18 March 2011

Review: José L. Romanillos: Antonio de Torres

As promised: Here is the english translation of the german blogpost.

History of guitar building as a starting point

Whether we did learn something from the past, I am uncertain. But it seems to me mandatory, that we study the works of  famous luthiers of the last 150 years. They were responsible for the sound characteristics of the classical guitar. 

Our timeline starts with the father of the modern classical guitar: Antonio de Torres

Antonio de Torres /Bild von Wikipedia

Jose L. Romanillos describes in his biography, which was published the first time in 1987, not only the ups and downs of the path of life. He also discusses in detail the guitars of Antonio des Torres. You will find an extensive catalog of all known guitars with the important details such as labes, dimensions and constructional characteristics. In other chapters he analyses the used woods, bracing and fundamental construction techniques.

A specialty, which was new to me, was the analyses and description of  a Tornavoz, which emphasizes the sound of the guitar. Torres incorporated that "loudspeaker" in some of his guitars. Romanillos, who is an expert in restoring Torres guitars does not only give us a picture of Torres. He paints a lively picture of the everyday life of Spain in the 19th century.  Beside that he gives for the coming luthier precious hints for his own art of guitar construction.

The book is complemented by in depth annotations, which will make this labor of love a starting point for the discovery of the environment of  Torres. Additionally there is an extensive bibliography, a list of journals and magazines, a register of mentioned luthiers and an index which opens up the book in another way. 

When you buy the book, you get

  • a biography of Antonio de Torres
  • a contemporary history of the 19th century worth reading
  • a detailed description of the construction principles of Torres guitars
  • an exhausting catalog of all known Torres guitars
  • and a reference book (which I use time and again) .
Jose L. Romanillos:
Antonio de Torres. Guitar Maker – His Life and Work.
Bold Strummer 1997, ISBN 0-933224-93-1

You can see José Romanillos talk about certain aspects of guitar building in another blogpost.

PS: Three times in my life I had the chance to hear Torres guitars live. There was a little concert with David Russell and a Torres guitar which came straight from a safe of a bank: it was stunning. The projection of this little guitar was so strong that it reached into the sternmost corner of that little church.

Have a look at: Making Master Guitars