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.

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