Hauser Guitars

By Bruné, R. E.; Gerken, Teja | Acoustic Guitar, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Hauser Guitars


Bruné, R. E., Gerken, Teja, Acoustic Guitar


The classical guitars of HERMANN HAUSER and his progeny are renowned for their exceptional sound and quality, but they also helped propel the art or classical guitar to unprecedented popularity.

From its humble origins as accompaniment for Gypsy singers and dancers in noisy taverns, to its evolution as an expressive vehicle for virtuosos in the world's most revered concert halls, the classical guitar has become a familiar part of music from classical to pop. The work of guitar maker Hermann Hauser I was pivotal to this transformation of the instrument and today, the bold designs and construction techniques of Hauser I and his son, Hermann Hauser II, continue to guide contemporary guitar builders the world over.

Hauser I made relatively few guitars in his lifetime, about 400 by the estimate of his son Hauser II. But what he did not achieve in terms of output he made up for with impact and impeccable timing-as classical guitar was achieving unprecedented visibility, some its greatest artists were playing Hauser guitars.

FORTUITOUS MEETINGS, EXPLORATIONS IN DESIGN

Trained as a violin, lute, zither, and guitar maker by his father Josef, Hauser I built his early guitars in the Viennese style that was prevalent among 19th-century German and Austrian makers. But in 1924, Hauser was introduced to Andres Segovia, who was just beginning his international career and performing for the Munich guitar society. While staying in Munich, Segovia, who at the time played a Manuel Ramírez guitar, tried one of Hauser's Viennese-style instruments and was dazzled by its exceptional craftsmanship. Segovia offered his Ramírez to Hauser for inspection, and as he left Munich, made no secret of his desire for a Hauser that matched the dimensions of his beloved Ramírez.

Hauser was encouraged by Segovia's patronage and began building guitars closer in style to the Spanish flamenco instruments built by Antonio de Torres and Ramírez. Just as Francisco Tarrega put Torres on the map, Segovia catapulted Hauser to notoriety when he began playing Hauser's instruments publicly in 1929, bringing them to the attention of aficionados around the world. Through their relationship, Hauser also paved the way for a new wave of classical guitar design that moved in lockstep with spreading popularity and acceptance of concert classical guitar.

CONSTRUCTION REVOLUTION

Hauser was not the first non-Spanish maker to build in a Spanish style. But. he was by far the most successful and widely emulated, influencing makers around the world and setting a standard for craftsmanship that would ensure his enduring legacy.

He created his own Spanish models using the work of Torres, Santos Hernandez, and, of course, Ramírez, as a starting point. But being entirely unfamiliar with the art of flamenco, Hauser conceptualized certain construction elements much differently than Spanish makers, who built very thin-topped, percussive instruments suitable for accompanying flamenco singers and dancers. Instead, Hauser built his soundboards with much greater thickness-generally .5 to 1.5 mm thicker than tops built by the great Spanish builders.

The result was an instrument that was less raucous and boomy, but much more even and colorful, and to some ears, better suited for symphonic performance. Hauser's guitars were a perfect match for Segovia and other players of the era who sought guitars of color and clarity and the capability to project these subtleties to the farthest reaches of the largest concert halls.

DRIVEN TO INNOVATE

Much of Hauser's success was spurred by the restless desire to improve his own design concepts. A design for an improved soundboard featuring two longitudinal fan braces and a transverse brace under the bridge saddle, for example, proved successful enough to become a part of many makers' design vocabularies. Some early Hauser guitars built in the Spanish style also had odd features that reveal an appetite for experimentation, such as laminated backs made with outer veneers of rosewood or other tropical species glued to a thick inner back of spruce or other material, a feature that harks back to the early 19th-century French and German makers. …

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