José Rey de la Torre

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José Rey de la Torre
Born (1917-12-09)December 9, 1917
Gibara, Cuba
Died July 21, 1994(1994-07-21)
San José, California
Genres Classical music
Instruments Classical Guitar
Labels Philharmonia, Elektra, Nonesuch, CRI

José Rey de la Torre (born December 9, 1917, Gibara, Cuba; d. July 21, 1994, San Jose, California), known by his stage name Rey de la Torre, was one of the most significant classical guitarists of the mid-twentieth century, and considered by many to be the father of “modern classical guitar technique”.[1]

Early life[edit]

De la Torre studied with Severino López in Havana, Cuba. After establishing a career as a child prodigy in Cuba, his family sent him to Barcelona in 1932 to study under the retired virtuoso guitarist Miguel Llobet (1878–1938).[2]

On May 9, 1934 Llobet presented him in a concert at the Academia Marshall together with a pianist and then shortly after in a solo recital. Both received rave reviews from the tough Barcelona critics. Catalan composer and critic Jaime Pahissa described Rey as the most complete guitarist he had heard. Another critic compared him not only with Llobet but also with Pablo Casals.[3]


His American début was at The Town Hall in New York City in 1940. He subsequently made many appearances in the USA, Canada and elsewhere. He gave radio broadcasts and played in two television plays. Rey de la Torre gave the US première of Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo on November 19, 1959, with the Cleveland Orchestra under the baton of Robert Shaw. He also premièred the Introduction to the Chôros by Heitor Villa-Lobos in New York, in August 1962, and Three Pieces for Guitar by Carlos Chávez in New York on November 14, 1969.[4] A number of works were written for him by various composers, among them Julián Orbón.

Rey made a number of recordings, the earliest of which he found unsatisfactory.[5] In December, 1950 he recorded the Quintet in D, G. 448 by Luigi Boccherini with the Stuyvesant String Quartet on the short-lived Philharmonia record label. His most significant solo recording was made originally under the Philharmonia label in 1952, and was later re-released, first by Elektra records, and then by Nonesuch. Additionally, a recording exists of “Five Songs on Poems by Federico García Lorca” by Noël Lee with soprano Adele Addison and flutist Samuel Baron in 1961 on the Composers Recordings Inc. (CRI 147).

Epic Recordings[edit]

De la Torre made at least three albums for Epic Records: The Romantic Guitar LC 3564 (music by Enrique Granados, Isaac Albéniz, transcribed by Llobet and Andrés Segovia; Francisco Tárrega, Joaquín Rodrigo, Manuel de Falla and Grau), Rey de la Torre Plays Classical Guitar LC 3418 (music by Gaspar Sanz, Fernando Sor, Miguel Llobet, Ponce, Federico Moreno Torroba and Tárrega), and Virtuoso Guitar LC 3479 (music by Mauro Giuliani, Joaquín Turina, Llobet, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Falla and Tárrega).[6]

Mid career health issues[edit]

Around 1961, right at a time when his career was flourishing, he suffered a setback: the middle finger of his right hand became less responsive and was a challenge for a number of years until Marianne Eppens, a physical therapist, was able to isolate the cause and offer a remedy. In 1969 they were married and moved to California. In 1975 at the zenith of his career Rey was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a disease which ended his performing career a year later.

Rey combined a teaching career with his active concert life until his retirement from the stage, at which point he devoted all of his efforts to teaching. He spent a brief period (1975–1977) teaching in New York, before relocating to San Francisco, where he spent the final two decades of his life, teaching in spite of a spiraling debilitation caused by his rheumatoid arthritis.[7]


  1. ^ Danner, 1994
  2. ^ Rey de la Torre
  3. ^ Turner
  4. ^ Weller 2006
  5. ^ Weller 2006
  6. ^ The Romantic Guitar, Epic LC 3564, liner notes by George Jellinek
  7. ^ Phillips, 2002


  • Danner, Peter. Rey de la Torre. Soundboard, XXI, 2, Fall 1994, pg. 7.
  • Phillips, Robert. The Influence of Miguel Llobet on the pedagogy, repertoire, and stature of the guitar in the twentieth century. Doctoral dissertation. 2002, OCLC 51796355.
  • Rey de la Torre, José. Miguel Llobet, El Mestre. Guitar Review no. 60, Winter 1985, pg. 22-32. (Spanish)
  • Turner, Zane: MusicWeb International.
  • Weller, Anthony. 2006. Program notes for Rey de la Torre, Guitar. Bridge Records, Inc. 9188.