World Center of the Classical Guitar

How Buenos Aires Became the World Center of the Classical Guitar

Now on DVD "Annotations for the History of the Classical Guitar in Argentina 1822-2000"

(Update 9 / 26 / 03)

by Randy Osborne

The following is a micro thumbnail sketch of the book in progress "Annotations for the History of the Classical Guitar in Argentina 1822-2000" by Héctor Garcia Martinez and Randy Osborne. The book is 847 pages long at the present time, and will offer more than 1,100 photos and illustrations. By necessity, there are dozens of figures on the scene that are not mentioned in this article, whose translated biographies, photos, sheet music covers, and concert programs will be included in the book.


The Republic of Argentina was founded by General José Francisco de San Martin (1778-1850), who gained the country's independence from Spain in 1816. As the general was a guitar student of the immortal Catalan maestro Fernando Sor (1778-1839), one could logically assert that the guitar is the national instrument of Argentina. According to Ricardo Muñoz , General José Francisco de San Martin and Fernando Sor met on July 16, 1808 at the battle of Bailen.


Population density figures are important in understanding the potential student and concert attendee base that musicians arriving from Europe encountered in early 19th century Argentina. In the mid-18th century, for example, the population of Buenos Aires was 20,000. In 1822, Esteban Massini (1778-1838) arrived in Buenos Aires and founded the first music conservatory and music store. He offered clarinets, flutes and French guitars in his newspaper advertisements in "El Argos". He performed in the Coliseo orchestra between 1825-27. Massini taught many wealthy and influential students including the Argentine poet, Esteban Echeverria and Dr. Fernando Cruz Cordero. Born in 1822, Cruz Cordero began studying with Massini in 1837. In 1852 Dr. Fernando Cruz Cordero went to England and performed for Queen Victoria in Buckingham Palace. The queen gave Cruz Cordero a mother-of-pearl inlaid presentation-grade guitar.

Miguel Llobet, Emilio Pujol, Juan Carlos Anido, Maria Luisa Anido and Domingo Prat in the Anido home in 1919.


In 1869 when Gaspar Sagreras (1838-1901) arrived in the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina and Uruguay, the population of Buenos Aires was 180,000. Gaspar's father-in-law was Salvador Ramirez, a guitar maker from Malaga, who had been a disciple of the established Antonio Lorca Garcia (c.1798-1870). (Birth date of Antonio Lorca Garcia-- Source: "The Vihuela de Mano and the Spanish Guitar" by José Romanillos Vega and Marian Harris Winspear, 2002.) Salvador Ramirez would become maestro to Francisco Nuñez (1841-1919), who began his guitar making and publishing business in Buenos Aires in 1870. Francisco made guitars mostly for beginning and intermediate players, as well as for concert artists like Juan Alais, for whom he made a deluxe model. In his Diccionario de Guitarristas Domingo Prat states that the tone of the guitar Nuñez made for Juan Alais rivaled that of some Torres guitars.


Francisco Nuñez became a pivotal figure in the Buenos Aires music scene, having absorbed the music catalogs of publishers E. Halitsky and Carlos Schnockel. Halitsky and Schnockel were the publishers of the works of Juan Alais (1844-1914), Gaspar Sagreras, Carlos Garcia Tolsa (1858-1905), Julio S. Sagreras (1879-1942) as well as pieces by José Viñas of Cataluña, Spain. Nuñez' music store was frequented by the great figures of the Buenos Aires guitar scene: Juan Alais, Pedro Quijano, Juan Valler, Julio S. Sagreras, Romulo Troncoso and their prestigious students General Francisco Leyria, Dr. Echayde and Dr. Marco. Many other guitar aficionados of the middle and upper classes gathered at these reunions to enjoy the unforgettable guitar playing that could be found in Nuñez's store.

