Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Sequence of publication of the 'Journal de musique étrangère pour la guitare ou lyre'.

The  'Journal de musique étrangère, pour la guitare ou lyre, Rédigé par Castro' was published in Paris in the very early 1800s by Castro de Gistau. Each issue contained three pieces: a Spanish song, an Italian song and a guitar solo.

Unfortunately there are no dates on the covers, neither any issue numbering on the covers (though there is provision for it!). However most copies have a number at the bottom of each internal page which is the same on each page of any one issue. It would be easy to assume that this represents the order in which they were published but I'm hesitant to jump to this conclusion. I'd be grateful for any opinions as to the precise meaning of these numbers. Example below from BNF

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Dear Martyn, thank you for getting into this rich subject. I think that this collection has the amazing feature of gathering music from 2 different generations of guitarists related to Spanish context. Some works are clearly linked to a late baroque aesthetics, which work better in 6 double strung guitars, and some works are related to the new vague of the 6 simple strung guitar. Arizpacochaga, Laporta, Soto, Abreu, F.F. (Ferandiere) among others represent the former tendency (6 double strung guitar) and maybe this generation composed their works between 1780 and 1800, and other works -Moretti, Sor, maybe Castro himself- seem to be more comfortable with simple strung guitars (Moretti himself declares this in his Method).  So, perhaps Castro tried to honour with his publication some well established -perhaps some of them already dead- together with new generations of Spanish guitarists which looked promisory.

Best wishes

 Dear Gabriel,

Thanks for this too.

Yes, I also think that the works in Castro's Journal may reflect the changing styles from a Spanish six course instrument to the more usual six string instrument which became common in the rest of Europe from the early 1800s.  What is more tricky is deciding which pieces may have originally composed for the six course instrument. Like you I tend to think that listed composers such as Arizpacochaga, Laporta, Soto, Abreu,  Soler may have originally conceived their works for six courses before being later published (pirated even!) by Castro in the later Paris publications.

One of the stylistic features which seems to me to emerge is that the works which might be more likely for six courses exhibit a more polarised treble and bass texture (eg pieces like Soler's - plates marked 21), whereas perhaps later ones are rather denser in texture.  I also wonder if some of Aguado's earlier works may have first been conceived for six courses before he too sought the lucrative streets of Paris! The pieces with clear Spanish influences (rhythms and dances titles, etc) also work well with six courses - though this is perhaps best shown in the Spanish song settings which seem to me very suited to six courses.  And perhaps even the young Sor's early Spanish song settings, like those of Castro himself, were composed for the six course instrument.  

And, of course, many of these players would have started on the six course instrument in Spain and only perhaps moved onto the more fashionable (and easier!) six string instrument in revolutionary/imperial France. For example I do see some of Castro's own works displaying features more suitable for six courses whilst others, as you imply, may work better with six single strings.

Abreu seems to have been born around 1750 and  Soler 1754, so both would have reached maturity whilst the six course instrument was general in Spain. So again perhaps the pages of Castro's Journal, even if published in the first deaceds of the nineteenth century, reflect not only pieces from this period (early romantic) but also the last few decades of the previous century.


I agree completely with your analysis. I would just add a small quote: perhaps you already know the guitar works kept in the Biblioteca Histórica Municipal de Madrid. If you don't, I would strongly suggest you to see their website (some of them are digitised). Luis Briso de Montiano kindly sent me, some months ago, a bunch of manuscripts kept there. This includes Laporta and Arizpacochaga works for guitar and thorough bass. If you are interested, I could send you some of them.

Best wishes


Thanks Gabriel,

I found the page for Isidora Laporta in the Biblioteca Histórica Municipal de Madrid at this link below. But there seems to be no digital images I can download.


So, yes please, I'd be grateful for digital images of the MSs you have from this collection.



In fact, there is a perfectly legal and very good modern edition of this music...: Antologíga de Guitar I. Piezas de concerto, from Musica Hispana, ICCMU (2008). Only 25 euros. And the composers name is Isidro (!) Laporta.

Erik Stenstadvold wrote two very good articles on Salvador Castro in which he deals with the chronology and various editions of the Journal, and of Castro's other publications. You might want to look into those.

Thank you for your contribution, Jelma! I hope Sebastian will have your guitar ready soon! ¿where did you get the articles by Eric Stenstadvold? Best wishes!

Thank you Jelma,  

However I much prefer to use a facsimile wherever possible - in my experience even the best of modern editions can be suspect and original MSs often show bits of evidence not always conscientiously reflected in many modern editions.  So Gabriel please still send me what you have.

Regarding  the excellent Erik Stenstadvold's papers, I'm aware of his paper on the life and career of Mariano de Castro from the Consortium for Guitar Research but not of his work listing Salvador's works and especially the Journal. I see his website lists various papers etc but I can't see the one you mention on Salvador. Could you please send me a copy? Or a link? I'll also contact him direct.




Dear Martyn, I sent you the stuff I have, some days ago. Please check your Spam folders. In case you did not receive the files at all, please, let me know and I will send you back the files.

Best wishes


Dear Gabriel,

Nothing in my inbox or even Spam folder! So, yes please, could you send it again.  The email address to use is 


Incidentally, regarding the paper on Castro de Gistau that Jelma mentioned Erik

Stenstadvold had published, I was able to contact Erik and he says that, in fact, he did research Castro quite extensively, but never finished the paper.  But he's going to pick up the thread again so hopefully we'll have more background on the enigmatic Castro de Gistau!



Dear Martyn

I hope you did receive the files now.

Please, let me know.

Best wishes!



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