Pablo Bruna - Œuvres pour Orgue - Spanish Baroque Organ Works


Pablo Bruna (1611-1679)
Organ works
Tiento “Sobre la Letanía de la Virgen”,
Pange Lingua,
Medio registro bajo,
Registro alto de clarín

Jean-Charles Ablitzer
Bartholomé Sanchez Historical Organ 1734
Cariñena, Aragón, España


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Pablo Bruna "El ciego de Daroca" 

was born in Daroca in 1611. Baptised on the 22nd of June, he's the second of Blas Bruna and Marìa Tardez's ten children. Blinded by an illness at age five, he nonetheless pursued an education in music, as did his brothers Blas and Orosia.

In the XVIIth century and since the medieval era, Daroca was an important place of pilgrimage, following a miracle named Misterio de los Corporales that occurred during a victorious battle against the muslims in the Valencia region in 1239, during the Reconquista. As a result of this intense religious activity, numerous churches and convents were erected in the town. 14 in all, as well as a large number of hermitages. It is very likely that these edifices were equipped with a pipe organ; we are absolutely certain that five of them were. The Collegiate church of Santa Maria la Mayor y de los Corporales, the largest church of Daroca in which are exhibited the miracle relics, has an outstanding instrument built between 1488 and 1498 by Pascual Mallén of Calatayud. The polychromatic and gold gothic casing can still be admired to this day.

Hence it's in an exceptional religious environment, place of convergence for a host of pilgrims from all over the peninsula, that Pablo Bruna begins his musical education. His talent must have been apparent very early since at 16 years old, the chapter of the Collegiate church of Santa Maria la Mayor y de los Corporales grants him the position of organist. It is only in 1631, however, four years later, that the post is made official. In august 1669, the chapter asks Pablo Bruna to fill the position of maestro de la música left vacant by the departure of Juan Baraza for the Huesca cathedral. He stayed in this post, despite his blindness, for eight years, until the appointment in 1677 of Juan de Torres, previously active at Jaca cathedral. Pablo Bruna died two years later, having already shared his belongings amongst his parents, friends and disciples. His instruments were also shared, among which were a clavichord, a harpsichord, a harp, a clavicytherium on which he practised and taught his students, as well as various notebooks of his musical compositions for pipe organ that he mentions himself in his will. The clavichord was, according to Pablo Bruna, his best instrument. It was intended for his favourite pupil, his nephew Diego Xaraba y Bruna (1652-1715) whom, he hoped would take his place as organist in the choir. This wish was not fulfilled.

The fame of Pablo Bruna, better known as “El ciego de Daroca” (the blind man of Daroca) spread all over Spain, to the extent that kings Philippe IV and Charles II stopped in Daroca to listen to him. The chapter of the Santa Maria Del Pilar collegiate church in Saragoza invited him in 1639 to occupy the post of organist, but he refused the offer. Thanks to the Misterio de los Corporales, the Daroca collegiate church was visited by a large number of pilgrims, and his talent quickly became the subject of a public controversy about whether Bruna was more or less skilled than another famous organist, who also happened to be blind, Andrés Peris of the Valencia cathedral.

Getting back to the instrument he had at his disposal, archives tell us that the transformation of the gothic instrument built by Pascual Mallén was entrusted to Guillaume de Lupe, a leading French organ builder, established in Tarazona, who had already worked on it in 1569 when it was still situated in the old medieval church. This work consisted of repairing the instrument as well as a positive organ located in the wing next to the chapter house to be played by a second organist. Around 1600, when the construction of the new Santa Maria la Mayor y de los Corporales Collegiate church was finished, a contract was signed between the chapter and Guillaume de Lupe to transform the organ completely, all the while preserving its magnificent medieval casing. The idea was to create a new instrument in accordance with new technical and sound criteria to meet the recent evolution of organ- building, from the Renaissance to the beginnings of baroque art. He worked on this project with his son Gaudioso until his death in july 1607 where his son was entrusted to continue the work of his father. It took 17 years to complete the construction of the organ, that was considered at the time to be one of the best in Spain. It's this instrument that Pablo Bruna played during all his time as an organist for the collegiate church, from 1627 to 1679.

