SANTOS HERNANDEZ, ANDRES SEGOVIA & RAMIREZ. Santos Hernandez 1929 for restoration at Gil de Avalle’s workshop.


Santos Hernández was born in Madrid in 1873. When he was ten he began an apprenticeship making vestments and ornaments in a shop that made religious paraphernalia. Unhappy with this vocation, he apprenticed to Valentin Viudes, the son. After a short time, he left Viudes shop and went to work for José Ortega in Granada. But, he soon returned to Madrid and worked for Saturnino Rojas and in the prestigious shop of Francisco Gonzalez, then being run by the son. In 1893, Santos was drafted and was assigned to a artillery unit during the five years of his military service. He was sent to Cuba to fight during the Spanish-American war. On leaving the army in 1898, he seems to have set up his own workshop on the Calle Nicolas Salmerón. About 1905 he was hired by Manuel Ramirez as his foreman to replace Enrique Garcia, who had moved to Barcelona. Santos seems to have been the luthier who was most involved in building the guitar Manuel Ramirez gave Andrés Segovia in 1912. When Manuel Ramirez died in 1916, Santos continued working for his widow until 1920. In 1921, Santos opened his own shop in an alley, La Aduana, in the center of Madrid, building both classical and flamenco guitars. Santos was secretive about his arts, and refused to taken on disciples. Santos Hernández guitars were played by such notable classical guitarists as Luis Sánchez Granada, Regino Sainz de la Maza, Quintin Esquembre, and such flamenco players as Ramon Montoya, Niño Ricardo, Sabicas, Esteban de Sanlúcar, Manolo de Huelva, Manolo de Badajoz etc. After his death in 1943, his widow continued to run his shop, employing Marcelo Barbero to make guitars.


Standing next to the kid, Santos Hernandez


Andrés Segovia launched his career playing this guitar; he concertized and recorded with it from 1912 to 1937 and played it at his United States debut in New York’s Town Hall in 1929. The famous luthier Manuel Ramírez was employed at Spain’s National Conservatory in Madrid when this guitar was assembled in his shop in 1912.

From the plugged holes in the peghead, it would appear that this instrument was originally made as an eleven-string guitar, a design popular in Andalusia during the last half of the nineteenth century. It was undoubtedly converted to its present six-string configuration prior to its acquisition of Segovia.

In addition to the label of Manuel Ramirez, a repair label was placed inside by Santos Hernàndez, who worked for Ramirez and is believed to have been involved in its construction. The two-piece back is made of Brazilian rosewood, the two-piece top is ol spruce. Gift of Emilita Segovia, Marquessa of Salobreña, 1986 (1986.353.2)


NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Andrés Segovia's Guitar

Andres Segovia Guitar for 25 years

In 1912, Santos Hernandez won his place in the history of the
classical guitar when Ramirez gave an instrument Santos Hernandez seems to have built to a young man called Andreas Segovia, who was to play it for the next
25 years.  Years later Santos decided he wanted credit for his
creation.  While he was repairing the instrument he tried persuade
Segovia to allow him to remove the Ramirez label and replace it with
one of his own.  Segovia refused , but said he could sign over the
Ramirez label ” Reparada por Santos Hernandez” Hernandez did not do
this immediately , but in 1922 he inserted his own label and added
that inscription.

Ramirez died in 1916 and for a while Hernandez and Esteso built
guitars for his widow to sell under a Viuda de Manuel Ramirez” label
as was the custom.

……. His (Santos Hernandez) relationship with Segovia, had become rather
difficult .  Visiting Madrid in the mid 1920’s , Segovia invited
Santos Hernandez to admire an new instrument he had just had made in
Switzerland.  It proved to be an exact copy of the Santos Hernandez guitar he
had been given in 1912.  But Santos Hernandez was more insulted by Segovia’s
lack of interest in the new instrument he had been building for him.
Santos decided to keep it for himself .  Called it La Ineditia”  “the
Unpublished” .  It remained in his possession of Santos Hernandez
widow until it sold for one million peastas in the late 1970’s.
 (Gift by Andres Segovia to Biblioteca Musical Victor Espinos)
Built by Santos Hernández  in 1924, Andrés Segovia donate it to be lent to students in 1932. It never was lent but it became part of the museum of the Madrid Musical Library



Certain classical guitars are legendary. While visiting Marcelino Lopez Nieto in March of 1999, one such guitar, La Inédita, built by Santos Hernandez came up.  I found this story so delightful–partly because I already knew pieces of it–that I would like to share it. The pieces that I knew begin with the equally famous guitar given to Andrés Segovia in 1912 by Manuel Ramirez. As Segovia relates this story, he was just barely 18 when he went into the Ramirez shop and introduced himself.