     1999 GFA Competition Winner  Lorenzo Micheli and Randy at FFSI

Antonio de Torres and the Spanish Guitar Makers


In Spain, a contemporary and friend of Julian Arcas (1832-1882), Antonio de Torres (1819-1892), was building guitars much larger in size than the normal pre-1850 instruments made in Paris and London by Rene Lacote or Louis Panormo. It is the smaller instruments that were used by Fernando Sor (1778-1839) and Ferdinand Carulli (1770-1841). The wealth of the Argentine economy drove the search for and acquisition of these remarkable, larger Torres guitars constructed in Seville and later in Almeria. By 1940 Antigua Casa Nuñez (as the Francisco Nuñez guitar workshop and publishing concern eventually became known), guitars by Torres, Enrique Garcia and those of Garcia's disciple, Francisco Simplicio (1874-1932) were advertised for sale in concert programs. In 1895, when the population of Buenos Aires was 670,000- Juan Alais, Carlos Garcia Tolsa, Antonio Jiménez Manjon, Jose Sancho, Julio S. Sagreras, Gaspar Sagreras, Pablo Simeone (1869-1910) and Pedro Quijano (1875-19?) all had pieces published and were household names amongst their students and concert-going public.

The wealth of the upper and middle classes created a market for the importation of the best guitars from Spain. Among the wealthy individuals in the Rio de la Plata area were powerful merchants, professionals and government officials and owners of large cattle ranches, many of who wanted to learn to play the classical guitar.


At this time Manuel Ramirez (1864-1916) in Madrid had several apprentices whose names would become immortal when they achieved official status- that is, when they became journeymen guitar makers. Among these were Enrique Garcia (1868-1922), Santos Hernandez (1874-1943) and Domingo Esteso (1882-1937).


In early 1912 the blind virtuoso Antonio Jiménez Manjon (1866-1919) commissioned an 11-string guitar from Manuel Ramirez. When it was ready, Jiménez Manjon both complained about and praised the instrument; in the end he not only suggested a large discount, but also insisted on compensating Ramirez on a time payment plan! Ramirez replied that he'd rather leave it locked in its case for eternity than accept an inferior price for a guitar that was the result of a collaboration of all his journeymen. The guitar went unsold.


According to my colleague Richard Bruné, in late1912 this 11 string instrument was reconfigured to a six-string guitar. In the same year Andrés Segovia was in search of a guitar he could rent for an upcoming Madrid concert. When Segovia played for Manuel Ramirez, the luthier was taken by Segovia's virtuosity and gave him the guitar made by his journeymen and supervised by his foreman, Santos Hernandez.


Antonio Jiménez Manjon had brought the school of the 11-string guitar to the Rio de la Plata area in 1890. After his arrival, Francisco Nuñez and Manuel Dominguez made 11-string guitars in their workshops. It's wave of popularity was enjoyed by Julian Arcas' favorite student, Carlos Garcia Tolsa who had arrived in Montevideo in 1885 and performed on this instrument. Emilio Bo (1883-19?), who studied with Manjon, utilized the 11-string as well and the legacy extended to his son, César (1916-19?), who would be portrayed as one of the child prodigies in guitar historian Ricardo Muñoz' book Historia de la Guitarra published in 1930. Of the ten child prodigies whose biographies and photos appeared in this book, César was the only one shown with an 11-string guitar in his hands.

The Arrival of Francisco Tarrega's Students


Domingo Prat arrived in Buenos Aires from Spain on January 1, 1908. This would be the first of four visits Prat made to Argentina over the ensuing decades. On January 8th, Domingo met with guitar maker, publisher and music storeowner Francisco Nuñez. At that time Prat gave Nuñez multiple copies of twelve works by his maestro in Spain, Francisco Tarrega. These pieces had been previously published by Antich and Tena, Tarrega's publishers in Valencia beginning in 1902 and included his preludes, Capricho Arabé, Sueño, etc. By January 16- just eight days after their arrival- all of the Tarrega pieces had sold at the Nuñez music store. It was not until a month later that Buenos Aires guitar aficionados would have a second chance to purchase the published works of Francisco Tarrega.


