Vicente Arias (1840-1913)
Vicente Arias made guitars around 1870. He lived and worked in Ciudad Real, and at the end of his career he had a workshop in Madrid. His instruments display a remarkable mastery, comparable to those of Antonio Torres and Manuel Ramirez. Some famous guitarists like Francisco Tarrega played the guitars of Vicente Arias.
In the course of his career Arias received various prestigious prizes at exhibitions in Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels and Buenos Aires.
According to an up-to-date census, there are 24 guitars by Vicente Arias in existence. In the work "The Classical Guitar, a complete history", an article by J. Morris gives the following description: "Arias guitars are made with lightness in mind and tend to be as smaller all round than Torres' instruments."
The construction of this 1899 Arias guitar is really very light. On the other hand its size is particularly large. Arias was known for this feature : he loved the exceptional. Each instrument had to be unique and thus different as to the form, the barring, the fixing of the strings or the form of the rose. Specialist makers acknowledge Arias for his innovations.
The Vicente Arias guitar of 1899
This guitar comes from the collection of Narciso Yepes in Madrid, Spain. It is probable that the instrument belonged first to the teacher of Yepes, Estanislao Marco (the latter posed with this guitar for the photo on page 386 of the book by Wolf Moser "Francisco Tarrega").
The instrument has been restored by Bernhard
Kresse in Cologne, Germany.
"Raphaella used an instrument made in 1899 by Vicente Arias, whose argent, ethereal treble moved downward through beautifully voiced complexions to a bass range of such warmth and lucidity that its sound alone was transfixing." Ronald Broun, The Washington Post.
Raphaella Smits about playing this Arias guitar
The achievement of a beautiful sound from an Arias guitar results from constant attention. True to say, it is above all an exploration over time. It is necessary to look for good strings, to study the relation between the tension of the string, the material and the pitch of the tuning, etcetera.
I have had to adapt my technique. A different touch (the position of the right hand) sometimes produces a richer colour, sometimes a poorer one, but by doing this I discovered a new aspect of the instrument and the music.
It is fascinating to realise that, thanks to my technical researches into the instrument, I have succeeded in expressing with evidence the various characteristics described in the music of Manjón. It has become easier for me to express the feminine and dreamy legato in the ballade-like works and the percussive effects of the gipsy flamenco, rough and virile, in the Spanish pieces.
The Arias guitar has the peculiarity of being dry and resonant at the same time. In other words, thanks to its great size, this instrument proves to be extremely comfortable for interpreting this particular repertory with precision.
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