Basque Organ Music

José Manuel Azcue

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In the geographical area that covers the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country and Navarre, in Spain, there exists one of the most important collections of romantic organs in the world.

Throughout this territory (and especially in the province of Gipuzkoa), French organ makers such as Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, Stoltz Frères (Paris), Mutin, Didier, Merklin,  Gutschenritter and Puget built, from 1856 onwards, many organs of varying sizes and characteristics. Likewise, the German organ maker Walcker  built, from 1885 onwards,  various organs in the region. To this influx of foreign organs must be added the important contribution made by Spanish organ makers (the majority being of Basque-Navarrese origin) such as Aquilino Amezua, Roqués, Lope Alberdi, Melcher, Eleizgaray, Amezua y Cia. and Dourte, who joined in the construction of romantic style organs from 1882 onwards. This process came to an end in 1941 with the creation of the neoclassic organ by OESA (Organería Española Sociedad Anónima), which set up its workshops in Azpeitia (Gipuzkoa). 

This  extraordinary richness in romantic organs acted as the breeding ground and channel of expression through which several generations of composers went on to develop their creativity headed by the Navarrese Felipe Gorriti, who was to lead the transition from Baroque to Romanticism, publishing his first Romantic works around 1880.

End of the baroque period

Although the first romantic organs installed in Spain were the Cavaillé-Coll of Lekeitio (Bizkaia, 1856) and the Merklin-Schütze of  Murcia (1857), organs of Baroque characteristics continued to be built in the Peninsula right up to the beginning of the XX Century. For this reason, we believe it is interesting to include at  the beginning of this edition works we consider to be representative of the music composed by Basque-Navarrese composers for instruments that were mainly baroque but which were gradually losing some of those characteristics such the short octave, parted registers and the highest combinations. However, in the last phases of this change the complete pedal keyboard “a la alemana” (in the German style) was also being incorporated.

Among these works we have included an example of the fugues or intentos composed by Joaquín de Oxinaga to be played on the Spanish baroque organ, an instrument that normally only had one manual keyboard, as well as the forementioned short octave, divided registers and battle trumpets.  These organs had sometimes steps (pisas) for the pedal whose extension normally corresponded to the notes of the first octave. The writing of these compositions does not contemplate the use of divided registers.   

We have also included a work from the compositions included in the book Música de Tecla en el País Vasco. Siglo XVIII; compositions transcribed by Father Donostia (Brother José Antonio de San Sebastian) and published in 1953. This music in this book is characterised by a gallant style which uses a language common to both organ and harpsichord.

On the other hand, we have also included Nicolás Ledesma’s 6th Sonata in D minor, one of his many compositions written for either “organ or piano”.  These works were destined to be interpreted on a late baroque organ which had already started to lose several of its characteristics, as we have already mentioned.

Lastly, we have included works by both Hilarión Eslava and his disciple Felipe Gorriti. Eslava´s case is interesting since whilst on the one hand he was a composer of music destined to be played on baroque organs, on the other, he was one of the first promoters of romantic organs in Spain as he saw their introduction would encourage young composers to write music more suitable for liturgical use and thus overcome the crisis in religious music at that time.

Felipe Gorriti was largely responsible for this change from baroque to romantic organ music. When he started as a young organist in Tafalla his early compositions had baroque characteristics but later, once he became organist and chapel master at the church of Santa Maria in Tolosa, his style evolved towards the romantic.

Gorriti won important prizes at the competition organised by the Paris Society of Organists and Chapel Masters around 1880.

Musical schools and influences

On analysing  the many compositions included in this edition, one can easily appreciated the wide variety of musical styles and languages. However, there are clearly also various common elements which endow this ensemble of works an important degree of esthetic and historic coherence.  This leads us to the question of whether we are dealing with an autonomous school of organ music composition of romantic influence or with a collection of works from different schools. 