Domingo Prat had studied with Miguel Llobet from 1898-1904. When Llobet left Barcelona to venture into the elite artistic world of Paris to advance his career, Prat went to study with his maestro, Francisco Tarrega. Domingo studied with Tarrega for two years, frequenting his studio twice a week. It was Domingo Prat who brought to Argentina the Tarrega school of right-hand technique using the rest stroke and nails. Technically, for Rio de la Plata guitarists, the impact of Tarrega's technique is today almost a century old. The message is well known, but the messenger of Maestro Tarrega's school is forgotten. In 1910 through Francisco Nuñez, Prat published his Scales and Arpeggios; a book derived from his studies with Tarrega.

Founding of the Academias de Guitarra


When World War I broke out in Europe, the population of Buenos Aires was about 2,000,000. Hilarion Leloup (1876-1939)- a Tarrega student from Bilbao, Spain- arrived in Buenos Aires in 1912, directng the Academia de Guitarra "Tarrega" in 1915. In 1920 radio came to Buenos Aires. The first program offered via the airwaves was an opera. In 1926, Hilarion Leloup and fifty-six students from the Academia de Guitarra Tarrega played on the radio live from the Salon "La Argentina, the city's main theater where Andrés Segovia, Agustin Barrios, Regino Sainz de la Maza, Domingo Prat, Emilio Pujol, Lalyta Almiron, Julio S. Sagreras and his student Adela del Valle, Miguel Llobet and Maria Luisa Anido and countless other guitarists conquered their audiences. In the 1920's Andrés Segovia, Miguel Llobet and Maria Luisa Anido all performed on the radio.


Domingo Prat made subsequent visits to the Rio de la Plata in 1910 and 1914 when he began to teach Maria Luisa Anido who was then seven years old. During his visits Prat did not stay in a hotel, but rather had his own room at the Anido home- complete with his own valet. Prat taught Maria Luisa until she made her first public appearance at the Centro de la Cultura Musical "La Guitarra" on September 21, 1916. This was the very first guitar society in Buenos Aires, and the organization's principal patron was Juan Carlos Anido. In November of 1916, Domingo Prat returned to Spain aboard the ship Valbuena but visited Buenos Aires again in 1917. In his absence, the child prodigy and Tarrega student Josefina Robledo (1897-19?) served as Maria Luisa's maestro. Domingo Prat went back to Spain in 1919, returning to Argentina again in 1923, then married to Carmén Farré and founding his own Academia de Guitarra 'Prat'.


Prat had many wealthy students much like other maestros in Buenos Aires. Some of Prat's students had chauffeurs who would bring their young charges to Prat's home for a lesson, waiting until it was finished. Prat also had some very notable students who were high ranking in Argentine society; these included Lidia Lamaison, an actress who could have become a professional guitarist (in Prat's judgment), and Aurelia Tizon, the first wife of General Juan Peron. In 1940 General Peron dedicated a book on military history to Domingo Prat. Domingo taught students from 8 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday. Every other Sunday the complete faculty and student body of the Academia de Guitarra "Prat" would gather at 10:30 am for an "intimate audition".


Some of the other guitar academies that existed in Buenos Aires during this time were: Antonio Sinopoli's "Academia Sinopoli", Pedro Antonio Iparraguire's "Academia Sor", Eduardo Amestoy's "Academia D. Aguado" and Carmelo Rizzuti's "Academia Superior de Guitarra".

The First Guitar Magazines in Buenos Aires


In July 1923 Juan Carlos Anido (Maria Luisa Anido's father) commenced to publish La Guitarra magazine. It would have a run of six issues, until the summer of 1926. The magazine contained a musical supplement with pieces by Fernando Sor, Francisco Tarrega, Miguel Llobet, Pedro Quijano, etc. In issue No. 2 of this magazine Anido published a scathing review of a concert by Agustín Barrios at the Salon "La Argentina". Juan reveled in being able to announce that the second and third concerts that Barrios had scheduled were canceled. Anido wrote, "Barrios makes himself out to be at once a guitar player, composer and folklorist, and truly is none of the aforementioned aspects". Although Anido called Barrios a "distinguished Paraguayan guitarist," at one point, several paragraphs later he denounced Barrios' "innovation" of using steel treble strings, likening him to an "Italian street musician".