Although the majority of pipe organs in Spain at the time only have whole ranks, meaning they cover the whole range of the keyboard in a single timbre, a new trend consisting of dividing the keyboard into bass and treble to achieve more contrast in sound became widely prevalent. Although this division became commonplace at the end of the XVIIth century and all throughout the XVIIIth century through the adoption of the chromatic windchest, some instruments ranks were entirely equipped with this innovation as early as the end of the XVIth century. This is the case for the organ in the Seville cathedral, built by the Flemish organ-builder Maese Jorge in 1579. 

The composition of the organ completed by Gaudioso de Lupe is not precisely known, it seems likely, however, that many ranks were divided into bass and treble. This organ-builder had already done similar work on the Seo de Saragoza organ under the initiative of Sebastián Aguilera de Heredia. Furthermore, it was his father Guillaume de Lupe that built a divided bass and treble Dulzaina rank, positioned horizontally above the console for the Santa Cruz de Saragoza church organ - one of the first in Spain. Pablo Bruna's organ work seems to back up this assumption. Out of the 22 pieces written as Tiento, 13 of them called for the half-register technique. In his Batalla - a very popular genre in Spain - he designed the piece in three parts for two separate trebles. A unique case in this type of composition.

Bruna's organ repertoire, kept for the most part in libraries in Barcelona and El Escorial palace, achieve a high degree of beauty and perfection in the writing technique and musical ideas. This composer shows a propensity to use variation, with more details, strength and rhythmic contrasts than his contemporaries, without straying too far from the initial form of the piece.

The renditions in this album show a glimpse of Bruna's different writing styles :

Obra de 5° tono por Ce sol fa ut and Tiento lleno de 6° tono sobre Ut re mi fa sol la are written for whole keyboards, without sound contrast between the bass and treble, hence the name of tiento lleno (full). The imitation style of writing refers to the aragonese influence inherited by Sebastián Aguilera de Heredia. In these pieces, as in most of his work, Bruna shows great liberty with movement, rhythms and seductive melodic inspiration that is distinctively his own. 

The Tientos de falsas of 1° and 2° tono, are pieces that are characteristic of the Spanish school. Imitation writing mixes consonance and dissonance, often by way of suspensions, in the Italian composers’ style of the durezze e ligature. They are expressive pieces, played at a relatively slow tempo in order to highlight the charming harmonic friction developing continuously by alternating tension and relaxation.

Pablo Bruna's Batalla de 6° tono stands out against the compositions of his contemporaries. Musically describing a battle, it links numerous parts with rhythms and melodic intervals meant to illustrate episodes of combat, from the rallying cries to the impact of the melee up until the final victory, Bruna gives us three fairly monolithic parts in the form of a large tiento a dos triples. The first and last part evoke the sound of trumpets, whereas the middle part takes the form of a fluid and peaceful melody in a ternary rhythm.

The Tiento de 2° tonosobre la letanìa de la Virgen is a remarkable piece, a masterpiece in the art of variation.The theme seems to be known and used in Spanish vocal music, although no other organ composer has made use of it.The entire piece is written in the form of a half-register tiento using a partido keyboard. It is a very virtuosic piece, full of flavour and charm, typical of the Spanish spirit. No other composer has gone as far in the art of melodic development in the setting of a monothematic piece. 

The Tiento de 1° tono de mano derecha y al medio a dos triples is one of the numerous pieces played on the split keyboard, allowing musical contrast between the right hand and the left hand. In this case, the first part involves a soloist voice and in the middle, a second voice comes to form a dialogue. The same thing can be said for the Tiento de 5° tono de meno izquierda y al medio de ecos y a dos bajos. This time, it's the left hand that plays the soloist voice and it's up to the musician to choose a registration that brings out the bass. In the middle of the piece, a second voice comes in and mixes with the first, as the conversation brings about echoes of musical fragments. This was possible for the composer, because his instrument had a second cadireta (positive) keyboard. The presence of a second keyboard was fairly rare in Spain, although large Catalan instruments had one as early as in the XVIth century.

