Antonio de Torres
Back & Sides: Cypress
The father of the modern classical guitar, Antonio de Torres (1817-1892), is revered in much the same way as Antonio Stradivari is among makers and players of the violin. Yet, the guitar that Torres gave birth to in the middle of the 19th century was not particularly original. Most of the acoustically-significant features of his guitars—among them, fan bracing and an expanded plantilla (soundboard pattern)–had appeared in guitars from the late 18th through the early 19th century. But Torres’ genius was to bring them all together, transforming the romantic European “parlor” guitars and percussive tablao-style flamenco instruments of that time into the more expressively sonorous classical instrument we know today. The great guitarist and composer, Francisco Tárrega, the father of modern guitar technique, performed throughout his career on Torres guitars, and it would be hard to think about either one of them, Torres or Tárrega, without evoking the other. Curiously, unlike the violins of Stradivari, few of the 100-odd Torres guitars that survive today are used in regular performance, a subject worthy of extensive discussion.
This guitar, SE 14, is from Torres’ second epoch. Torres made guitars in two periods or epochs, the first (FE) dating from 1852 -1870 in Seville, and the second (SE) from 1871-1893 in Almeria. This is a delightful instrument to play, with a bright, clear and even sound up and down the fingerboard. Though made of modest materials (inexpensive local cypress instead of imported rosewood for the back and sides) and simply decorated, it is not a “flamenco guitar,” a term that did not exist in Torres’ day. If it was used for flamenco, it was because of its being affordable by a flamenco player, not because of its constructional details. Despite many and sometimes poor repairs in the past, a brilliant restoration by the luthier Yuris Zeltins in 2000 brought this guitar charmingly and thankfully back to life. Following the restoration, luthier Eric Monrad designed and installed a new set of custom Rodgers tuners.