From the detailed study of these compositions and the life of the composers, we believe that the following characteristics are applicable to most of the works and authors that appear in this anthology of Basque-Navarrese composers:

  • It can be said that almost all the works included composed from 1880 onwards share the common denominator of the aesthetic characteristics of romantic organs or of organs of romantic influence built in Spain between 1856 and 1940.
  • The influence of Pope Pius X’s encyclical Motu Proprio, promulgated in 1903, is clearly evident in the many compositions based on Gregorian themes. This peculiarity will remain throughout the years, and we can find compositions with these same characteristics right up to the 1980s. Basque popular melodies, both religious and profane, are also used as a thematic subject although to a lesser extent. 
  • An important number of the composers included in this edition (approximately half) were either priests or members of a religious order.
  • The majority of laic composers were professional organists and, occasionally, chapel masters. Their compositional work focused principally on liturgical use, although they would also write profane music for choirs, orchestras, piano, txistu, etc. In many cases they shared these activities with teaching music in music schools, conservatories or private classes. A few were prestigious concert organists as well as composers who, having studied abroad, normally became professors of music at official centres. Liturgical organists would often participate in organ inaugurations and artistic or commemorative events.
  • The majority of these compositions could be defined as containing “spiritual or religious content” because of the treatment given to their writing and harmony. (One notices here too the influence of Pope Pius X's Motu Proprio.) Depth predominates over effects; content is given more importance than sound effects or virtuosity. In most cases, it is music destined to be played at church (although not exclusively liturgically) and for this reason small format works are abundant. In these piecesgreat care is given to the form, content and elegance of harmony and melody, the singing of the organ in its romantic orchestral moments is emphasized, resulting in round, suggestive and beautiful works in which great importance is given to the expressive box.  Some works lack the pedal pentagram, in which case the lowest left hand notes are doubled up.  This was a response to petitions from organists who did not have an organ available or who did not dominate pedal technique. Contemporary compositional schools are left aside, but this does not signify a loss of musical personality of each author nor of the stylistic evolution of this type of music.
  • Although some of the composers present in this edition studied in Paris, Brussels or Germany, the basic training of nearly all of them was local, either via private tuition or municipal music schools in, for example, Tolosa or San Sebastian. Therefore, it is important to mention the existence of some schools of composition which existed for many years, such as the romantic school started by Felipe Gorriti, a disciple of Hilarión Eslava in Tolosa, continued by his disciple Eduardo Mocoroa and followed up by the latter’s son, Ignacio. Similarly, Luis Urteaga, the favourite disciple of Martín Rodríguez, went on to become the teacher of several generations of San Sebastian organists, and José María Beobide, disciple of Antonio Trueba, became the teacher of Father Francisco de Madina and Antonio José.   As a follow up to this basic education the majority of composers went on to the Madrid Conservatory to widen their musical training. Some other composers present were self-taught, whereas in some other cases César Franck, Tournemire, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Reger and Bruckner are quoted as sources of musical reference and practice.  In any case, they all shared a very solid musical education and great mastery of harmony which would help them develop their own personal style, well differentiated from that of other countries, as well as a musical language perfectly adapted to the organ.
  • Depending on each composer, and within the general characteristics that we have already mentioned, one can appreciate in this collection of works the influences of musical romanticism, wagnerism, impresionism and even polytonality can be detected. There are also some examples of very personal languages characteristic of some authors.
  • Several of the works included in this edition were awarded prizes at various competitions celebrated in Paris, San Sebastian, Valencia, Seville or Avila. Many of them have remained unpublished, although a considerable number have been published in  Germany, France or the United States.


The important number of organ music composers emerging from the same geographical area and the study of their rich and varied musical production lead us to conclude that there are sufficient elements to consider valid the hypothesis that  in the Basque-Navarrese area an autoctonous school of organ music writing of romantic influence has developed over the last 200 years. Analysis shows that it has its own characteristics which differentiate it from those of other countries and that these characteristics reveal an important degree of homogeneity. This autoctonous school, however, shares some of its basic traits with the works by composers in other parts of the Spanish state during the same historical period.   

