In a new article, Erik Stenstadvold reconstructs the biography of a musician of Spanish-French background whose name and existence have hitherto been unknown, the guitarist and singer Mariano Castro de Gistau (c. 1800–1856). He arrived in Britain around 1829, during the relatively brief period when the guitar was widely fashionable there. The article discusses the factors that created this fashion as well as some of the principal forces that would soon challenge the instrument’s position and complicate the life of musicians like Castro (such as the rise of a canonical repertoire performed in concert halls built ever larger). Castro remained in the British Isles until his death in 1856, with a career unfolding mainly in provincial centres like Edinburgh, Dublin, Aberdeen and Cheltenham. Contemporary reviews show that he was a highly respected musician who appeared in concerts both as a guitarist and singer, often accentuating his Spanish background in the choice of repertoire. In addition to giving singing and guitar lessons, he was teaching the French language (increasingly so in later years when the guitar had lost much of its status) and after 1845 he was also engaged as a teacher in various private schools and academies.
Erik Stenstadvold, ‘Mariano Castro de Gistau (d 1856) and the Vogue for the Spanish Guitar in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, 2017, 1–21.