Raphaella SMITS
INSTRUMENTS - Gilbert - Arias - Mirecourt - Roudhloff - Panhuyzen -









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about the guitarmaker
about the guitar
about the playing

about the guitarmaker


Early ninetheenth century there were many French builders, perhaps hundreds, and most of them worked in Paris or in and around Mirecourt (the instrument building centre in the Lorraine region of France).

Because the luthier of this guitar is unknown, we call the instrument a Mirecourt guitar.

about the guitar

Mirecourt guitar of ±1827

"I bought this instrument at auction in Vichy, France, in 1995. The description was "Guitare romantique, manche ébène, caisse érable. Dans sa boîte origine. Nombreux accidents."
(Romantic guitar, ebony neck, maple soundbox. In its original box. Many blemishes.)

Although the instrument was nearly falling to pieces (it seemed that it had been stored for a long time in a place with high humidity), all the parts were in an astonishingly good condition and showed no damage or even traces of having being used. So the only thing I had to do was to reassemble it!!

It is a typical guitar of the late 1820's or the early 1830's, with its classical shape and design, which we know from the guitar makers of Mirecourt or Paris.

Description: the table is of spruce back and sides of flamed maple ebony fingerboard and pin-bridge ebony veneered neck scale-length 63.5 16 frets. The addition of a seventh string was quite usual in the 1840's and 1850's, and recalls the music of Mertz and Coste."

Bernhard Kresse

"The collaboration with instrument builders like Bernhard Kresse is necessary. Thanks to a responsible restoration by Bernhard this historic instrument is in very good condition."
Raphaëlla Smits

about the playing

Raphaella Smits about playing this Mirecourt guitar

"Many guitarists and composers of the 19th century used instruments with an extended compass. Thus Legnani and Regondi played on guitars with 8 strings, Coste with 7 and Makaroff with 10 strings. Mertz went from a 6-stringed guitar to one with 8 strings and ended up playing one with 10 strings. Although the Schubert lieder were written for a guitar with 6 strings, they seem to me even better on a guitar with the extra bass string.

The works which I have brought together for this recording* must, in my opinion, have sounded brilliant, transparent and sensitive. The virtuoso passages of Legnani require an instrument which speaks rapidly and on which the different keys give many colours.
For Schubert care must be taken to ensure that the accompaniment supports the melody well and respects the original concept of voice and piano.
The Mirecourt instrument gave me the possibility of playing the Legnani with "attack", and of realising fully the polyphony of Schubert.

With regard to strings there are many types of materials, thicknesses and tensions possible. In the majority of cases this kind of instrument used gut strings, but that did not meet my requirements. After many experiments I chose a mixed alternative based on several types of D'Addario strings, all low tension."

Raphaella Smits
(translated by Christopher Cartwright and Godwin Stewart)

* Early 19th Century Guitar Music with works by Luigi Legnani and Franz Schubert.

Mirecourt guitar_detail
Detail of the Mirecourt guitar: the 7 pins.

Raphaella Smits_Mirecourt guitar
Raphaella playing the Mirecourt guitar.

Luigi Legnani CD
Raphaella used the Mirecourt guitar for the recording of this Legnani-Schubert-CD.

Raphaella used the Mirecourt guitar also for half of the recording of this Mertz-Giuliani-CD.

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