Ida Presti, (31 May 1924 - 24 April 1967) was a French classical guitarist. She first came to prominence as a child prodigy, before maturing into what some have called "the greatest guitarist of the 20th century, and possibly of all time."
Presti was born Yvette Montagnon on May 31, 1924, 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 April 28, 1935, at the Salle Chopin-Pleyel in Paris. Lauded for her prodigious talent by her teachers and contemporaries, she recorded for the French arm of the HMV label in 1937. While still under 12, she played at the Pasdeloup concerts and the Société des concerts du Conservatoire for two consecutive years.
At 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 September 16, 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, and The Times noted "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."
After her second marriage, to Alexandre Lagoya, she stopped performing as a solo artist and formed the Duo Presti-Lagoya, concentrating on works for two guitars. The two formed one of the most accomplished classical guitar duos in history, and performed over 2,000 concerts. Many composers began to write works for two guitars, dedicated to them, including Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Les Guitares bien tempérées, 24 preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys; Concerto for Two Guitars), and Joaquín Rodrigo ("Tonadilla").
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 the Concierto Madrigal in July 1967.
At the age of 19, Presti married Henry Rigaud (sometimes spelled Rigo) in 1943, and they had a daughter the following year.
She met the classical guitarist Alexandre Lagoya in 1951 and a year later they married.
On April 24, 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.
Ida Presti et Luise Walker - Les grandes dames de la guitare Pearl, Pavilion Records (9133 GEMM CD),
Art de Alexandre Lagoya avec Ida Presti. Philipps 2004 (6-CD set),
Some photos of LP covers (Oviatt Library Digital Collections),
Recital at festival in Aix en Provence,
The Art of Ida Presti - Studio Recordings 1938~1956 IDI(Ital Disc Inst) Records, April 24, 2012,
Baroque Music for Guitars - Ida Presti & Alexandre Lagoya. Philips (October 25, 1990) ASIN: B00000E3UC,
Les compositions d'Ida Presti pour deux guitares (Ida Presti: Compositions for Two Guitars). SIMAX Classics (September 28, 2009) ASIN: B002OQ004O
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license