My great-granduncle, Manuel Ramírez de Galarreta, must have been a very interesting character and also very daring, because of the things that our father told my brother and me about him. And you only have to see the only portrait of him that we have (apart from the photograph on the door of his shop-workshop at Calle Arlabán 10 in Madrid) to corroborate that he was a proud man, self-confident and with a temperament a bit fierce.
What was Manuel Ramírez like?
We already have at least a couple of documented demos of it through a couple of guitars. One of them was built in the workshop of his older brother and master, José, in which the interior, just below the soundboard, is profusely decorated with the stamp of his name: Manuel Ramírez de Galarreta, as if, due to an irresistible outburst, he needed to show his participation in the construction of that guitar, which bore the label of the maestro, José Ramírez de Galarreta and brother. This guitar is part of the Felix Manzanero collection.
The other, a peculiar, very poorly preserved guitar that was brought to the workshop very recently and that, despite having a label from the Almeria constructor, we concluded that it was not his instrument, since the guitar had a stamped seal and another engraved in the block and in the area of the soundboard attached to it with the name Manuel Ramírez, an area that is not very accessible to most people. According to the restless tongues of the guitar world, Manuel forged several Torres guitars, and perhaps, if this were true, this is one of those alleged forgeries or, perhaps, another demonstration that his work was at the same level of excellence as the guitars that Torres made.
But all this is something that lacks material documentation, although it is said that some of these guitars are exhibited in some collection, presumably by Antonio de Torres but that almost, almost certainly – they say – they are fakes made by Manuel. I don’t know, I can’t confirm or deny it, but it is very likely that it is one of the many urban legends that circulate in our guitar world.
The two Torres of Manuel Ramírez
What is certain is that Manuel was fed up with Torres being used as an example, whom he undoubtedly admired, but who, for the same reason, he also wanted to surpass and do so in a visible and forceful way. We do not know how or by what means two Torres labels came into his possession. And he got down to work on the construction of two guitars in which he applied himself thoroughly, using all his knowledge, skills and experience and, once finished, he glued his own labels inside, and on them, covering them with much care, he put on the Torres labels, sticking them very lightly and only at the ends.
This done, he spread the word that two hitherto unknown guitars by Antonio de Torres had come into his hands, and he invited all the classical guitarists to come to his establishment on a certain day at a certain time, to present them to them and so that they could try. The news had an overwhelming response, and both guitarists and fans as well as guild gossip flocked to the invitation.
They tried both guitars extensively, sang their praises without argument or disagreement, and declared them to be the best Torres they had ever seen. Manuel insisted that they reaffirm what was stated to avoid later regrets and, the answer being unanimous, he solemnly took off Torres’s labels, leaving everyone present speechless when they saw that Manuel’s labels were under them.
Madrid, November 8, 2022