French Guitarist Ida Presti Born This Date in 1924

Posted by on April 24, 2017 in Special Announcements | 0 comments

Ida Presti was born Yvette Montagnon in Suresnes, a suburb of Paris, France, to a French father and Sicilian mother. Her father, Claude Montagnon, was her first teacher, and he thought that "Ida Presti" sounded better than 'Yvette Montagnon' (Presti came from her mother's name, Olga-Gracia Lo Presti). She also studied harmony and music theory with guitarist and luthier Mario Maccaferri.

Presti played in public for the first time when she was eight, and gave her first full-length concert at the age of ten, on 28 April 1935 at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Lauded for her prodigious talent by her teachers and contemporaries, she recorded for the French arm of the HMV record label in 1937. While still under twelve, she played at the Pasdeloup concerts and the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire for two consecutive years.

At age 14, she appeared in the 1938 film La Petite Chose as a guitar player in a supporting role and, as a 16-year-old, she played Paganini's guitar during a commemoration of the centennial of his death in 1940.

On 16 September 1948, Presti gave the French premiere of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, which was broadcast on radio from Paris and also carried on several other continental stations. She gave her first recital in London on December 1, 1951, The Times noting "her truly astonishing right hand dexterity and her lively temperament." After a recital the following year, The Times commented, "When Miss Ida Presti, a young French guitarist, made her English début last autumn it was her prestidigitation that lingered in the memory. Her reappearance early in the week at Wigmore Hall confirmed this first impression of brilliance but also gave further evidence of sterling musicianship."

Presti & Lagoya 1964 tour of Southern Africa

After her second marriage, to the guitarist Alexandre Lagoya, she stopped performing as a solo artist and formed the Duo Presti-Lagoya with him, concentrating on works for two guitars. The two formed one of the most accomplished classical guitar duos in history, performing over 2,000 concerts.

A number of composers wrote works for the duo, including:

  • Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Sonatina canonica, Op. 196 (1961); Les Guitares bien tempérées, Op. 199 (1962); Concerto for Two Guitars and Orchestra, Op. 201 (1962).
  • Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur: Élégie (1956).
  • Pierre Petit: Tarantelle (1959); Toccata (1959).
  • Joaquín Rodrigo: Tonadilla (1959). Rodrigo finished another piece for two guitars, the Concierto Madrigal, in 1966, but Presti died before she and Lagoya could perform it. Angel and Pepe Romero subsequently gave the first performance of it in July 1967. In addition, Rodrigo wrote Fuga elegiaca (1967) on the occasion of Presti's death.

The Duo plays Manuel De Falla in this video performance.

On 24 April 1967, Presti died at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, at the age of 42 during a concert tour in the United States. Presti had been coughing up blood for several days and was first examined at a hospital in St. Louis. Although advised to remain there, the couple flew to Rochester, New York, where their next concert was scheduled to be held, and Presti was brought to the hospital directly from the airport. Presti died of a massive internal hemorrhage due to a tumor in her lung, while doctors struggled in vain to control the bleeding.

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