It is said that the Jose Ramirez guitar of 1969 to 1978 with the gold label "Segovia Model" designation was nothing more than a marketing tool to sell guitars. That it was no different than any other 1A Ramirez guitar of its time.
Well, around that time (1969 to 1978) there were many retail sellers of Ramirez guitars including ANTIQUA CASA SHERRY-BRENER, LTD. of Madrid. And there were Ramirez 1A guitars besides the Segovia model. I saw in a guitar newsgroup a reference to a 1969 Jose Ramirez 1A Brazilian Rosewood guitar that did not have the "Segovia Model" gold label.
The Segovia model was not offered in Brazilian Rosewood. That means there were different Ramirez concert guitars of those years.
What Sherry-Brener offered in his Segovia model was, "This is the guitar that Segovia now plays in concerts. It is exactly identical in every way." Obviously the Brazilian Rosewood 1A model is not identical in every way. Nor are other 1A models identical if they have any other variation as to materials, size and workmanship from the Segovia.
Sherry-Brener was assuring the purchaser that he or she was getting the same instrument as Segovia was playing in concerts. You could buy another Ramirez 1A but there was no assurance that it was the same as the Maestro's. The gold label assures that the guitar is identical to Segovia's. Without the gold label it is not identical. Segovia's guitar (see rosette and label view at this page).
Did this assurance have any relevance to the purchaser/performer? I believe it had a great deal of influence. Putting cost aside, why would the performer not want the same instrument as the great Segovia who even today is considered the most legendary performer on the classical guitar? If it was good enough for him, why wouldn't it be good enough for someone else?
Andres Segovia did not choose to just play a Ramirez Segovia model. He chose to play the best guitar he could find. Then that guitar was duplicated as the Segovia model. Was the guitar that he played in concert the best of Ramirez? We have to assume it was. Why would the Maestro pick and inferior instrument? Why would Jose Ramirez himself offer Segovia a second-best guitar? To the contrary, Sr. Ramirez would offer the finest of his work that he might bask in the Maestro's glory. Or perhaps Sherry-Brener paid or kicked back money to Segovia to play an inferior instrument so he could put the Segovia label on it? Can you imagine this artist playing on an inferior guitar because he was paid to do so? What an insult! So we have to conclude that when Segovia chose an instrument, he chose the best that was available in the world and that he was offered the best. This then became the Jose Ramirez Segovia model. The best for the greatest.
Perhaps Segovia didn't know that Sherry-Brener was selling the Segovia model. But how could that be. I've read articles describing Mr. Sherry and Segovia traveling together. I've seen them both together in a photograph with the Maestro holding his Ramirez guitar and talking with Sherry. It would be absurd to believe that he did not know that a guitar was being marketed with his illustrious name on it. Imagine the lawsuits that would result from using someone's name without permission to sell a product. We must conclude that Andres Segovia knew of the guitar with his name on it and approved of it, since there is no recorded objection.
When the Segovia guitar was being marketed did Jose Ramirez III object to the Segovia model? It seems later he did. But in (1967) he was endorsing Guitarra magazine which featured an ad in it for the Jose Ramirez Segovia model guitar. And also Sr. Ramirez was listed as one of the magazine's authors! It would be difficult to believe that Sr. Ramirez knew nothing about the Segovia model or disapproved of it at the time. Why would he praise a magazine and be one of its authors if it had advertising that was against his wishes? Maybe he never read the magazine. But, then why would he write and praise a magazine he never read? More than likely what happened is that Sr. Ramirez reversed his course for marketing reasons. Not only was he a luthier but a business person, also.
There are those who have played both the Segovia model and non-Segovia models of the same years and claim they cannot hear much of a difference. But this depends on the player and the demand they make on the instrument. By example, one can drive a Chevy through city traffic and then drive a Ferrari Diablo through traffic and rightly declare that there wasn't much difference in the performance except the ferrari required a lot of annoying gear changes. But the difference shows up at Le Mans or the Mille Miglia where acceleration, cornering and braking come into play. Now the demand will show it's worth.
