Mar
08
2020 Ennio Giovanetti

One of the most iconic Antonio de Torres guitars is FE17, built in 1864. It was famously owned by Francisco Tarrega who considered it the favorite of the three Torres he would own in his lifetime, and Emilio Pujol was even known to have said it was the best guitar he’d ever heard. The guitar has had a well-documented and long history of visiting famous ateliers for repair work – one of whom was Ignacio Fleta in the mid-1930s. While in Fleta’s shop, Fleta decided to build a structural bench copy of the guitar in 1936 (https://www.guitarsalon.com/store/p3912-1936-ignacio-fleta-spmp.html) with the same material (spruce top, maple back and sides).

Although a structural copy in dimensions, thicknesses and proportions, Fleta decided to appoint it with his own designs including a carved head, and elaborate purflings of herringbone and half-herringbone in the rosette, top, sides and back. This is a very interesting instrument as it betrays Fleta’s reputation for having a simple, austere aesthetic (which of course is found in his later work) yet this guitar from 1936 places him squarely in the Barcelona tradition of intricate inlay work following in the footsteps of his predecessors Enrique Garcia and especially Francisco Simplicio. Indeed, this guitar was built just 4 years after Simplicio’s passing, and so could almost be regarded as a transitional instrument from one generation to the next.

1936 Ignacio Fleta SP/MP

Fast-forward to the year 2020, and here we have an instrument built by Ennio Giovanetti who starts with the 1936 Fleta, but takes the reverse approach – borrow the design ideas of the Fleta, but put them on a guitar that is structurally Ennio’s. This new guitar, which is planned to be displayed at the 2020 Rome Guitar Festival before making its way to GSI, is made with spruce for the top but CSA back and sides and borrows the design features found on the Fleta including the same purfling appointments, rosette and carved head. We look forward to having this instrument at GSI in the coming months and applaud Ennio for his thoughtful approach to re-visiting the classic, and timeless design ideas that have resurfaced (albeit in slightly new forms) ocassionally in the last 150 years of the guitar making tradition.

Click here to learn more about Ignacio Fleta

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14 Responses to “Timeless designs: See how Torres inspired Fleta, who inspired Ennio Giovanetti!”

 
  1. Echi says:

    I”m a little surprised.
    That rosette was never used by Torres but instead by Enrique Garcia and Francisco Simplicio, both working in Barcelona as Fleta. It’s more likely Fleta got his inspiration by them.
    Later on Miguel Rodriguez will use a rosette design inspired to the same pattern as other people after.

    The ‘36 Fleta guitar is just a “structural” copy of the Torres FE 17, but it seems like the main inspiration was in the proportions: bracing patter and plate thicknesses are different from Torres.

  2. Neil Fox says:

    The ’36 Fleta is the Holy grail of guitars. My understanding is, apart from the proportions and materials, the Fleta is an entirely different instrument from the FE17. It would be interesting to get a side by side comparison of the instruments.

    • Leo says:

      Hi Siegfried H. Hogenmüller ” Hogi”,

      I am very curious that where you got those information??

      Thanks!

  3. Siegfried H. Hogenmüller " Hogi" says:

    Ignacio Fleta built his first instrument, a Cello, in 192o, followed by a guitar in 1921. This guitar is still existing, although no longer original in all parts. As Fleta in his early years concentrated on building bowed Instruments, he mostly useded to make one guitar a year.For example,the guitar mentioned above (nr. 20, 1936, maple) was followed by the identically decorated nr. 21 in brazilian rosewood, 1937. Another rosewood guitar in Barcelona has the number 22 and was built in 1938. And, to continue, a mahoganny Instrument with a head design similar to modern Fleta guitars, is the nr. 23 from 1939. Step by step the guitar building increased- so , for example, we have a rosewood guitar, nr. 48, from 1952.
    There is no doubt about the Inspiration Fleta got from Torres, as especially Barcelona had been the home of many great Torres guitars (two maple and one rosewood from Tárrega,2x Llobet,the instruments of Pujol and his wife,5x Federico Cano, León Farré, and many others)
    But the decorations of the Fleta nr. 20 and 21 are totally taken from the work of Enrique Garcia and Francisco Simplicio. Ignacio Fleta himself told me during a visit in Barcelona that he was a great admirerer of these two masters. So one may speak of a general influence of Antonio de Torres on the first epoch of the “guitarrero” Ignacio Fleta. The instruments were constructed in the spanish style with a strutting system similar to that of Torres.
    And on the occasion of my visit (in 1971) Ignacio Fleta explained to me the way to his modern Instrument: “In 1955 I have heard Segovia playing for the first time, and that was the point when we decided to concentrate on guitar construction and develloped our own model.” We- that were the three Fletas together! Francisco had entered the workshop in 1939, and Gabriel in 1944. And “own model”ment a heavier guitar, nine fan struts plus a diagonal one, and the separate construction of neck and body, as used in the making of bowed Instruments.This is the basic of the Fleta guitars until today- with small alterations over the years. And Segovia received his first Fleta guitar in 1957.
    It might perhaps be of interest, that during the 196oes also several maple instruments had left the workshop- and even 4 cypress guitars on Special orders.

    Karlstein , March 10th, 2020 Hogi

  4. Echi says:

    Well documented and written. You are anyway confirming what I stated above.
    There is a nice thread about this instrument in a different forum.
    It seems like this very guitar has 5 struts bracing (vs. the 7+2 of the FE17, as documented by Luca Waldner) and a thicker top

    In my modest opinion the influence of Simplicio is predominant inspite of the Torres plantilla. Just my 2 cents.