Esteban Elizondo Iriarte


Joaquín de Oxinaga (1719-1789)

Born in Bilbao on October 26th, 1719. He started his music studies there and later went on to Madrid to study with José de Nebra. He is first mentioned as organist of the Convent of the Encarnación and later he appears as second organist of the royal chapel. On December 11th, 1750, he was appointed first organist at Toledo cathedral, where he remained for the rest of his life.  In the edition of his works by Father López Calo a total of eleven works appear: five Fugas, one Paso, one Intento, two Sonatas and two Minuetos.

Brother Fernando Eguiguren (1743-?)

A Franciscan monk, born and christened in Eibar on March 17th, 1743.  We know very little about his life. He became a Franciscan monk in the Convent of Arantzazu on March 26th, 1759. The archives of this monastery contain various works by him: one Salve, an O gloriosa hymn, one Lamentación 3ª del primer dia, 3 masses and a  Parce mihi Domine. The work included here has in common with those edited by Father Donostia in his Música de Tecla en el País Vasco, siglo XVIII the characteristic of a gallant style which can be played both on the organ and the harpsichord. Concierto Airoso.

Nicolás Ledesma García (1791-1883)

Born in Grisel (Zaragoza) on July  9th, 1791, he died in Bilbao on January 4th, 1883. He did his first music studies in Zaragoza with maestros Gisbert and José Angel Martínduque and, later, with Ramón Ferreñac. In succession he was organist of the colegiatas of Borja, Tafalla and Calatayud. In 1830 he won by competitive exam the position of organist of the Basilica of Santiago in Bilbao; he balanced this commitment with playing the clarinet at the theater and giving private music classes. Among his known pupils we find Valentín Zubiaurre, Cleto Zavala, Avelino Aguirre and Antonio Repáraz. 

Ledesma was also president of the Bilbao Philharmonic Society. He enjoyed great fame and reputation in his lifetime and was awarded the Great Cross of Isabel la Católica. The Madrid Conservatory adopted the use of his studies for the piano and named him honorary professor.

He was a very productive composer, especially of religious works. The Bilbao editor Dotesio published many of them, including his famous Stabat Mater for choir and string quartet, as well as The Four Lamentations, a Mass in D mayor, a Mass for four solo voices for Lent and  Advent (he composed 25 masses) and five Avemarías. He also composed many carols, motets, hymns, etc.

For “organ or piano” he composed 3 Sets of verses for psalms, various collections of Sonatas and Sonatinas which are ambitious in their development and extension, as well as an  Offertory for organ. It is music to be played in  late baroque or  transitional organs.

Hilarión Eslava y Elizondo (1807-1878)

Born in Burlada (Navarre) on October 21st, 1807, he died in Madrid on the 23rd of July, 1878.  He started his musical education as an infant in the music chapel of Pamplona cathedra in 1817. In 1823 he obtained a place in the chapel where his duties included playing counterbase, violin and violoncello. During this time he widened his knowledge of composition. In 1828 he won the appointment of Chapel Master in the Cathedral of Burgo de Osma and in 1832 that of the Cathedral of Seville. Later, he was appointed master director of the Royal Chapel of Music.

In 1855 he became professor of counterpoint and fugue at the National Conservatory of Music and Declamation of Madrid, where he was also professor of organ for one year. In  1866 he was appointed Director of the Conservatory.

In the many posts of resposibility Eslava held throughout his life he carried out a vast range of activity in regard to different sectors of music. As a composer he created an important number of works and as a pedagogue he wrote methods for learning, among others, solfa, harmony, counterpoint and fugue and Gregorian chant; he also played an active part in the renovation of institutions dedicated to teaching music.  In his own words, one of his main objectives was to improve amongst ourselves vocal and religious music, as well as that for organ, with the aim of overcoming the disastrous situation in which religious music found itself in Spain at that time. In this respect he was of capital importance in starting the gradual transformation that took place in Spanish sacred music.

