Miscellaneous – The Cetra and the Guitars

Embergher concludes his catalogue with some pages concerning the Embergher guitars, cases, plectra and strings. As well as an elaboration about his Cetra instruments (see also the catalog text).

The Cetra Madami – Embergher

These custom made ‘Madami – Embergher’ Cetra instruments were build by Luigi Embergher in close collaboration with the Roman mandolinist Prof. Aldebrando Madami and show Embergher’s great versatility and care for all the aspects of  his instruments and the instrumentalists.

Prof. Aldebrando Madami
Photo with kind permission of Dr. Marco Chiappini.

The Cetra Madami-Embergher has, unlike the bowl-like back Neapolitan Lyra mandolins that were developed by Nicola and Raffaele Calace, a flatback body-design that comes close to those upright standing 6-string lyra-guitars made in France and Italy known from around 1800. The Cetra body is somewhat more edged, and starts at the fingerboard at the 15th fret. Both hollow arms do not – like the Neapolitan Lyra examples – extend to the height of the instruments head. But are cut off abruptly; about half way on the left- and even shorter at the right arm (when observed from the front). It almost looks like the fingerboard is not placed in the centre of the instrument because more room for the left hand is created by keeping the design of the right arm smaller. The result of this is of course, to create more than enough space to move freely up and down the whole fingerboard with the left hand. But it certainly gives the Cetra Madami-Embergher its asymmetric and futuristic/cubistic appearance.

The Cetra is equipped with the same head and tuning mechanics, V-shaped Roman neck and radius curved fingerboard like that seen on the Embergher mandolin models 2 and 5bis and with that it also shares its mandolin tuning. Similar to the mandolin it has a canted (or crancked) sound table, a movable bridge and a metal tailpiece at the sound table on the edge of the instrument’s bottom. Indeed, we have in fact a true flat back mandolin with a modernized Lyra design here!

Notable also is that Embergher made a complete quartet with this Cetra design and that this quartet did not resemble the so highly regarded Quartetto Classico a Plettro of that time. This Classical Mandolin quartet consisted of a 1st and 2nd mandolin, a mandoliola (alto-mandolin) and a mandoloncello, while the idea of the new Cetra quartet with its 2 mandolins, a mandola and a 7-string guitar, was much more to resemble the Quartetto Romantico a Plettro; the Romantic Mandolin quartet.

The only difference with the Romantic Quartet is found in the fact that Embergher added an extra free floating bass-string to the (6-string) guitar in the Madami-Embergher Cetra quartet. Naturally, with the enlarge the tone-ambitus of the 7th string on the Cetra guitar Embergher and Madami created more possibilities to execute the low(est) notes when required in the music. Something we know that Luigi Embergher was concerned about since it was his great wish that the whole string quartet repertoire could be played on his quartet instruments. The extra bass string of the Cetra guitar could be tuned to either D or C. And when tuned to C the gap between the tone E (the open 6th string above the fingerboard) could be adjusted by tuning this 6th string down to D. The difference in tone range between the normal 6-string guitar and the mandoloncello was more or less resolved in a very effective way. Of course other tone-arrangements in the register of the bass strings are also possible.
The bass strings of the Cetra guitar were made of silk wounded with metal while the material for the three upper strings was twisted lamb gut. They are attached to a pin bridge that is glued to the sound table, which is, unlike that of the mandolin and the mandola, not cranked but flat.

The Cetra must have been quite a novelty when it appeared in concerts when Maestro Aldebrando Madami used these instruments in his Mandolin Ensemble and when he played the Cetra in his Cetra quartet during public performances. In contrast to the excitement caused by the first appearances of the Cetra mandolin and (as advertised) its pleasant sound, the instrument has never known a great popularity.

The Cetra Madami – Embergher Quartet

The Cetra Madami – Embergher Quartet. L-R: two mandolins, a mandola and a Heptacord (7-string) guitar. Photo with kind permission of Dr. Marco Chiappini.