  5. I’ve started to make a copy of the ’36 Fleta. Whilst the plantilla is of a similar size to that of FE 17 I’m afraid many of the important constructional details are pretty far removed from it. As such there is simply no way that it can be termed a ‘structural copy’of FE 17. There is no tornavoz on the ’36. There are 5 fan bars instead of 7,no closing bars. The fans aren’t even arranged in the usual Torres geometrical arrangement. There are other, perhaps less important differences. I don’t doubt that there are some Torres influences and there are certainly some influences by Garcia and Simplicio – as stated previously.

    Michael.

    • We are just reproducing here what was written in a letter from the Fleta workshop regarding this 1936 Fleta. When we had the guitar here many years ago, it came with this letter. In the letter, the Fleta workshop claimed this guitar (#20) was a copy (structurally only) done while Ignacio had FE17 on hand in his workshop for repairs in the mid-1930s. We all agree it’s not identical in every structural detail, but the letter clearly ties Fleta #20 to FE17. Seems to me that the takeaway for us generations later, is to appreciate the influence of FE17 (however loose) on Fleta #20 – and realizing this very interesting and beautiful Fleta would likely never have been built had Fleta never had the opportunity to work on and inspect FE17.

      • Ivan says:

        Mr. Collett,
        If you don’t cite your source, people will naturally assume that your statements reflect your own knowledge and expertise. You could have acknowledged in your original post that the information comes from the letter from the workshop. Crediting your source would have been not only sensible and professional, but also respectful to the source. And if the information later turned out to be somewhat incorrect, you would not have to be in the position of writing a defensive explanation.
        Sincerely,
        Ivan

  6. Siegfried H. Hogenmüller says:

    Thanks to Leo for his interest. My informations are based on more than 50 years of intensive researches of the great, so called “Spanish Guitar” makers from Torres to Friederich. Lattice, nomex, double-tops represent a new world for me. My main project in the last years was the life and work of Vicente Árias.

    To the ” FE 17/ Fleta Nr.20″ I would like to add some final comments from my side.

    1) All Fleta guitars, from 1921 to the mid- 1950es are based on the Torres- System with
    either five or seven struts- except, of course, the at least 8, separately numbered
    jazz- guitars the Fletas made in the 1930es and 1940es for music bands.

    2) All the details of Fleta Nr. 20 clearly represent the influence of Francisco Simplicio
    ( sculptured head,rosette, non-symmetrical bracing). Simplicio himself has built at least
    3 maple Instruments- Nr. 68 and Nr. 75 from 1926, with Torres headstock and inlay, and Nr.
    251 from 1929, with sculptored head.

    This shows, that Mr. Collett´s statement “…beautiful Fleta guitar would likely never have been built had Fleta never had the opportunity to work on and inspect FE 17” should be seen as his, own, personal opinion.

    Karlstein, March 16th, 2020 Hogi

    • Leo says:

      Hi Karlstein,

      Thanks for your quick reply!!

      I am a big fan of 1936 Fleta, so I try my best to do the searching for anything related to those small Fleta guitars. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I’m, I just can’t find much information even a single photo of those guitar made by Fleta in 30’s right through the end of 40’s online. I therefore started off the threads about the small Fleta at delcamp(You can go there check it out if you are interested — https://www.classicalguitardelcamp.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=132688) I don’t see the ’36 Fleta as a copy of Torres FE17, but rather Fleta’s own design. I know the ’36 is in a collector’s hand now, but where are others going? I am happy to see that more people recognize this guitar’s legacy. From what I know, there are 3 makers who have been building or built the replica of ’36, and only one maker I know is based one the Fleta’s original design to build.

      I am wondering if you would like to share any information regarding the ’36 Fleta and/or its siblings to me? Thank you very much in advanced! calgary28059097@hotmail.com

      Leo

    • David Collett says:

      Hi Hogi, nice to see you writing in to our blog – lovely to have you sharing your opinions and experience with us. I hope you’ve been well since we were last saw each other.

      I would like to address your final statement about my “own, personal opinion”, and remind our readers here that my opinion was informed also by the opinion of the Fleta workshop, who produced the accompanying letter, saying that #20 was the direct result of having inspected the 1864 Torres of Tarrega (that we now call FE 17). If you read the rest of the description that I wrote on the 1936 Fleta, you’ll see that you and I are actually in quite good agreement about the association with the Barcelona school:

      “This guitar in a certain sense is a ‘missing link’ in the Barcelona school, unifying the highly ornate and intricate guitars of late Garcia and Simplicio/Sanfeliu, with the later, more conservatively built instruments of Coll and Fleta.”

      We’ve had a couple of other decorated Fletas over the years (but nothing quite like the 1936 with carved head, etc) including a full-sized one from 1950: https://www.guitarsalon.com/store/p4017-1950-ignacio-fleta-spmh.html and this smaller bodied one from 1951 (although larger than the 1936): https://www.guitarsalon.com/store/p187-1951-ignacio-fleta-spmh.html but I think we can ALL agree that these are rare and worthy of continued admiration, discussion and thankfully – to inspire luthiers in our own day like Edmund Blochinger, Emily Alice Shaw, Ennio Giovanetti and others to build their own creations using the 1936 Fleta as their starting point.

      • Leo says:

        Hi David,

        I see in your reply to Hogi that you mentioned Edmund Blochinger is one of the makers to build a copy of 1936 Fleta. Could you disclose more information about that?

        Although there is only one video/recording for 1936 Fleta, your video has inspired not only the makers, but also many classical guitar fans to admire the long-lost Fleta. “Fleta 1936” has been a hot topic to be discussed again and again at delcamp since 2012. I am wondering if you could consider to borrow ’36 Fleta from the owner again for another video recording. I think it is not only me, but many ’36 Fleta Fans are eager to have one more chance to listen to this timeless guitar.

 

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