I’m Andrés Segovia, I’m a guitarist, and mutual friends in Cordoba recommended you to me. I’ve come to Madrid a few days ago to give a concert, but the guitar I have, Sr. Ramirez, doesn’t respond to what I demand of it, I would like you to provide me with the best instrument you currently have. I can’t afford to buy such an instrument but I would be willing to rent it just as music stores rent concert pianos, and can make a good deposit. Moreover, if the guitar serves me well, and I like it, I will propose that you sell it to me.

Somewhat taken back by the proposition, Sr. Ramirez responded:

Gee! Your proposal isn’t a bad one, but until today no one has ever made quite such a proposal to me. Nevertheless, it’s logical. If they rent pianos Eral, Pleyel, etc. to play concerts, why shouldn’t one be able to rent a Ramirez guitar?

Turning to Santos Hernandez, who at the time worked for Manuel,

Do me the favor of getting the guitar we made for Manjón.

As Santos carried out the order, Sr. Ramirez explained, a blind musician had asked him to build this guitar, but when he came to pick it up, and after playing arpeggios and more arpeggios, he began to criticize the guitar that it lacked volume and sustain; that some notes were duller than others; that the frets were uneven– trying with such criticism to beat down its price. As he continued, I became more and more incensed, and yelled at him–

You think that by running down the merits of my work– of our work, because my officials collaborated in its construction– that I will feel ashamed and sell it to you for a pittance. I have my pride, and would prefer to lock it in its case forever than to sell it to you!

Segovia began to play the guitar, and to make a long story short,  Ramirez upon hearing him, gave it to him as a gift. The 1912 Ramirez, which Segovia used for the next 25 years of his career, although it carries the Manuel Ramirez label,  is generally acknowledged to have been primarily the work of Santos Hernandez.

Manuel Ramirez died in 1916, nevertheless Santos Hernandez continued to work for his widow until 1921. So,  in 1922 when Segovia brought this guitar to Sr. Hernandez for repair, Santos suggested that as he had made the guitar, he should be allowed to replace the Ramirez label with his own. Segovia refused, but did suggest that he could place his label inside the guitar, with the inscription repaired by Santos Hernandez, which is what Santos latter did.  In the mid-1930s, Santos offered to build a guitar for Segovia.  In 1935, during a visit to Madrid, Segovia invited Santos to come and see a new instrument,  that a copyist in Switzerland had just made for him. Not only was it an exact copy of the 1912 Hernandez/Ramirez but, as Segovia waxed lyrical over its virtues, Santos grew increasingly insulted at Segovia’s lack of interest in the classical guitar he was building for him, and decided not to show him the instrument.  He kept the guitar, and referred to it thereafter as La Inédita, the unpublished guitar.

At this point, Marcelino’s story picks up. Santos Hernandez was very secretive about this guitar, and refused to show it to anyone. La Inédita remained in Santos possession until his death in 1943. In the 1940s, Marcelino began studying classical guitar with Daniel Fortea. As he could not afford a fine instrument, he decided he would build his own, and began to frequent the Hernandez shop, then being run by his widow and his nephew, Feliciano Bayon. As his friendship with them flowered, he was given the great privilege of being allowed to play La Inédita, with the understanding that he would stop and put it away when anyone came into the shop. Following the death of Hernandez’s widow, the guitar was inherited by Feliciano Bayon. One day, however, in 1973 or 1974, Carman Amaya’s husband brought a Mexican man came into the shop. He had heard of La Inédita and wanted to buy it. Feliciano  told him it was not for sale. The man insisted that they should talk about it over dinner. At a posh restaurant, after dinner and drinks, the Mexican turned to Feliciano, and said here’s a blank check, fill in a number. Not wanting to sell it, Feliciano thought to ask for an what to him seemed an astronomical sum, a million pesetas. The Mexican nodded and said, fine, and signed the check.

Thus it was, Marcelino concluded his story, that La Inédita was sold to a collector from Mexico.




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