Prior to WWI, Juan Carlos Anido (1871-1932) had been a student of Vicente Caprino (1866-1931) and Juan Alais. It was Alais who in August 1914 gave Juan Carlos Anido a small guitar as a gift for Maria Luisa who was then seven-and-one-half years old. Juan Alais died less than two months later on October 7, 1914. Anido had been accustomed to the company of the three Tarrega students (Prat, Llobet and Pujol), inviting them to actually live in his home. When Pujol was in Buenos Aires during the period of 1918-1919, Juan Carlos Anido acted as his concert manager. The Romero & Fernandez music store had been importing Enrique Garcia guitars since 1912 and advertised a guitar by Garcia's disciple Francisco Simplicio in the February 1926 issue (No. 4) of La Guitarra.


The population of Buenos Aires was about two-and-three-quarter million people in June 1924 when the Revista Musical Ilustrada "Tarrega" began publication. It would become extinct after 33 issues with its demise in May 1927. It contained large photos of concert performers and their audiences. A caption might read: "The audience at the Maria Luisa Anido concert in Salon La Argentina," and the photo would show the wealthy attendees in their seats wearing their fur coats. Revista Musical Ilustrada "Tarrega" also contained a sheet music supplement of piano and guitar music plus historical profiles on: music stores, publishers, conservatory founders, musicians and composers (for instruments other than the guitar), and luthiers' advertisements. Besides music-related material, the magazine offered prose, poetry, plays, and instructional articles on painting and crocheting.

This last item indicates that of the 5,000 guitarists in Buenos Aires in the mid 1920's, a majority of them were women, as the photos of the "academias" show. The articles on crocheting began to appear in 1926. Domingo Prat did endorsements for Francisco Simplicio guitars on behalf of the Romero & Fernandez music store, also Prat's publisher. In a 1924 Revista "Tarrega", a full page dedicated to "The Professors" appeared together with their addresses. Of these forty-two professors, eighteen were publishing guitar pieces and method books. There wasn't another city in the world, at any given time, when there were as many maestros of the guitar presenting pieces to the public for acquisition. Some of these pieces were classical transcriptions, original pieces that might be classical in nature, or works based on the very popular Argentine folk dance rhythms of the day.

An Award-Winning Guitar Maker in Buenos Aires


A guitar maker born in Uruguay and resettled in Buenos Aires would catch the attention of the Rio de Plata virtuosos. His name was Rodolfo Camacho Viera (1887-1973). His uncles were cabinetmakers and his father a guitar maker from Andalucia who had been established in the Canary Islands before coming to the Rio de la Plata area. In 1923 Camacho won a Medallion of Gold Diploma in a competition among guitar makers in Barcelona and repeated his performance in 1924 in Rome. Some of his patrons were: Agustin Barrios, Maria Luisa Anido, Pedro Herrera, Martin Gil (astronomer, music critic, student of Juan Alais, and later Carlos Garcia Tolsa and a friend of Agustin Barrios) and Andrés Segovia, who bought two of Camacho's instruments: one in the 1928-29 and the other in 1934. He liked the second so much that he wrote Camacho a letter, which became affixed, to his label forever after. The last sentence of the paragraph claims: "Of all the guitars that have passed through my hands, this one is the best." This endorsement can be interpreted to mean that, in Segovia's judgement, this guitar held up to the 1912 Manuel Ramirez (made by Santos Hernandez) and the many Hermann Hauser I guitars that he had used in concert since 1929.

The Second Classical Guitar Society in Buenos Aires


In August of 1934 the "Asociacion Guitarristica Argentina" (Argentine Guitarist Association) was formed. Ricardo Muñoz gave the opening address and the organization would last for forty years. It produced concerts every month for the association's child prodigies and concert artists. In 1939 they began a sporadic though sometimes-monthly magazine called Revista de la Guitarra. It featured photos and articles about artists, the history of guitar, concert reviews, concert announcements, and advertisements by guitar makers, music stores and publishers. At times an edition of 5,000 copies of this magazine would be printed while in London, the B.M.G. (Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar) magazine wouldn't print 2, 000 copies a month for it's subscribers until the early 1960's.

