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Mariano Castro de Gistau (d 1856) and the Vogue for the Spanish Guitar in Nineteenth-Century Britain

  • Erik Stenstadvold (a1)

This article 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.

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I would like to thank Christopher Page for valuable advice and encouragement throughout my work on this study. I am also indebted to two anonymous reviewers for this journal. The initial research was done during my Visiting Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Michaelmas Term 2013, for which I am most grateful.

In memory of Andrew Britton

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1 Ehrlich Cyril, The Music Profession in Britain since the Eighteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985); Rohr Deborah, The Careers of British Musicians, 1750–1850: A Profession of Artisans (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

2 Weber William, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); McVeigh Simon, ‘The Benefit Concert in Nineteenth Century London: From “Tax on the Nobility” to “Monstrous Nuisance”’, in Nineteenth Century British Music Studies, vol. 1, ed. Bennett Zon (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999): 242266 .

3 Jousse J., A compendious dictionary of Italian and other terms used in music (London, 1829): 58 .

4 The pioneering work by Stewart W. Button, The Guitar in England 1800–1924 (PhD diss., University of Surrey, 1984; New York: Garland, 1989), provides information on many guitarists active in Britain in this period, but is now in need of revision. Of more recent studies, Andrew Britton, The Guitar in the Romantic Period: its Musical and Social Development, with Special Reference to Bristol and Bath (PhD diss., London: Royal Holloway College, University of London, 2010), is outstanding in its broad contextualizing of the guitar in the Romantic era, and the particular focus on guitar activities in Bristol and Bath. Christopher Page’s series of six Gresham College lectures on Men, Women and Guitars in Romantic England, 2014–2015, ( brilliantly sets the guitar in a wider cultural and social landscape of pre-Victorian England. I would also like to draw attention to the thematic issue, ‘The early Romantic guitar’, Early Music, 41/4 (2013), of which most of the articles concern British matters. For an in-depth survey of the instrument itself and its makers, see James R. Westbrook, Guitar Making in Nineteenth-Century London: Louis Panormo and his Contemporaries (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2012).

5 AMZ 3/41 (July 1801): col. 687.

6 Uklanski E. T. v., Briefe über Polen, Österreich, Sachsen, Bayern, Italien, Etrurien, den Kirchenstaat und Neapel (Nurnberg, 1808): 185 . I am indebted to Gerhard Penn for this reference.

7 For a survey of the guitar in the late eighteenth century, see Sparks Paul, ‘The Origins of the Classical Guitar’, in James Tyler and Paul Sparks, The Guitar and Its Music from the Renaissance to the Classical Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002): 191296 .

8 AMZ 21/8 (February 1819): col. 118.

9 AMZ 21/50 (December 1819): col. 861.

10 Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review 8 (1826): 359 .

11 Page Christopher, ‘The Spanish Guitar in the Newspapers, Novels, Drama and Verse of Eighteenth-Century England’. Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle 44/1 (2013).

12 Rosquellas Pablo, A Complete Tutor for the Spanish Guitar ... Dedicated with the greatest Respect to Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales (London: Clementi & Comp., c. 1813); see Stenstadvold Erik, An Annotated Bibliography of Guitar Methods, 1760–1860. (Hillsdale, NY and London: Pendragon Press, 2010): 172 .

13 Harmonicon 2/15 (March 1824): 48. This notion of Sor initiating the guitar boom in Britain is still repeated in some standard reference works. See discussion in Page Christopher, ‘New light on the London years of Fernando Sor, 1815–1822’, Early Music 41/4 (2013): 558 .

14 England was the only country in Europe, for example, where the term ‘Spanish’ was still habitually used to denote the gut-strung guitar. This was primarily in order to distinguish it from the so-called ‘English’ guitar or ‘guittar’, a wire-strung instrument of the cittern family popular in the British Isles during the second half of the eighteenth century, but the term also preserved the profound association between the guitar and Spain which was once explicitly made throughout Europe. However, the guitar was also widely associated with Italy. This was particularly so in Vienna, epitomized by the Neapolitan Mauro Giuliani (1781–1829) and his impact on the musical scene there during his stay from 1806 to 1819. Italians also outnumbered Spanish players in Paris, despite the fact that some 12,000 or more Spanish individuals or families came to France with the retreating French armies in 1813. See Gil Luis Barbastro, Los Afrancesados: Primera emigración política del siglo XIX español (1813–1820) (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1993): 11 . In addition, Paris fostered many French-born guitarists. Even in England, the ‘Spanish’ guitar was often associated with Italy, and Italian opera singers were among the first to introduce the instrument around the turn of the century.

