Raphaella playing her Gilbert at the Instruments Museum in Brussels (while
her Mirecourt and Arias guitars are waiting their turn).
Frequently asked questions:
"Raphaella, how is your eight-string guitar tuned, and why?"
Raphaella: "I do change the tuning of the lower strings
according to the pieces I play.
So - for example - to play Bach's second partita for solo violin I would
e b g d A E D CIS.
On the other hand, to play the thirth lute suite I would tune the same
except for string 8 = A. Etcetera.
In this matter I only apply one rule: playability, to come as close as
we can get with our instrument to the score and the meaning of the music."
"Raphaella, do you prefer to play on a modern or on a
Raphaella: "Why limit your freedom as an artist when
you can make music on both?
History teaches us that, by definition, the ancient is of no less value
than the new. That applies as much to the manufacture of instruments as
to literature and the plastic arts.
If occasionally some qualities develop over the years, certain others,
equally good, can disappear with time, in spite of having been remarkable."
7 or 8 strings ?
modern or historical guitars ?
It all started for Raphaella Smits when she received at the age of 13,
her first guitar: a German Helmut Hanika.
Then, studying at the conservatory, she got a Spanish José Ramirez
guitar. Still with 'only' six strings, but that wouldn't last long!
Under the influence of Maestro José Tomàs at the Catedra
Andres Segovia in Spain, Raphaella switched to the more versatile eightstring.
A José Ramirez again to begin with.
alarmed by her Philippine friend and guitarist Agnes Narciso, Raphaella
discovered the instruments of Californian luthier John
Gilbert's: it was love at first sight! Raphaella remained
loyal to Gilbert ever since.
Recently (2006) Raphaella had made an extra modern eight-string guitar
by Canadian luthier Kolya
Panhuyzen. The instrument is so easy to play you probably
can't find its match.
When Raphaella came across some 19th century jewels, she couldn't resist
Thus showed up :
- Vicente Arias
Roudhloff (1830, French).
All these historic instruments were restored by German luthier
And so Raphaella discovered that by playing historical instruments, the
guitars would reveal the proper approach to the music of their times ...
Or as French musicologist Danielle Ribouillault
of the magazine <Les Cahiers de la Guitare et de la Musique> in
2001 described it:
"Raphaella Smits is devoted to the music of the 19th century with enthusiasm
and clairvoyance. Beyond the theoretical speeches one understands so well
with her how much the old manufacture completely influences the technical
approach, the colour of tone and therefore the esthetics of this repertoire.
The smaller neck facilitates position changes and authorizes different
slurs, leading to another phrasing, a more intimate sound and more clarity,
and the absence of certain obstacles authorizes a richer colouring. Fascinating!"
and how about the STRINGS ?