The name of Antonio de Torres (1817-1892) is to guitarists what the name of Antonio Stradivari is to violinists. Taken as a whole, the corpus of instruments made by this legendary maker’s hand are today regarded as the foundational basis of the modern guitar. Most or nearly all, of Torres’ structural and tonal improvements are still in use by all the top builders of the current generation. The impact these instruments made on successive generations of guitar makers is no less impressive – still to this day, the overwhelming influence of Torres and his work remains more pervasive in the guitar making community than ever before, thanks largely to the research efforts and masterclass training courses that have been Jose Romanillos’ focus over the past two decades. In Torres’ own day, the leading players such as Julian Arcas and Francisco Tarrega were already performing on his masterpieces, and successive generations of players over the 20th century continued to play them. Although increasing values on Torres over the past many decades has resulted in their placement largely within sphere of collectors, they are still highly desirable for many top concert players and occasionally make their way into the recording studio. Pepe Romero, Wulfin Lieske, Marc Teicholz and probably more than anyone else - Stefano Grondona have brought these great instruments to life in recorded sound and we all hope this trend continues in the future, especially as more Torres instruments come to the public’s attention.
This particular instrument is a fantastic example of an incredibly well-preserved birds-eye maple guitar from 1890, numbered as SE 139 by the maker. We believe the guitar was originally made for more than 6 strings (exactly how many we are no longer able to tell) and converted down to a 6-string early in its life. The largest piece of evidence of this conversion is to be found in the head itself where there are traces of filled holes where wooden tuning pegs would have originally been fitted, and a previous attempt at cutting slots for machines that were re-done. Of notable interest - the soundboard is made entirely of pine. Torres was known to have used pine for the internal bracing materials (fans and lining for example) but there are few known instruments with pine tops like this one. One other notable pine top (also with maple back and sides) Torres is owned by Pepe Romero, who recorded an absolutely sublime album with it - guitar and piano duos of sonatas by Carulli and Diabelli. The quality of sound produced from SE 139 has the richness and harmonious quality found in other top examples from this incredible maker. Upon listening to this guitar one marvels at how beautiful the actual sound itself is, and of how the notes blend together and yet maintain their clarity and separation. The sensation of playing the guitar is unlike any other as it vibrates against the players body in a very deep way that is peculiar to Torres. It is a tremendous experience which is only possible with an instrument such as this in ones hands. This experience is confirmed over and over again with every Torres (especially in this kind of very original condition) that comes through our shop, by all who see and hear.