Four early Spanish organs in the Museu de la Música, Barcelona

By Irene Hernández

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The spinet of the Hauslaib claviorgan

Recently Tess Knighton and I visited the Museu de la Música in Barcelona, and in particular the Museum’s collection of early keyboard instruments (‘Sala dels teclats’), including harpsichords, clavichords and organs.

Four outstanding instruments:

The first is the recently restored (during the period 2010-2012) Lorenz Hauslaib claviorgan (1590-1600). It is made from ebony and decorated with tortoise shell, with three little bronze statues inside (one inside each door and another above the keyboard). The organ has four stops and the keyboard has forty-one keys with a short octave. It also has two bellows on the top of the case. The instrument was built in Nuremberg in about 1590 and is attributed to Lorenz Hauslaib and his workshop. The Museum acquired this instrument in 1963 and it was originally  catalogued as a positive organ. Later it was discovered that the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) has a similar instrument but with a spinet. It was then discovered that the instrument in Barcelona also has, above the keyboard, a trapezoidal space hidden behind a panel of tortoise shell, where there had been a spinet. The organ was restored by Gerhard Grenzing and the spinet was reconstructed by Joan Martí, who based it on the spinet preserved in the New York claviorgan and also on a similar spinet housed in the same Museum. The couplers were also designed by Joan Martí and Gerhard Grenzing. The original owner of the instrument was Baltasar Zuñiga, who was born in Monterrey (Ourense) in the mid-sixteenth century and died in Madrid in 1622. He was ambassador of the archdukes Albert and Isabel of Austria in Flanders before 1600. When Philip III died in 1621, Zuñiga obtained the position of Philip IV’s Prime Minister.

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The couplers of the Hauslaib claviorgan

The second instrument of interest is an organ of the second half of the seventeenth century by an unknown organ-builder from Aragon known simply as ‘El Zaragozano’. It is decorated with gold stucco, blue and red paint and an unidentified coat of arms. Arab letters are found painted on the doors. The pitch is A=440 and the keyboard has a range of 42 notes (C1-A4).

The Pérez Molero organ, built in Segovia in 1719, is decorated with gold ornaments and imitation marble. The coat of arms of Maria Dávila is painted on the soundboard (‘secreto’). She was the founder of the Convent of Santa Maria de Jesús in Ávila, where the organ was originally situated, as is clear from the convent accounts of 1716-63 (fol. 61): ‘Los 4600 reales coste de cañuteria y caxa pagados a D. Manuel Perez Molero como consta de su recivo en 3 de Mayo de 1722. Y los 150 rs. restantes, coste de traer dicho organo y caxa desde Segovia’. Maria’s coat of arms is placed centrally; to the right, is the smaller coat of arms of Fernando de Acuña, and to the left, that of Hernán Núñez de Arnalte. The organ also has a divided-stop keyboard of 45 keys (with a short octave).

These three instruments are played by the organist Juan de la Rubia during a technical visit to the Museu de la Música in May 2013. On the Hauslaib claviorgan he plays two improvisations. In the first, he uses the different colours of the organ and spinet to distinguish between the two melodic lines: the upper part on the organ and the lower part on the spinet. In the second improvisation, the bass has an accompanying role, and he combines both instruments. On ‘El Zaragozano’ he plays another improvisation; and finally, on the Pérez Molero organ he performs the Diferencias sobre la gallarda milanesa by Antonio de Cabezón. He ends with another improvisation with the ‘corneta de 2 tiples’ in the right hand.

The last instrument considered here is Josep Boscà’s organ from the beginning of the eighteenth century. It comes from the Dominican Convent of Santa Caterina, Barcelona. It has a keyboard of forty-five keys (range: C1-C6). In this case, there is no ‘medio registro’ (divided stop), but it has the short octave, and the pitch is A=440. The decoration of the case has floral paintings characteristic of the mid-seventeenth-century Madrid school, and it was probably made at the workshop of Juan Arellano. The decoration of the doors of the organ case is a tradition also observed by Catalan painters, such as Pere Serafí, who with Pietro Paolo di Montalbergo painted the doors of the organs of Barcelona and Tarragona Cathedrals in 1563.

Further reading:

Jaume Ayats et al., El claviorgue Hauslaib del Museu de la Música de Barcelona, Jaume Ayats (editor), (Girona: Documenta Universitaria ; Barcelona : Museu de la Música de Barcelona, 2013).

Josep Maria Escalona, L’orgue a Catalunya : història i actualitat, (Barcelona: Generalitat de Catalunya. Direcció General de Promoció Cultural, 2000).



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