Argentina's Premier Guitar Historian and the Child Prodigies


Ricardo Muñoz (1887-1968) was a guitar student of Justo T. Morales in 1917 and later studied at Hilarion Leloup's Academia de Guitarra Tarrega from which he graduated after five years in 1923 with a Distinguished Guitarist Diploma. Between 1924 and 1926 he was a student of Maria Luisa Anido. Muñoz's career was as a federal police officer in Buenos Aires. He was not only a very good guitarist, but also a guitar historian and in the 1930's, an investigator of the qualities of tonewoods used in making guitars. In 1930 he published his 424-page book titled Historia de la Guitarra; the edition was printed in a federal prison. Muñoz' book detailed the history of the guitar from pre-Christian times to the present and included illustrations and dozens of photos of guitar personalities. The book offered an extensive section on Renaissance composers as well as 19th century maestros such as Sor, Carulli, Carcassi, Arcas and Tarrega. In the latter half of this book, Muñoz documented the arrival of the European maestros: Carlos Garcia Tolsa, Antonio Jiménez Manjon, Gaspar Sagreras and the students of Francisco Tarrega (Prat, Llobet, Robledo and Pujol). The final chapters are devoted to the child prodigies: Maria Luisa Anido (Miguel Llobet called her a "revelation" while Muñoz called her the "national glory"), Irma Haydée Perazzo (student of Domingo Prat), Petronilla Alcira Betnaza (student of Antonio Sinopoli), Maud Metcalfe (student of Carmelo Rizzuti), Maria E. Pascual Navas (student of Domingo Prat ), Celia Rodriguez Boqué (Prat), Lalyta Delfina Almiron, César Bo (born in 1916; performed on the radio and in the Salon "La Argentina" in 1929), Elsa Molina (a student of R. Amadeo Videla, she was born in 1918 and performed in the Salon "La Argentina" in 1929; her career was cut short by arthritis), and Haydée Fiorini (Prat student who, along with Emilio Gomez Lombraña and Gamaliel Barbosa Jr., formed the "Trio Prat").


Ricardo Muñoz states on page 311 of his Historia de la Guitarra that there were 5,000 guitarists and aficionados in Buenos Aires due to the fact that there were not less than ten academias de guitarra and several hundred conservatories. Some of these conservatories had as many as 175 annexes and most had been founded when the population was around three quarters of a million people at the turn of the century. In 1930 the population of Buenos Aires was a little over three million.

Two Outstanding Child Prodigies


With the advent of radio many child prodigies began to perform regularly on the air. Maria Angélica Funes is a very good example. She was born in 1916 and began her studies with Pedro Antonio Iparraguire in 1924. She received her "Profesor Elemental" diploma in 1929 and in 1930 began to study in Prat's Academia. By 1933 she was performing on Radio Excelsior and in 1934 on L. S.1 radio. In that same year, in an article in the Antena magazine, photo layouts appeared of her performing in her home, sitting with her mother at the dinner table, posing on her patio seated in a chair with a newspaper in hand, as well as performing in the L. S. 1 radio studio. In the late 1940's she began to record for Odeon records. By 1957, Federico Moreno-Torroba had dedicated eight of his works to this lady virtuoso.


The first Argentine classical guitarist to perform in Europe in the 20th century was Lalyta Almiron. She was born in 1914 and began playing guitar when she was six and one-half years old. The day before she turned seven, she performed pieces by Aguado, Sor, Tarrega, and other composer's at the Savoy Hotel in Rosario, Santa Fe province. In 1923, when she was nine years old, she studied with Agustin Barrios for five months. She learned Barrios' Vals Op. 8, No. 4 before it was a finished, published piece. Rico Stover, the author of Six Silver Moonbeams; The Life and Times of Agustín Barrios Mangoré, states that Lalyta learned a middle section for this work that was different from the version Barrios eventually recorded and published in 1929.