In the Ramirez galaxy of guitars where does the Segovia model stand? Should no particular significance be given to this model? Should the 1A and the Segovia be indistinguishable? Should they have the same value? Even the woods in this model are unique. The top is made of Fine grain Old Spanish Pine and the sides and back are of Rare Gold Palosanto. All the non-Segovia model Ramirez guitars I can find are made of cedar or spruce tops and Brazillian Rosewood sides and backs. Some luthiers insist that pine is cedar. That makes no sense. And that palosanto is rosewood. Not so, because these are different species of wood. (Palosanto: Gochnatia palosanto and rosewood: Dalberg negra.)
Here is a quote from Guitarra Magazine Nov. - Dec. 1967 on Ramirez guitars that are listed with Fine Grain Old Spanish Pine, "Spanish Pine is grown in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain. At a glance it resembles German Spruce. The comparison ends there. The grain of the pine is at least twice as fine. If, you take a mirror and look inside the guitar, you will notice the unfinished side of the top is beige. Alps Spruce is nearly white. The pine has more resonance than the finest spruce. Spanish Pine is by far the finest sound board wood." Even today (2003) as the Ramirez workshop returns to the guitars of the 1960's they are not featuring Pine tops, but, rather tops made of Red Cedar, which means the famed Segovia Model is not being duplicated today.
All of this controversy is based upon a letter that Sr. Ramirez wrote stating his complaints about the gold label of Mr. Sherry. But where is this letter? Where is the facsimile of it for everyone to read? Or is the letter just another apocryphal story circulating on the internet?
As a final note about construction, the Ramirez workshop states, "In 1973 a series of professional guitars of second class were made (2ª) which also had the signed label, but to distinguish them from first (1ª) class guitar" Yet Mr. Sherry has been accused of marketing 1As and 2As as the same guitar. But as stated above, there was only the professional model up until 1973. Therefore when Sherry made no reference to these guitars as being neither 1a or 2A in his brochures up until 1973, he was correct.
The Ramirez Segovia model is the crown jewel of the Ramirez instruments. Why? Because the Maestro's name is on it. Because it is identical in every way to what the great Andres Segovia played. Because Segovia approved of the model named after him. Because Sr. Jose Ramirez III did not raise any objections to it at the time it was being sold as the Segovia model. It is akin to a Stradivarius violin having the name "Paganini model" on it to indicate that this was the exact duplicate of what Paganini played, if there could ever be such a thing. Imagine the value of that imaginary instrument today!
As of 03/09/2002 the Ramirez workshop is reprising its famous guitars of the 1960's, "I have re-adopted the model of the 1960's, applying new techniques to its construction and basing it on the experiences and advances of past years. With the Classic Line, we therefore return to our guitar with a deep, potent sound, rich in harmonics, characteristic of the sixties."
The Segovia model's booming bass and sweet treble has similar attributes of the famed Guarnari violin "Il Cannone" which was the prized possession of Nicolo Paganini. This legendary instrument is of unusual large dimensions. Also is the string length of the Segovia model at 664 millimeters. In the resent past the string length was a shorter 650 millimeters for the Ramirez guitars, giving it a more sharpened tone. The longer string length of the Segovia Model gives the guitar more sustaining power. Just as the sustaining power of the piano is derived through its string length. It is good to see the Ramirez workshop returning to the crafting of guitars with the longer string length. But they will never equal the great Segovia models, especially the 1A maestro Segovia played in 1969.
The Segovia label has been affixed and no one can take it away. It has already passed into musical fame. There will never be another Segovia model made by Jose Ramirez III as there will never be another Andres Segovia. Just as there will never be another Homer, Virgil, Da Vinci or another Beethoven.
As good as contemporary classical guitarists are, if you imprint their names on a guitar model it will never carry the same value and mystique as the great Jose Ramirez, Segovia model. Jose Ramirez III himself said that the award he cherished most was the letter of recommendation from Maestro Segovia.
Andres Segovia and the guitars named after him will be remembered and beloved for centuries to come.
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