Yuris Zeltins & La Invencible
On 15 Setember we had the pleasure to meet the renowed restorer Yuris Zeltins personally. He welcomed us in his house, located in the beautiful town of Castilleja de la Cuesta (Seville).
Yuris Zeltins was born in Latvia, even though he emigrated to the United States, along with his family at a very early age. His interest in the guitar awoke after listening to Maestro Agustín Castellón "Sabicas". In 1960 Yuris decided to make his own guitar, based on a design he saw on the cover of a music album. The rest is history: His passion for the guitar has taken him to a whole life devoted to the making, repair and restoration of stringed instruments, particularly Spanish guitars, both classical and flamenco ones.
Along his career, Yuris has been responsible for the restoration of many important historical guitars: Torres, Hauser, Santos, Barbero, Enrique García, Simplicio, and many more.
Yuris is definitely the best restorer in the United States. This status is confirmed and enhanced by the trust of his customers and friends, including some of the most important collectors of instruments all around the world. His restorations are based on the principle of keeping and preserving the personality and essence of the instrument, as a top priority. And only a few chosen ones are fit to accomplish such thing.
Meeting Yuris and spending the day with him and his wife, Charo, has been quite an experience. We would have never thought that, apart from being a master luthier and being in love with restoration, Yuri and his wife are both so enthusiastic about flamenco (and with an exquisite taste, we must say). Thus, it has been such an enjoyable experience to talk to them about guitars, flamenco, past and present performers…
After revising our guitar “La Invencible”, by de Antonio de Torres, down to the smallest detail, we asked Yuri for his opinion about the restoration performed by Gabriele Lody this year (2017) and the conclusion has been really positive: Just like we thought, Yuris concluded that a good work has been done with this guitar. Attention to detail and the utmost respect towards the instrument have both been recognized by Yuri. In this restoration, Grabiele Lody repaired the visible and open cracks on the back. The instrument underwent a “tuning” process so it now could be played professionally, just like it used to be.
Yuris also had the chance to go through the details of the restoration performed by the renowed luthiers Yagüe Brothers (Barcelona) in 1981. He considered it was a good restoration, as the thickness of the wood which makes up the instrument remained mostly unaltered, the same was as the original dimensions. We already knew it, thanks to a review by Romanillos in his book “Antonio de Torres. Guitarrero, su vida y obra” (Antonio de Torres. Guitar maker, his life and work), and also thanks to the certification made by the great Grabiele Lody before his restoration, only pointing out the fact that perhaps he would have gone through the guitar differently, as regards the use of the shellac (an operation performed by Yagüe Brothers in 1981). However, although he would have acted in a slightly different way, he admitted now it is better not to do anything, as it is just an aesthetic reflection.
The world of restoration is really ambiguous, and each craftsman has their own way to work. However, what remains unquestionable is the importance of preserving the originality of the varnish as long as possible, instead of intending to provide the instrument with any unnecessary bright for aesthetic purposes (even if it doesn’t affect the acoustic qualities of the instrument). In fact, the best look is the one given by the mature colour, aged, without bright. It is also essential to respect the thickness of the woods used by the master luthier. On that matter, we can be fully satisfied with the condition of our new guitar, made by Antonio de Torres, as it guarantees its sound does preserve all the magic and character Antonio de Torres conferred on it. A sound from a different world, impossible to match, unbeatable and eternal, making its own author fall in love with it. Hence the name of “La Invencible”.
When restoring musical instruments, and in any other artistic task which is worth, we strongly advise not to rush over the choice of the craftsman - or professional in general - who is going to perform the restoration process. Sometimes the choice is made following the criterion of personal convenience or short distance, for example. However, it may lead us to mistakes made in the restoration, which will turn out to be impossible to undo, and which will result in the instrument losing value, and some of its details and features which make a difference, seriously affected.
This is why, if you have a guitar to restore, do ask for references. You must ask specialized people in the trade of these instruments, whether they are from Spain, Germany, Japan, United States… but never to the craftsman directly. He may be really good, but reducing the risk taken is definitely worth. You know what they say: Better safe than sorry.
We will finally express our gratitude to all the craftsmen who advised and helped us in our decision-making process concerning the restoration of this masterpiece of Spanish guitars: “La Invencible”.