The Medio registro bajo de 8° tono is designed to have a solo bass and a right hand played counterpoint dialoguing during the whole piece, again, using a half-register keyboard. The last tiento played using the same split keyboard is the Registro alto de clarín de 8° tono y al medio a dos triples. It is a piece that has substantial development across 304 bars. The title unusually does not mention the soloist hand, mano derecha or mano izquierda, or the use of half register, medio registro, but instead, the name of the soloist rank, in this case the clarín , with the specification of alto that tells us it's played in treble. This rank is always present on Iberian pipe organs of the baroque period. It is placed horizontally on the outside of the casing and used with the right hand. The fact that the title dictates the use of this rank in this piece is somewhat enigmatic. The first clarín rank “en chamade” was installed by the organ builder Fray Joseph de Echevarria in 1659. In Daroca, for an organ built in the beginning of the XVIIth century, it can therefore only be a reed pipe rank set in the casing for which the designation of clarín  is unlikely for the time period. There remains doubt though, when we hear the realism and beauty with which sounds the trumpet calls with the clarín rank of the Cariñena organ. Maybe the explanation is that the piece is archived in the Oporto library in Portugal. The original title is “Registro alto de clarim 8° tom de D. Paulo de bruna”. This leads us to believe that a copy of this piece could have been made at a later date by a portuguese organist. The choice of registration as a title therefore coming from their personal initiative. 

The five verses of the Pange lingua de 5° tono uses the plainsong theme for the hymn in the old version more hispano, widespread on the peninsula among organists.

The first verse brings in the cantus firmus on bass while two soloist voices make an imitative dialogue with the right hand, needing therefore a contrasted registration with the split keyboard.

In the second verse, the cantus firmus appears in treble. Two voices converse in imitation, in tenor and bass, and in dotted rhythm giving this sequence a prideful nature.

In the third verse, the cantus firmus is in bass. It appears as a right hand soloist tale in which the melody, very fluid in joint movement, alternates between binary and ternary rhythm.

In the fourth verse, the cantus firmus stays in bass, while two voices, tenor and alto converse in imitation. The ensemble played on a unique register, with the alto voice sounding like a soloist despite the absence of contrasting sounds.

The fifth verse is written in four parts and it's to the tenor that the cantus firmus is entrusted. This verse alone shows Bruna's mastery of the counterpoint. This piece shows great beauty and nobility, and brings into focus that this composer, at the height of the Iberian organ movement, and preceding by a few years the last great organist Juan Cabanilles (1644-1712), is among the best organ players of the Spanish Golden Age.

Jean-Charles Ablitzer
Translated by Emmeline Bate

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Jean-Charles Ablitzer


he is titular of the post of organist at the St Christopher Cathedral in Belfort. He enjoys an international career as a concert player and also works with singers and instrumentalists. He was employed for almost 15 years by the Fondation Royaumont as a continuo player and as the organist for the Il Seminario Musicale ensemble directed by Gérard Lesne.

Jean-Charles Ablitzer initiated in Belfort the construction of instruments with complementary and strong charactered sound aesthetics. These instruments proved to be useful teaching materials as part of the lessons he taught at the Belfort music conservatory from 1971 to 2007. An Iberian style pipe organ, built by the Spanish organ-builders Christine Vetter and Joaquin Lois Cabello completes this organistic heritage since 2017. It is set up in Grandvillars, its hometown.

In 2005, he heads the rehabilitation and reconstruction project of the legendary organ (1596) of the Gröningen castle in Germany. Instrument played by Michael Praetorius. He was made honorary president of the Organum Gruningense Redivivum association in Halberstadt in Germany as recognition for his founding role in this fabulous project.

In the year 2000, Jean-Charles Ablitzer was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and in 2010, Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Mérite by the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication.

His musical research that he shares with enthusiasm and humility and his talent as a musician make him a very appreciated and endearing organist.

The high quality of Ablitzer's recordings (Bach, Boehm, Brahms, Couperin, Buxtehude, Titelouze...) has received ample praise from the critics :

"…Playing a superb Catalan instrument with the characteristic Iberian nasality, Ablitzer constructs a glittering monument resounding with vast incandescent figures. Phrasing, registration, and digital dexterity are stunning. No one since Chapuis has played Couperin this brilliantly…" (from a review by Jean-Luc Macia, Diapason).

"…Jean-Charles Ablitzer's abilities as a colourist enable him to etch the smallest details of a tormented work that eschews comfortable harmonies and banal equilibrium, and to confront its most lyrical effusions with aplomb. This "Complete Works" (Buxtehude) in progress is devilishly promising…" (from a review by Paul Meunier, Télérama).

"…But never fear; the Belfort organist doesn't drag Brahms over the borderline into austere pedantry. He remembers the lesson this composer learned during his long stay in Vienna, the importance of smooth flow and sunny declamation : here is a recording flooded with j just that Viennese spirit…" (from a review by Xavier Lacavalerie, Télérama).

