6-Course Guitar modelled primarily on Juan Pages, Cadiz, c. 1794 by Clive Titmuss 2010-11
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Six-Course Guitar modelled primarily on Juan Pages, Cadiz, c. 1794, with additional details from an instrument by Benendid, 1797. This instrument was made, one of a pair, in 2010-11 by British Columbia period-instrument luthier and musician Clive Titmuss.
It is modelled on an instrument at the Museu de Musica of Barcelona, made by Juan Pages in Madrid, before after 1795, the time of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and importantly from a guitarist’s point of view, the youth of our own Fernando Sor and Dionisio Agaudo. Both left Spain, to make their mark in London, Paris, and by their playing and publications, launch what we now call the period of the “classical” guitar, lasting until around 1830, when the guitar mostly fell out of fashion until it crossed the ocean westward.
During the first decades of the 1800s guitar design changed: six single strings quickly became standard in Europe, but before that double-course instruments were in use all over Spain, Italy and Northern Europe. The instrument changed in response to string technology and a taste for darker, more singing colour. The newer style simplified the instruments and they began to be made in small factories. The earlier instruments were more elaborate, enlivened with inlay, made from precious material and designed to be an luxury object, made by famous individual crafters, valued for their personal style. With its flat plates the guitar was a natural ground for elaboration, and many elaborate instruments still exist–kept for their decorative value.
I created this guitar over a two-year period, researching, engineering and designing an instrument that celebrates these important Cadiz and Madrid makers. Though many of these instruments are still extant in a museum or collections, their properties and influence on the music of the period is little known. I created this instrument to discover more of this period, which has a small repertoire of important printed and manuscript music.
Set off with real inlay (fossil ivory, abalone, ebony), set in mastic (glue compound), the top is graced with Ebony moustaches, fretted (sawn out) by hand and overlayed. It’s sound is explosively bright when played ragueado, soft, delicate and penetrating, full of high partials like a lute when plucked with the fingers. The light construction is in keeping with historical principles, especially the barring and construction details, which I followed to the letter, incorporation some themes from other makers of similar instruments.
There is no overlayed fingerboard like a classical guitar of later date, it is flush with the top, and the body frets are glued and underlayed with an elaborate barring structure. On the neck the frets are gut, tightened by wedges where necessary to take advantage of a non-equal tempered tuning system. Since the frets are moveable, they can be placed slightly off their normal positions (marked with an awl), so that the instrument plays perfectly in tune in all positions.
The principal fibres are Spanish cedar (Cedrella), Swiss “moon” Spruce (Picea Excelsa) cut only in winter, at night, highly figured Koa from Hawaii (Acacia spp., rare in large dimensions), with pear bridge and plum pegs, ebony fingerboard and historical strings.
No, you can’t put modern classical guitar strings on it, it takes period instruments strings, readily obtained by mail.
A refined technique is needed to make it sound best. I also created a small repertoire of pieces of the period, arranged for this guitar, because the natural repertoire sparse. When playing the early works of composers of the period, there is a strong sense of the guitar being just right for the musical texture, intentions and sense of occasion. Even simple studies sound wonderfully orchestral on this thing!
No less an artist than Francisco Goya pictures these guitars extensively in his paintings and drawings of Spanish war scenes in the Bourbon Monarchy period. They are moving, and show the guitar in a completely new light compared to previous painters. The destitution of the Spanish state in this time is probably the reason for the absence of a printed repertoire–the middle class was devastated–no one to buy guitars and play music. This vacillation of favour, the want of musical literacy seems characteristic of the guitar in all periods, and seems to go on with redoubled fury in our time.
Due permitting and other transportation problems (ask me how I know…), I cannot ship this instrument to the United States or any other country by truck or air. It may be shipped to any point in Canada.
It comes with a heavy duty case, lined and finished, with brass locking hardware. If you want more information, just ask.
All instruments built by Clive Titmuss come with custom-fitted cases.
Prices do not include shipping and insurance.
If you have any questions about the instruments, please contact me.