For the past 20 years, Belgian guitarist Raphaella Smits has been an ardent advocate of the eight-stringed guitar. Whether playing classical or contemporary, Baroque or Latin, Ms. Smits relies on the eight strings to give her guitar playing “more body,” as she describes it. She has also developed a passion for early instruments, under the inspiration of Jos Van Immerseel, the renowned Flemish harpsichordist, pianist, conductor and early music authority.
Ms. Smits began her musical studies at the Royal Conservatories of Antwerp and Brussels. She then went to Spain to study with Jose Tomas who had been Segovia’s assistant. There she was introduced to the eight-string guitar and began playing recitals. In 1986 Ms. Smits became the first woman to win the first prize of the “XX Certamen Internacional de Guitarra Francisco Tarrega,” a prominent international guitar competition held in Benicasim, Spain. She also took prizes at competitions in Granada and Palma de Mallorca.
Since then Ms. Smits has performed world-wide in solo recitals and chamber music concerts on eight-string guitars and historical instruments. Many composers have written works for Ms. Smits, including Sergio Assad, Janpieter Biesemans, Jorge Cardoso, Wim Henderickx, Jorge Morel and Owe Walter. As an enthusiastic chamber musician, Ms. Smits has appeared with guitarists David Russell, Hubert Kappel, Oscar Ghiglia and Benjamin Verdery. She has been playing with tenor Guy De Mey on a regular basis for the past 20 years, and has appeared with Baroque soprano Lena Lootens and Latin singer Liliana Rodriguez.
Since 1977, Ms. Smits has made 17 recordings, reflecting her wide-ranging musical interests. An exclusive Accent Records artist, her most recent release is The Eight-Stringed Bach, featuring her own arrangement of the Partita No. 2 for Solo Violin. Among her other recent recordings are Reina de la noche, with songs from Argentina and Brazil, and Popular Spanish Songs, both featuring Ms. Rodriguez. Others include In Deep Silence, a disc of contemporary guitar music and Early 19th Century Guitar Music, played on a sevenstring guitar and featuring Schubert lieder.
Ms. Smits is internationally praised as a teacher of both guitar and chamber music. She holds a chair at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven, Belgium, and regularly gives master classes around the world. She is also in great demand as a jurist for international music competitions.