Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 78

COLUMN Guitars with Guts

His repair label, dated 1904, is inserted next
to Llorente's label of 1880.
When a top is replaced, the instrument is
typically considered a composite instrument,
but in this case the fame of the repairman
far exceeds that of the builder, and Manuel
likely inserted his repair label into this obscure
maker's instrument because it belonged to
Llobet, who would be carrying it around the
world on tour. Despite the considerable repairs
performed by the Manuel Ramírez shop, we
rarely see any which carry a label proclaiming
his hand in restoration, so perhaps Manuel
viewed the repair label as a kind of traveling
advertisement for his shop.
Internally, the top bracing is a very simple
seven-fan array with cross struts on each side
of the sound hole. Given the rarity of this approach, it's not known whether this was the
system typically used by Llorente and copied
by Manuel Ramírez, or if Ramírez used his
own bracing systems as an "improvement." It's
very similar to fan-bracing patterns in many
Spanish guitars of the era, and traditional in
concept and execution - a testimony to the
excellence of the basic design. In that era, many
makers used more than one system, adjusting
bracing patterns to produce the desired results
or to economize based on price.
The bridge, made of rosewood and with
a tie-block veneer of bone, may also be a
Ramírez replacement, as it is similar but not
identical to the bridge on the instrument held

by Llobet in the photo. The bridge is clearly old
and most likely dates to the top replacement,
but given that the top was replaced in 1904,
when the instrument had already experienced
nearly a quarter-century of hard playing, it's
conceivable that the string holes had already
worn to the point the decision was made to
replace the entire bridge along with the top.
Nonetheless, the bridge design conforms
perfectly to the bridges on the other known
Llorente instruments.
Fast forward to 1968. By that point, harsh,
dry New York winters had caused cracks
in the "new" Manuel Ramírez top, which
were repaired by Michael Gurian, an icon of
American lutherie. When the instrument was
residing at Orpheus Music, it was played by
many prominent musicians including Julian
Bream, who loved the tone he could extract
from it.
Most recently, the original frets, worn well
past their usefulness, were replaced in our
shop, helping the instrument bloom with a
depth of sound, color, and dynamic range.
In many ways, it represents a multi-layer of
archeological history in terms of high-level
repair and restoration to keep it at a peak
musical performance level that would have
been demanded by players such as Llobet and
Romero. In many ways, this delicate instrument is living proof that the lifespan of a fine
instrument is limited only by the amount of
care used to preserve them.

VINTAGE GUITAR

78

March 2017

The three labels (left), and Miguel Llobet
holding this guitar when it had the previous
mechanical tuning machines.

CONCLUSION
This important and extremely rare example by
an almost unknown 19th-century Madrid maker
has survived because of its famous ownership
and the exceptional care lavished on it by makers who themselves were icons. The recordings
of Llobet were, unfortunately, made during the
infancy of recording technology and are poor by
today's standards, but certainly help us appreciate
one element of the "sound" of Llobet. Far from
being an antiquarian curiosity, this guitar is
still as musically viable as the day it was made.
Richard Bruné began making guitars in 1966 and is a
former professional flamenco guitarist. He has written
for the Guild of American Luthiers and other publications,
and contributed to many scholarly editions on the guitar.
He has lectured on the subject for major museums, guitar
festivals, and luthier gatherings. He is a recognized
collector of fine instruments and recently contributed
extensively to the second edition of the Shel Urlik book, A
Collection of Fine Spanish Guitars from Torres to the Present.
His playing is featured on a companion CD. He has been
featured in the PBS documentary on the Romeros, and
published a book on the 1937 Hauser which belonged to
Andrés Segovia, along with many other technical drawings
of iconic instruments available from the Guild of American
Luthiers. You can visit his website, rebrune.com, and he
is on Facebook at R. E. Bruné Luthier.


http://www.rebrune.com http://www.vintageguitar.com

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