Arguably the most famous of Torres' instruments, "La Leona" (FE04) is also one of the most admired guitars ever built by anyone in the history guitar making. Torres completed it in 1856 and immediately it was being used in concert by Julian Arcas (Torres never sold this instrument, he loaned it to Arcas on many occasions - it was in Torres' possession at his death in 1892). In fact it was during an Arcas concert in 1862 that the young Francisco Tarrega (at that time, aged 9) first heard "La Leona" and became enchanted. Pujol, Prat, and Llobet were admirers of this guitar as well. Into modern times the instrument has re-surfaced, having been recorded beautifully on several occasions by German virtuoso, Wulfin Lieske. It is such a compelling instrument that an entire chapter is devoted to it in Jose Romanillos' great book, "Antonio de Torres, Guitar Maker - His Life & Work".
Several features of the guitar distinguish it from the rest of Torres' output. It was the first instrument Torres built with a tornavoz - the resulting sound was so "big" (like the roar of lion) that it earned the name "La Leona" ("The Lioness"). It also has a thin, carved bridge with no saddle - the strings therefore exit the tie block with no relief or break-angle all the way until they reach the nut at the headstock. The internal structure also has a very interesting modificaton - the guitar lacks a lower harmonic bar - one of the most important braces for keeping the soundboard from collapsing. Torres ingeniously found a workaround - the tornavoz in the soundhole is supported by two small wooden posts which rest against the back providing the soundboard all the support it needs. This also frees up more of the top to resonate freely and at the same time transmits vibration to the back. The result is astonishing - an instrument that is vibrating along almost all of its surface - back, sides and soundboard, giving the player and audience the experience of a guitar that is teeming with energy and liveliness.
In 2006, Fritz Ober first became acquainted with the original La Leona when it was brought to him for some minor repair work. The instrument so captivated Fritz that arrangements were made to have the instrument back in his workshop for an entire month for the purpose of studying, documenting and measuring the original primarily for research purposes and for the possible production of a replica (click here to see photos of the original while Fritz had it in his shop). Until Fritz had come into contact with this particular instrument, he had hitherto avoided making "replicas" of any other instrument. His experience with "La Leona" would be his first (and possibly only) exception - the original "La Leona" was so enchanting and compelling that like the great guitar personalities of the past, Fritz was won over by her beauty and seductive qualities. This instrument that we are offering is the result of his effort - a near-exact replica of the original as is possible (the only slight modifations to the original are a slightly thicker neck, inclusion of a saddle, and a headshape that best fits machines - the original guitar had pegs before it was altered to machines). This is our first from Fritz. Those who have seen both the original and this copy (including Wulfin Lieske and David Collett from GSI) are simply amazed at how close Fritz has come in capturing the look, and sound of the original. The spirit, vitality and charm of the original are to be found in this masterful tribute. Like the original, it has an enormous palette for tonal color, enhanced dynamic range, big basses almost without bottom, and sparkling, singing trebles. It has great clarity across all registers and between voices. Like the original we expect this instrument by Fritz to captivate those who have the great opportunity to hear or play it.