Mariano de Castro


Erik Stenstadvold is completing a study of a previously unknown guitarist,  Mariano de Castro.

With the aid of newspapers and other documents, Erik has reconstructed much of his career in various towns and cities of Britain.

The guitar became widely fashionable in Britain in the second half of the 1820s, at a time when the instrument’s popularity was in decline on the continent. Consequently, a number of guitarists crossed the Channel in those years. Among these was a guitarist of Spanish-French background whose name and existence have hitherto been totally unknown: Mariano Castro de Gistau. This study reconstructs his biography from contemporary documents and newspaper accounts, and joins the growing body of work devoted to revealing the vogue for the ‘Spanish’ guitar in Britain during the early nineteenth century. It is also a case study of how a musician could make a career and livelihood in provincial Britain during that period. Mariano Castro arrived as a young man, probably in 1829, and stayed the rest of his life in Britain and Ireland until his death in 1856 in Cheltenham. He opted for a living outside of London (where he was only for a brief time), and was based during long periods in Edinburgh, Dublin, Aberdeen and Cheltenham. Contemporary concert reviews show that he was highly respected as an artiste. He appeared both as guitarist and singer (accompanying himself on the guitar), often accentuating the Spanish aspect of his performances. As for many musicians, teaching was a main source of his income. Advertisements show that, in addition to giving singing and guitar lessons, he was also a teacher of French and Spanish, and that he was engaged in various private schools and institutes, in particular after 1840 when those institutions became more common.

Nineteenth-century guitars at King’s College London

On Thursday 24 April, James Westbrook and Christopher Page took part in a seminar on nineteenth-century guitars as part of  Music in London 1800-1851, a five-year research project (2013-2018) funded by the European Research Council, based in the Music Department at King’s College London.

A Roudhloff x-braced Melophonic guitar of c. 1842 by Roudhloff, arguably the finest  achievement of  nineteenth-century guitar making in London.

Detail of a Roudhloff x-braced Melophonic guitar of c. 1842 by Roudhloff, arguably the finest achievement of nineteenth-century guitar making in London.

In attendance was a group a postdoctoral students working on the project, presided over by Professor Roger Parker. Most of the reading material comprised articles listed on this site, and written by members of the Consortium (see Publications) and there was lively discussion of many musical, social and organological issues. This was a valuable chance to make a bid for the place of guitars in a survey of unprecedented comprehensiveness

Welcome to our new website!

The Cambridge Consortium for Guitar Research is a society of guitar players and scholars devoted to the musical history, the social history and the organology of all Western instruments called ‘guitars’, but with special emphasis on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Please browse our sections to know more about us and our work, events, and publications.