15 In 1820 Shelley wrote his ‘Ode to Liberty’, with the opening words ‘A glorious people vibrated again’, a response to the reinstatement that year of the liberal Spanish Constitution of 1812. For the importance of literary salons see Schmid Susanne, British Literary Salons of the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013): 84 and 88 on Holland House.

16 Giulianiad 1/2 (1833): 18.

17 Lloréns Vicente, Liberales y románticos: Una emigración española en Inglaterra (1823–1834), 3rd edition (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1979): 2324 .

18 According to a notice in the Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review in 1826, García Manuel, who was in London in 1818 and 1823–24, helped popularize the music of his native country by introducing Spanish airs, ‘some of which were in high fashion at the private concerts of London’. Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, 8 (1826): 252 .

19 AMZ 2/30 (April 1800): col. 515.

20 Berlioz used the guitar occasionally in his larger works, but the parts were later mostly rescored for harp or pizzicato strings. See Macdonald Hugh, Berlioz’s Orchestration Treatise. A Translation and Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002): 87 .

21 Parakilas James reflects on the exoticizing of Spain in his perceptive essay, ‘How Spain Got a Soul’, in The Exotic in Western Music, ed. Jonathan Bellman (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998): 137193 .

22 Musical World 2/5 (1836): 70.

23 The decline in Vienna was remarked in 1819 by Kanne F.A., the editor of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf den österreichischen Kaiserstaat (3/2 (January 1819): 9), who wrote that ‘it appears that the guitar stands with one foot in the grave’. Thanks to Gerhard Penn for directing me to this reference. A few years later, the Wiener allgemeine musikalische Zeitung (8/12 (March 1824): 47), commented that ‘the time when one frequented guitar concerts, is gone’.

24 There is a slight discrepancy regarding Mariano Castro’s precise year of birth in the two extant sources. According to the 1851 Aberdeen census, taken on the night of 30/31 March, he was 51 years old, born in Spain ‘about 1800’, whereas the death registers of Cheltenham give his age as 55 upon his death in October 1856.

25 On one occasion, more than ten years after coming to Britain, Mariano Castro also labelled himself ‘Guitarist to his Majesty the King of Holland’ (Cheltenham Chronicle, 10 December 1840).

26 Perhaps father and son arrived together. At the end of February 1830 one of them arranged Cherubini’s Overture to Lodoiska for publication in no. 16 of the London Musical Gazette (advertised in the Morning Post, 3 March 1830). Unfortunately no copy is known of the actual issue that might have shed light on the arranger’s precise identity. This short-lived, weekly journal (which is not mentioned in Leanne Langley, The English Musical Journal in the Early Nineteenth Century (PhD diss., University of North Carolina, 1983)) contained both sheet music and essays on music and may therefore have been the first English music weekly, predating the Musical World by some six years.

27 John L. Cranmer, Concert Life and the Music Trade in Edinburgh c.1780–1830 (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 1991): 110, 175.

28 Cited from an article about the Society in Caledonian Mercury 24 May 1821.

29 Cranmer , Concert Life, 73–74, 124125 .

30 According to the New Grove, Yaniewicz gave his last public concert in February 1829. However, his Farewell Concert took actually place on 25 March 1831 and was reviewed in the Caledonian Mercury three days after. See Jacek Berwaldt, rev. Margaret Mikulska, ‘Janiewicz, Feliks’, New Grove Online,

31 Reviewed on 24 January 1831.

32 Yaniewicz’s programming, which entailed that only excerpts of the announced quartets were performed, was subject to a critical comment by the reviewer. It would have been better, he maintained, to play only some of the quartets entire, or at least not to omit the principal movements, ‘which renders them less effective, and detracts from the unity of the composer’s design’. The desire for completeness and unity was a central maxim of musical idealism and shows how such ideas were now widely gaining a foothold.

