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 guitars made on successive generations of luthiers 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 or even concert stage. Pepe Romero, Stefano Grondona, Wulfin Lieske, George Sakellariou and Marc Teicholz, among others, have brought them to life in recorded and live sound and we all hope this trend continues in the future, especially as more Torres instruments come to the public’s attention.
This guitar was built during what could arguably be called a high point in the artistic and creative output of Antonio de Torres. Indeed it was built the same year as Tarrega's favorite Torres (FE 17) which Emilio Pujol described as being the greatest guitar he had ever heard. Well, we wonder what Pujol would have thought had he also known this guitar, identified by Jose Romanillos as FE 21A - built during the so-called "first epoch" when Torres was still working in Seville. Although the guitar is 155 years old, it has only had two owners to date. The original family (from Almeria, Spain) who acquired it in 1864 sold it in 1993 with the help of Jose Romanillos, to the great Japanese guitarist Matsuda Akinobu who is well-known in Japan for performing on historical instruments like this. It is a great example of an instrument that rarely ever becomes available making this a great privilege for us to have, especially since it is such a well-preserved, fantastic-sounding masterpiece by one of the greatest guitar making geniuses of history.
The guitar is a marvelous and extremely rarified example of Torres' most representative work from this period. This is a full-sized Torres, nearly "modern" by today's standards in terms of measurements and proportions which incredibly, remain the blueprint for all guitar makers ever since, with little to no modification from this basic design. Condition of the guitar is excellent, particularly given that it was built over 150 years ago. Only a handful of nearly invisible cracks (none in the back, 2 in the top and a few in the sides) have been expertly and conservatively done, maintaining the original integrity of the instrument beautifully. Therefore, the guitar is in top, performance-ready condition. Sound is absolutely majestic. It has a huge voice with a velvety texture, rich in overtones yet retaining great clarity at the core of every note. Torres of course had great style and a keen eye for design - it is as beautiful in appearance as in sound, it has a 4-piece CSAR back, and a classic ringed rosette with central herringbone motif and "block" purflings which has since become one of the most copied rosettes in successive generations of guitar making. This is a breathtaking example of a well-preserved, elegantly built and simply gorgeous Torres. Highly desirable to the most discriminating collector or performer alike.