As a young man, Joël Laplane dreamed of making a name for himself as a biophysicist, until the purchase of his first guitar changed his course for good. Fascinated by the instrument’s passion and the arcane mysteries of its manufacture, he embarked instead on a master’s degree in physics and acoustics, and simultaneously apprenticed himself to a traditional Spanish luthier in his hometown of Marseille. That educational blend of theory, intuition and savoir-faire has served Laplane well. Inheriting his mentor’s atelier in 1977, he set out on his own and became a master in his own right—his clients include the stars of classical and flamenco music, among them Vicente Amigo, Turibio Santos, and the great Spanish flamenco guitarist and composer Paco de Lucía. In 2008 he was designated a Maître d’Art by the French Ministry of Culture, and more recently he was appointed to the ranks of the Patrimoine Vivant.
Firmly anchored in the techniques of the past, Laplane works with naturally seasoned woods, scrupulously selected for their qualities of resonance and beauty. But it’s as a restless innovator that he brings exceptional brio to his craft. Laplane continually adds refinements to his classical guitars to produce instruments that are responsive and sonorous. His flamenco guitars are extremely light, and designed to be agile and dynamic to the touch—the kind of instruments that make a musician’s heart sing.
In February 2013 the studio reopened under the direction of Yoanne Charbonnier, a disciple of Joël Laplane. Under the new name Atelier Charbonnier Laplane, Joël Laplane will now focus mainly on building his new model of Grand Concert guitar, and teaching classical guitar.
22 rue de l’Eglise Saint Martin, Marseille, 04.91.47.27.17. website
This article was first published in FranceToday.com in March 2011 and updated in March 2013