33 Weber , Great Transformation, 88, 113 . Erin Johnson-Hill has also shown that even within factions otherwise embracing the superiority of the German classics, miscellany was still considered by some to be an overriding aesthetical principle in programming; see Johnson-Hill Erin, ‘Miscellany and Collegiality in the British Periodical Press: “The Harmonicon” (1823–1833)’, Nineteenth-Century Music Review 9 (2012): 255293 .

34 In France and Italy the ‘baroque’ guitar with five double courses had shifted to single strings during the last decades of the eighteenth century, and finally acquired its modern arrangement with six single strings around 1800. In Spain, however, a guitar equipped with six double strings had been in use from the 1780s and prevailed well into the nineteenth century. It is quite possible that some of these guitars would have found their way to Britain with Spanish exiles or retreating soldiers from the Peninsular War.

35 Advertised in Edinburgh Evening Courant, 22 December 1832. Of Castro’s compositions only the Selection of Airs is known to survive (National Library of Scotland). The title page is headed ‘No. 1’, obviously implying that more volumes had been planned, and this first volume contains solo arrangements of opera arias and other popular tunes, ending with a simple setting of Auld Lang Syne. It shows the author as a competent guitarist and arranger.

36 Caledonian Mercury, 15 March 1834.

37 It is also worth noting that when Sor first appeared in Bath in December 1815 and January 1816 – this was relatively soon after his arrival in England – the review in the Bath Journal praised his singing but failed to mention his solo guitar playing. See Britton , The Guitar in the Romantic Period, 219 .

38 Caledonian Mercury, 30 October and 6 November 1834. The Academy’s curriculum included modern languages (French, Italian, German and Spanish), geography, history, mathematics and typical female musical skills such as singing, harp, piano and guitar, but also music theory. Spanish as part of the curriculum at a girls’ school was rather unusual. It is not recorded among the subjects taught in 29 English private girls’ schools between 1800 and 1880, as listed in de Bellaigue Christina, Educating Women: Schooling and Identity in England and France, 1800–1867 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 173174 .

39 Dublin Evening Mail, 28 January 1831.

40 Dublin Evening Mail, 6, 10 and 15 November 1826. Willis & Co. had a branch in London as well.

41 A ‘Circular Piano’ was most certainly a square piano with rounded corners or ends, often described as with ‘circular ends’. (I am grateful to Christina Kobb for enlightening me on this.)

42 Dublin Morning Register, 22 January 1827.

43 The Rotunda, a spacious hall with a diameter of about 24 metres (80 feet), now houses a bank.

44 Saunders’s News-Letter, 25 March and 1 April 1835.

45 Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 23 April 1835.

46 Saunders’s News-Letter, 16 May 1835.

47 Saunders’s News-Letter, 18 December 1835.

48 Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 4 February 1836 and 25 February 1837; Saunders’s News-Letter, 9 March 1836; Wexford Conservative, 4 May 1836.

49 Limerick Reporter, 14 January 1840; Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 30 April 1840.

50 In 1836 Castro suffered a serious injury of some sort, for in January 1837 he informed the public that he was ‘sufficiently recovered from his late accident, to resume his Professional Avocations’. This is also one of two Dublin notices where he claimed to have been a pupil of Fernando Sor. Although Sor had left Britain as far back as 1822 (and was never in Dublin), Castro must still have considered his name to resonate well with potential clients: ‘He has the advantage of being a Pupil of F. Sor, and consequently is fully competent to teach to the fullest extent, both Solo playing and Accompaniment, including the most improved Spanish style’. (Saunders’s News-Letter, 16 January 1837.)

51 For a similar situation in Bristol and Bath, see Britton , The Guitar in the Romantic Period , Part two, passim. I have discussed the topic of the guitar perceived as a female instrument more closely in my article

“We Hate the Guitar”: Prejudice and Polemic in the Music Press in Early 19th-Century Europe’, Early Music, 41/4 (2013): 595604 .

52 They include: Signor Noel (1827) (identified as ‘Signor Sante Noel, from Rome’ in advertisements from Dublin, where he appeared in 1829 and 1830), Signor Huyghue (1828), Carl Eulenstein (1828, 1830, 1833), Signor Fabri (1829), Giulio Regondi and his father (1832), Luigi Sagrini (1833), Marziano Bruni (1833, 1835) and Giuseppe Anelli (1836).

