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Photo of organ pipes in the Paul Fritts organ in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph

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Organs of Spain Day 5 | Pipe Organs of the Basque Country

The previous day started in Mallorca and now we are in Bilbao on our tour of pipe organs in Spain. It is cold and raining, just yesterday it was bright and sunny.

 

Our first stop today was a short distance from the hotel in Azpetita and was the Basilica of Saint Ignatius Loyola. The large domed church was completed in 1738. The interior is spectacular with rose-colored marble, black polished marble pillars and all of these hard surfaces give the pipe organ an incredible acoustic environment. The Organ here was built by Cavaille-Coll in 1889 and was restored in 1973 by Organeria Espanola. The organ has 3-manuals and 37-stops. We are lucky there have been no changes to the organ except, I think a balanced expression pedal was added to the Recit. It is also interesting to note that the organ stops are listed in palms and not feet.

 

We boarded the bus for a short drive to the church of Saint Maria which has one of the last Cavaille-Colls. One month after the organ's dedication Cavaille-Coll sold his company to Charles Mutin and Cavaille-Coll died in 1899. This organ is a large 3-manual instrument ideal for playing the music of Cesar Franck. The organ was restored by Gabriel Blancafort in 1976, there seem to be no modifications other than maybe the position of the expression. The organist at the church, Jose Luis Franzesena, made an improvisation on local folk songs showing all of the beauty of a Cavaille-Coll Organ.

 

The group then all came up and played. After this, we all went to a fantastic lunch near by the church. Just a comment about the food, most meals are provided on the trip and I have to say they have been good to excellent.

 

The last church of the day was in a Deba and has a new Grenzing Organ of 3-manuals and 35 ranks. The organ was built new in 2009. There was a lot of discussion about how to design this organ. The church wanted an organ that fit the architecture of the church and has influences from organ building from Gipuzkoa region between the 17th and 18th century. The organ has an expressive division. These were small boxes built around the cornets with a top that lifted up, like what some American builders did with Vox Humanas. I had always thought the swell box was an English invention, but it seems to have been used in Spain before I have read about its use in England. Our guide speculates with the wars between Spain and England in the 16th century the idea of organ pipes in expression boxes must have made it to England.

 

That evening we settled into our new hotel in the beautiful town of San Sebastian, another beach community.