Through careful research by Dr. Marco Chiappini, former director of the Embergher – Cerrone Museum in Arpino, concerning the instruments made after the ideas of Prof. dr. Madami, a complete Cetra Madami-Embergher Quartet – with a 7-string guitar – has become known (see photo above).

From the catalog:

Cetra Madami – Embergher

Instrument per concertista e solista

This instrument is constructed with the technical criteria of Cav. Luigi Embergher and after the design by Prof. Aldebrando Madami. – The difference with the mandolin is only in form, but possesses a very beautiful sound that meets great appreciation.

NB. These instruments are constructed only in the N. 2 and N. 5-bis.

The ‘Cetra’ Madami-Embergher Model No. 5-bis made by Luigi Embergher in 1929.
Photos by Jacques Henri Bayle.

This so-called “Cubist” Cetra mandoline by Embergher was sold by the French auction house Vichy Enchères on June 16th, 2012. More information can be found at the on-line catalogue of the Vichy Enchères auction house:

The Embergher Guitars

It is believed that most guitars from the Embergher atelier in Arpino are made by or made under the supervision by Domenico Cerrone. He won several 1st prizes at exhibition contests and honored more than once as a Master guitar maker.

The descriptions of the various guitars from the catalog that was published around 1925 are unfortunately not clear enough to indicate all the sofar known Embergher guitars with a model indication and a number. The catalog mentiones three different kinds of guitars in the product range; a study Guitar N. 1 with the appearance of a Mandolin N. 1; a Guitar N. 3 similar to the Mandolin N. 3; and a Guitar N. 5 with the caracteristics of a Mandolin N. 5. All three models could be ordered in maple- or palissander wood and with special tuning pegs or mechanics. Probably all three guitar models could be ordered with additional bass-strings.

It speaks for itself that the higher and better the quality of wood and the more expensive choise for the tuning mechanics play a role between the top-end, the N. 5, and the other two more inexpensive guitar kinds. There is however one ornamental detail that indicates a Model N. 5 guitar and that is its inlay, in the form of a long curtain. This ornament, at the front of the head, is also seen on the front of the head by the Mandolin for soloists Model No. 5. There are about nine guitars known by the Embergher firm.

An Embergher Guitar made in 1928 by Domenico Cerrone.
A 7-string Embergher Model No. 1 Guitar for study (1930)
Detail of the maple head and neck and the tuning mechanics of the 7-string Model No. 1 Guitar for study (1930)

Embergher Concert Guitar (7-string) Model No. 5

A seven-string Model No. 5 Luigi Embergher (1930) maple Concert Guitar.
Detail of the head and the tuning mechanics of the 7-string Model No. 5 Concert Guitar (1930)
The handwritten year and Embergher signature in the 7-string Model No. 5 Concert Guitar (1930)
The 1930 label inside the soundbox of the 7-string Model No. 5 Concert Guitar (1930)

A six-string Embergher Classical Guitar (1954).
Photo publiched with kind permission of the Museo Della Liuteria “Embergher – Cerrone”, Arpino, Italy. Inv. No. 57 – Cat. No.45.

About Guitars the catalog states the following:


Guitar N. 1

Guitar for study, corresponds with the mandolino N. 1, in maple- or in palissander wood.

Guitar N. 3

Guitar, corresponding with the mandolino N. 3, in maple- or in palissander wood.

Guitar N. 5

Guitar, corresponding with the mandolino N. 5. in maple- or in palissander wood.

NB. These guitars can be ordered with mechanics or special pegs [of the lute].


[Page 14 shows two mandolin cases and a guitar case] 

About Plectra the catalog states the following:


Tortoise shell

Sistema Napolitano – Napolitan and Roman System, for concertists. Speciality of the Embergher Firm.

Sistema Romano “Embergher”

left: plectra of the Roman and Neapolitan system – right: Embergher-strings

About Strings the catalog states the following:


Precisely produced, for all the instruments presented in this catalogue.

[At the back of the cover]


The instruments that do not carry the label

are those made by counterfeiters.

The author enjoying the gorgeous maple wood back of the Embergher Model No. 5 (1930) Concert Guitar.