53 Cheltenham Chronicle, 13 November 1834 and 5 November 1835. Mme Fondard was also designated ‘élève de Sor’ in the Paris journal Le Ménestrel in a notice upon her return to France in November 1836.

54 Cheltenham Chronicle, 24 September 1840.

55 The resident singer Mr Sapio was not identical with Antonio Sapio in Dublin, for in Pigot & Co’.s Directory, 1842, he is listed as a teacher of singing with the initials ‘L. B’.

56 Musical World, 14/156 (December 1840): 408. According to a review in the Cheltenham Chronicle on 24 December, Castro performed a fantasia upon the guitar.

57 On the tradition of music at English spas, see Borsay Peter, ‘Concert Topography and Provincial Towns in Eighteenth-Century England’, in Concert Life in Eighteenth-Century Britain, ed. Susan Wollenberg and Simon McVeigh (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004): 2728 .

58 1841: Mr Sapio’s Concert at Tewkesbury, 11 August; Evening Concert at Mr Uglow’s residence, 22 October; Mr Thornton’s Concert, early November; Mr Sapio’s Grand Concert, 27 November; Mr Uglow’s Farewell Concert, 21 December (Uglow moved to Dublin, but returned the next season). 1842: a theatrical entertainment at the Assembly Rooms, 19 January; Mr and Mrs. Croft’s Concert, 7 April. The reports do not always detail Castro’s role, but we find mentioned ‘Spanish War Song’, ‘Spanish Muleteer Song’ and ‘Guitar Solo’.

59 Cheltenham Looker-On, 16 April 1842.

60 Britton , The Guitar in the Romantic Period, 347 .

61 The first notice of Anelli in Cheltenham is an advertisement in the Cheltenham Looker-On, 4 June 1842.

62 Aberdeen Journal, 1 July 1846; 30 June and 14 July 1847; 15 January 1851.

63 Aberdeen Journal, 2 April 1851; 4 August 1852; 8 September 1852; 17 November 1852.

64 Inverness Courier, 7 August 1851.

65 Aberdeen Journal, 22 January 1845.

66 Aberdeen Journal, 3 December 1845.

67 Aberdeen Journal, 9 May 1849.

68 Aberdeen Herald and General Advertiser, 16 November 1850.

69 Aberdeen Journal, 20 November 1850. Half a year later, in May 1851, Castro gave yet another concert at the Mechanics’ Institution, this time under the patronage of the Lord Provost and Magistrates; he was assisted by R.H. Baker and a visiting vocalist, Mr Latter. (Aberdeen Herald and General Advertiser, 26 April 1851.)

70 Inverness Courier, 7 August 1851; 9 October 1851.

71 Aberdeen Journal, 11 August 1852.

72 Cheltenham Looker-On, 15 and 22 April 1854.

73 Gloucestershire BMD Indexes, 31/491.

74 Cheltenham Chronicle, Tuesday, 14 October 1856.

75 Gloucestershire BMD Indexes, 27/363.

76 I am grateful to Professor Timothy Cox, Fellow in Clinical Medicine at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, for enlightening me on these issues.

77 Cheltenham Looker-On, Saturday, 18 October 1856. This was not exceptional, as musicians commonly lived with a persistent threat of financial hardship; even the most successful ones could experience destitution at some point (Rohr, Careers of British Musicians, 154–8.)

78 Dublin Workhouses Admission & Discharge Registers 1840–1919, accessed at Other information in this paragraph is derived from searches in

79 For an in-depth study on the reception of the guitar in British music journals and non-specialist journals, see Britton , The Guitar in the Romantic Period , Chapter 3. My own article, ‘We Hate the Guitar’, discusses the same issue in a wider European perspective.

