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. The impact that these instruments made on successive generations of guitar makers is impossible to exaggerate – still to this day, most or nearly all of Torres’ structural and tonal improvements are still in use by all top contemporary builders. 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 several decades has resulted in their placement largely within sphere of collectors, they are still highly desirable to leading professional players and occasionally make their way into the recording studio. Pepe Romero, Stefano Grondona, Wulfin Lieske and Marc Teicholz, among others, have brought them 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.
Built the same year as Tarrega's favorite Torres guitar (SE 114) and almost identical in detailing and dimensions, this guitar (SE 116) is one of the great masterpieces of guitar making history. It is in phenomenal condition with all original elements preserved, including original polish, tuning machines and internal pencil marks. Accompanying the instrument are some very interesting documents dated 1951 from Barcelona luthier Enrique Coll (1894-1978), who was a disciple of Simplicio and mentor to Ignacio Fleta. Among these is an appraisal in which Coll describes a metal plate bearing the name "La Italica" which is fastened onto the headstock. According to Coll, this instrument received special attention from Miguel Llobet, Domingo Prat and Emilio Pujol. The story goes on to say that Prat and Pujol "baptized" the guitar and gave it the name "La Italica" while Llobet prefered to refer to it as "La Leona di Farre" in honor of both the legendary "La Leona" Torres of 1856, and as a gesture to the owner of "La Italica" at the time - Leon Farre, who was one of the grand guitar aficionados of the Barcelona scene in the early part of the 20th century. Whatever the meaning of all this, we are left only to wonder.
Words are inadequate in describing just how rich and harmonious the sound is, how perfectly balanced the notes are when they blend together, and the sensation of playing the guitar as it vibrates against the players body. 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 we see, particularly with something as profound as this guitar, SE 116.