In 1924, at the age of ten, Lalyta Almiron played two back-to-back performances, three days apart, at the Salon "La Argentina". These distinctive programs contained virtuoso pieces, such as Fernando Sor's Op. 9, Theme and Variations on Mozart's "Magic Flute" and Isaac Albeniz' Cadiz and Asturias.


In 1931, at the age of sixteen, Almiron performed not only on Radio Barcelona, but as well gave three recitals in the Poliorama and one in the Sala Mozart in Barcelona and  a single concert at the Ateneo in Madrid. Lalyta recorded 10 sides for Odeon records. In 1943 she offered a concert in which she played 8 pieces by Agustín Barrios. Barrios died just ten months later. In 1950 she performed the Concierto de Aranjuez under the baton of Bruno Bandini, and in 1958 she debuted Vivaldi's two concertos for guitar and orchestra. Her performing career (1920-1985) was almost as long as that of Andrés Segovia. Lalyta Almiron passed away in 1997.

About the Author


Randy Osborne has played guitar since 1964. In 1976 he first heard the Argentine folk music of guitarist and composer Abel Fleury performed on a recording by Roberto Lara. Until that time, due to the 78 RPM record collection he began in 1968- Randy had been immersed in Americana music of all styles dating back to the turn of the century. In the early 1980's, after having studied the classic guitar with Byron Pang for two years, he purchased a method book by Mario Rodriguez Arenas.


In the summer of 1999 Randy purchased the archives of Mario Rodriguez Arenas from the author's family. In the then thriving economy, Randy was able to purchase six more archives of artists who were integral to the development of the classical guitar in Buenos Aires in the first few decades of the 20th century. Among them are the archives of Consuelo Mallo Lopez, Ricardo Muñoz- guitar historian and author, Blanca Prat-daughter of Domingo Prat, Augusto Marcellino, Segundo N. Contreras, Eduardo Bensadon, and Alejandro Rojas Molina- amateur guitarist and friend of Bautista S. Almiron, and Lalyta Almiron.


Dr. Brian Jeffery in the United Kingdom suggested that Randy write this work after Randy had shared the vast knowledge of Héctor Garcia Martinez in Buenos Aires. Héctor wrote the text and conducted seven interviews which Randy has translated. Josep Maria Mangado y Artigas (author of "La Guitarra en Cataluña" -published by Brian Jeffery's Tecla editions)", contributed an invaluable nine page document on the concerts of Lalyta Almiron in Barcelona and Madrid, which Randy has also translated.


9/26/03 This appeared on the Guitar Sessions web site of Mel Bay Publications from May of 2002- May of 2003. I would like to thank Richard D. "Rico" Stover (the author of "Six Silver Moonbeams-The Life and Times of Agustin Barrios Mangoré") and Stephen Rekas (of the Classical Guitar department at Mel Bay Publications) for their help in the syntax and improved clarity of the meaning and intent of this article. Their contribution was not known to the readers until now. There are corrections included here concerning: the 1912 Manuel Ramirez guitar which was to be Andrés Segovia's first recording guitar, and other details about Salvador Ramirez, the Academia de Guitarra "Tarrega" have been corrected.


   Since this article was originally published in May of 2002, there has been an addition of 447 pages to the almost finished book.

While waiting for the book, if you found this interesting, below is listed the video of my lecture and recital on the same subject. The text for this article was begun about two weeks after this lecture, so it was knowledge still on the tip of my tongue.

Annotations for the History of the Classical Guitar in Argentina 1822-2000 DVD $39.95
Multi-media lecture (145 images, 78 RPM discs) and Guitar Recital by Randy Osborne for the South Bay Guitar Society February 15, 2002 at Santa Clara University Center of Performing Arts Recital Hall

   This is a thumbnail sketch of the book in progress "Annotations for the History of the Classical Guitar in Argentina 1822-2000" by Héctor Garcia Martinez & Randy Osborne.

   Take a journey to the "World Center of Classical Guitar Activity". Buenos Aires had 5,000 classical guitarists in 1930 and not less than 80 maestros publishing sheet music daily for the aficionados of the classical guitar.

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