"…his fervour is enough to draw tears from a stone, but it is his exuberance and joy that fulfil the crucial role of restoring to Titelouze's music its original sharp brilliance and dazzling verve. The centuries fall away, the musical themes engage with each other like flashing swords of light…" (from a review by Paul Meunier, Télérama).

"…dedicated to Georg Boehm, known for having influenced the great Bach, his works, it is now proven, deserve their own success. To the glowing chorales, Monique Zanetti lends her pureness and ecstatic innocence, while Jean-Charles Ablitzer offers glory and enlightenment.” (from a review by Paul Meunier, Télérama)

"…he is well aware of the recent musicological evolutions, his application of which is extremely seductive… He is not the prisoner of any fashion in his choice of tempi, phrasing, or registration. On the contrary, he is constantly inspired, proposing innovative solutions with every page." J.S. Bach, Organ Works in Goslar, Germany, (from a review by Francis Albou, Répertoire des disques classiques).

The Bartholomé Sanchéz Organ (1734) of the Church of Our Lady of the l’Assumption, Cariñena, Aragon, España


The two-manual organ in the parish church of Cariñena is a remarkable instrument with fifty divided stops (treble and bass) providing a very rich tonal spectrum. The soundboard of the Great measures 170 cm. from back to front and is 183 cm. wide. It is the largest organ in Aragon. representing a culminating point in the art of baroque organ-building. It has a case in natural pinewood adjacent to the Presbytery wall, and is situated next to the pulpit in an eighteenth century gallery. Six of the ten reed stops are disposed en chamade, giving the instrument a specific colour as well as an impressive sense of power.

The organ was built in 1734. the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds (jaqueses) being paid to the builder Bartholomé Sanchéz from Navarre to enlarge and improve the existing organ. Sanchéz was living in the populous district of San Pablo in Saragossa at the time. He transformed the Aragon instrument into a model of Iberian organ-building. He worked in collaboration with his son Tomás, and Silvestre Tomás and Fermin Urrasalde (later to become his sons-in-law), producing a large number of instruments in his workshop : El Pilar (1720). Ibdes-Saragossa (1752),Almonacidde la Sierra-Saragossa, La Almunia de Doña Godina-Saragossa (1734) and Santa Domingo de Daroca-Saragossa (1741). and many others.

We possess no information about the previous organs or their builders, apart from an instrument built in 1482 and altered during the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although much of the good- quality pipework has been preserved. Roughly half the one thousand nine hundred and eighty-five pipes of the organ in Cariñena date from the fifteenth century; other more recent aspects provide information about the evolution of the instrument. 

Bartholomé Sanchéz often based his work on the potential of an instrument already in existence, either adding stops. lengthening keyboards or adding manuals, while at the same time introducing new elements characteristic of the period, as we have been able to appreciate in our restoration work at Ibdes or Almonacid de la Sierra. Sanchéz built a new case at Cariñena; apart from the D sharp, F sharp and C sharp bass pipes, he used the front pipes dating from the seventeenth century when they were still in a fit state to speak. He lengthened the keyboard from forty-two notes to forty-eight provided a new soundboard for the Great, added a second manual and adapted the mechanical action.

The pipework in the restored instrument includes 240 reed-pipes. 1250 diapason pipes and 408 flute pipes; 87 are made of wood. The pipework is original apart from 276 pipes that have been copied from existing models. The two wedge-bellows have been built according to traditional techniques, and can also be operated manually as was originally the case. The new Great keyboard replaces a modern piano keyboard, and has been copied from that of the chair organ. which survives unchanged from the time of Sanchéz.

The wind pressure is 67 mm. and the organ is tuned to A = 420 Hz using a temperament that favours Iberian literature without excluding other European repertoire.

Claudio and Christine Rainolter


Batalla de 6° tono

Obra de 5° tono por Ce sol fa ut

Tiento de 2° tono “Sobre la letanía de la Virgen” por Ge sol re ut

Tiento de falsas de 2° tono por Ge sol re ut

Tiento de 1 ° tono de mano derecha y al medio a dos tiples

Tiento IIeno de 6° tono 7'19 sobre Ut re mi fa sol la

Pange lingua de 5° tono
1 por De la sol re a dos tiples
2 por De la sol re
3 por De [la] sol re [partido de mano derecha]
4 por De la sol re
5 a 4 por De la sol re

Tiento de 5° tono de mano izquierda y al medio de ecos y a dos bajos

Tiento de falsas de 1 ° tono

Medio registro bajo de 8° tono

Registro alto de clarín de 8° tono y al medio a dos tiples

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