80 McVeigh , ‘Benefit Concert; Weber , Great Transformation, 141168 .

81 Review of R.B. Stewart’s Grand Concert in Leith, Caledonian Mercury, 8 March 1834.

82 Weber , Great Transformation, 152 .

83 Castro did so on several occasions, as for example with the violinist R.H. Baker in January 1845 and the singer A. Sapio in April 1849. In a Musical Entertainment at the Mechanical Institution in November 1850, he shared the stage only with another singer, Mr Milne, and a piano accompanist; in another concert at the same venue in May 1851 he was assisted by Baker and the baritone, Mr Latter, who also accompanied on the piano.

84 Rohr , Careers of British Musicians, 129130 ; McVeigh , ‘Benefit Concert’, 248249 .

85 Aberdeen Herald and General Advertiser, 31 March 1849.

86 Britton (The Guitar in the Romantic Period, 258) reports that when Eulenstein arrived in Bath in 1829, he played at private concerts for two pounds a night, amassing a hundred pounds in a short time.

87 In a private letter written in Bath in 1829, Eulenstein described how he was preparing a four-day trip to Clifton, planning to play every night at a party in order to bring about enough guitar students for a weekly teaching there. See Britton , The Guitar in the Romantic Period, 234 .

88 Rohr , Careers of British Musicians, 139 .

89 Saunders’s News-Letter, 13 April 1835.

90 Contemporary references are legion. Perhaps best known is a comment in Blackwood’s Magazine November 1819 (p. 190), in a report from the Edinburgh Musical Festival: ‘we confess that we cannot see a man [i.e. gentleman] sit down to the piano, or take a guitar in his hand, without an involuntary feeling of degradation’. Similarly, AMZ wrote in 1823 that in London it was still a kind of shame for young men of class to play the piano or guitar (AMZ 25/37, September 1823, col. 599–601). This notion continued well into the second half of the century; Cyril Ehrlich demonstrates that even as late as the 1870s it could still be considered unfitting for a boy to play the piano (Music Profession, 72).

91 Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal, 29 November 1832; Western Times, 1 March 1834. The Signor D’Castro at London may however have been Mariano’s father, Salvador Castro who, as remarked above, also probably spent some time there around 1830.

92 Saunders’s News-Letter, 26 April 1858, and 22 September 1859.

93 Britton , The Guitar in the Romantic Period, part 2, passim .

94 Stenstadvold , Annotated Bibliography, 12 .

95 Rohr , Careers of British Musicians, 136 .

96 On this new musical idealism, see Bonds Mark Evan, Music as Thought: Listening to the Symphony in the Age of Beethoven (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), in particular Chapter 1, ‘Listening with Imagination: The Revolution in Aesthetics’, and Weber, Great Transformation, Chapter 3, ‘Musical idealism and the crisis of the old order’.

97 Musical World, 12 (12 December 1839): 510.

98 Aberdeen Herald and General Advertiser, 26 April 1851.

99 Cyril Ehrlich writes about the piano that after mid-century the market for instruments and lessons was moving down the social scale (Music Profession, 71). There are clear indications that this was also the case with the guitar.

100 The turn in programme planning has been lucidly demonstrated by Weber William, Great Transformation , passim.

101 One guitarist, Giuseppe Anelli (who, as mentioned above, settled in Cheltenham after Castro left in 1842), nevertheless tried to adapt; he was an associate in the Cheltenham Quartett [sic] Society’s Six Evening Concerts in the spring of 1846, playing solo or duo with piano in several of the concerts (Cheltenham Looker-On, 11 and 25 April 1846; 2, 23 and 30 May 1846). However, this is the only known trace we have of a guitarist being a regular contributor in a chamber-music series in Britain.

102 Leonard Schulz made an attempt in London at the end of 1841. Surely inspired by Liszt’s successful recitals in June that year and the previous year, he announced that ‘the First of his Recitals will take place on the Evening of Saturday next, the 18th [December]’ (Morning Post, 14 December 1841). There is, however, no further report of this event (nor of any subsequent ones) to confirm that it actually took place. Later on, visiting guitarists occasionally put on recitals, like the Ciebra brothers in 1847 (Morning Post, 23 June 1847).

103 Harmonicon 7/2 (1829): 48.

I would like to thank Christopher Page for valuable advice and encouragement throughout my work on this study. I am also indebted to two anonymous reviewers for this journal. The initial research was done during my Visiting Fellowship at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Michaelmas Term 2013, for which I am most grateful.

In memory of Andrew Britton

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