Wednesday, January 6, 2010

La Chitarra di Liuteria

This is a great book on the masterpieces in guitar making by Stefano Grondona and Luca Waldner. It is written in Italian and English and is the best work I have seen on the development of modern classical guitars. Importantly, the book includes a CD of many famous makers' guitars including Antonio de Torres who has several instruments featured. Of these, there is a first ever recording of Torres most famous instruments including those of Llobet, Tarrega and the controversial papier maiche (cardboard) guitar.

Also featured are the guitars of Enrique Garcia, Simplicio, Manuel Ramirez, Santos Hernandez, Esteso, Hauser I/II plus Jose Ramirez III and Bouchet among others.

The book is well written and beautifully photographed by the authors who are certainly well qualified. Stefano Grondona, a top concert guitarist and Luca Waldner, a luthier have produced a scholarly work providing biographies of the makers as well as important measurements of many of the featured instruments. Additionally, there is a chapter on the craftsman's workshop illustrating how guitars are built in the traditional manner.

The CD accompanying the book is well recorded with excellent selections from guitar literature including my favorite a Barcarola from Mendelssohn performed on a legendary 1906 Enrique Garcia guitar. I would only find fault with the accuracy of the recordings since to my ear they seem to be produced with too many studio effects to hold serious historical value. As a luthier myself I have attempted (briefly) to produce recordings to demonstrate my instruments and became aware of the difficulties involved. That should not detract from the total effort of book and recording however. Grondona and Waldner have had rare access to important guitars and have given anyone with an interest in the instrument a landmark work. This is a book that has a lot of substance and will require many hours to absorb all that it offers.

An effort of this magnitude doesn't come cheap. You can order it from the Guitar Salon in California for $100 or from Chanterelle, the German publishing house for about $75. Unless you select a more expensive shipping method, the Chanterelle option will take several weeks longer than the Guitar Salon source.

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