the Development Laboratory of an internationally renowned manufacturer of precision and medical equipment in Freiburg/Breisgau.

Since 1959, Benno Streu had concerned himself with acoustics and the restoration of musical instruments, particularly the Spanish guitar, and belonged to the world’s greatest experts on this instrument. His deep knowledge of the vibration character of soundboard of plucked instruments was crucial in the construction of the liuto forte.

In memoriam Benno Streu

For some people Benno Streu was a magician, for some a charlatan, and for others a genius. Already after a couple of months of collaboration with him I knew for sure that that the latter assessment was the correct one.

To be able to influence and control the sound of a musical instrument after its having been put together is something which customers quietly like to believe their instrument makers can do. The makers themselves prefer not to say too much about it, which allows for certain real abilities on their part, but equally for certain delusions on the part of their customers.

If it is true that the art of a great instrument maker consists not in every now and again producing a great instrument but to be able to do so regularly and without fail, then this actual capacity of affecting and controlling the sound after construction of the instrument gains immense importance.

Benno Streu was not an instrument maker but an engineer. A guitar he had once bought and whose tone had left him feeling uneasy for years led him to make investigations into the cause of this dissatisfaction. This was the beginning of an incredible journey into ever deeper understanding of the functioning of plucked instruments.

At the time of my meeting him and his wonderful wife Gisela he was at the height of his powers of discovery: like a physician, making not only infallible diagnoses but able to act at once and remove the complaint. I have often enough seen how Benno Streu, reminding one of an accomplished acupuncturist, took on finished instruments with greater or lesser blockages and faults, or whose potential had not been able to fully develop; the results amazed not only the grateful owners but also the makers, some of whom immediately became his pupils. Others remained sceptical.

For those who knew Benno Streu it is unnecessary to stress what a brilliant craftsman and sensitive restorer he was. Perhaps his most far-reaching discovery was deciphering the secret of wood pairings and string structure which had been used during the ages of the lute’s flourishing. This is now applied in the making of every Liuto forte. Without the advice and practical assistance of Benno Streu the vision of a new lute would have remained no more than a beautiful dream. For me, his name shines brightly among the finest of lute and guitar builders.

André Burguete