Linked to this purpose and following his criterium of being adequate for liturgy, he composed numerous works for organ and invited other contemporary composers to do the same (always bearing in mind that these works were written to be interpreted on baroque organs). He also encouraged Spanish organ makers to learn the new European romantic organ building techniques and to that end he strongly supported in 1857 the construction of the new Merklin/Schütze organ in the cathedral of Murcia and encouraged Spanish organ makers to evolve towards new horizons without losing their own characteristics.   

Felipe Gorriti  y Osambela (1839-1896)

Felipe Gorriti  was born in Huarte-Araquil (Navarre), on 23rd August, 1839 and died in Tolosa (Guipuzkoa), on 12 th March, 1896.

He first studied music with his own father and then with Mariano García, chapel master of Pamplona cathedral, and Cándido Aguayo. From there he moved on to Madrid where he studied compostition and organ playing with Hilarión Eslava and Román Jimeno at the Madrid Conservatory, where he obtained a medal and diploma.

In 1859 he won by public competition the post of organist at the parishes of Santa María and San Pedro de Tafalla (Navarre), where he remained until 1867. During these eight years he composed numerous organ works in the baroque style which were destined to be played on the organ that had been built in 1858 in Santa Maria church.

In 1867 he won the post of organist and chapel master of the parish of Santa María of Tolosa (Gipuzkoa), an acitivty he complemented by directing the town’s Band and Music Academy. As a teacher he had a very good reputation and many of his pupils, and, in turn, the pupils of these, went on to become important names in their own right in the musical world.

Once in Tolosa, his musical ideas gradually developed towards romanticism. Between 1881 and 1883, he won seven different prizes awarded at the competitions organised by the Society of Organists and Chapel Masters of Paris. This makes  Gorriti the key figure in the transition from baroque to romanticism in Spanish organ music. 

Eduardo Mocoroa Arbilla (1867-1959)

Mocoroa was born on October 13th, 1867 in Tolosa, where he died on January 30th, 1959. He started his music studies with Modesto Letamendía and Rufo Montilla. As a very young man Mocoroa joined the Tolosa Municipal Band as saxophonist where his musical aptitude was discovered by Felipe Gorriti, who then invited him to join the music chapel he directed. Gorriti gave him piano, organ, harmony, counterpoint, fugue and compostion classes. Later on he studied violin with  Nicolás Murga and maestro Barech.

In 1896,on Gorriti’s death, Mocoroa succeeded  him as organist and chapel master of the church of Santa María in Tolosa. That same year he also became director both of the Municipal Music Band, where he had been subdirector, and of the Municipal Music Academy, thus following in the steps of his master.

A deeply religious man, the promulgation of the Motu Proprio encyclical of Pope Pius X in 1903 found in him an enthusiastic follower of the new movement for reforming liturgical music which the encyclical proposed.  He composed numerous religious works: masses, misereres, salves, motetes, hymns, etc. He also composed profane music for orchestra, piano, choir, txistu and an opera. In these endeavours he was guided by Wagner and the Russian and French musical movements. For organ he composed ten works, most of them for religious use, even though in some he Basque popular themes.  During his lifetime he enjoyed the distinction of being awarded many prizes and medals for his artistic merits.

Martín Rodríguez  Seminario (1871-1961)

He was born in Pamplona on 2nd August,  1871, and died in Balmaseda (Biscay) on November 20th, 1961. He did his first musical training at the Municipal Academy of Pamplona but the rest of his studies on counterpoint, fugue, composition,  instrumentation and organ were completely self taught. From the age of 16 to 24 he taught music in schools in several Spanish towns. In 1894 he won by  competition the post of organist of Beasain (Gipuzkoa), where he also took charge of directing the municipal band. In 1901 he competed against 21 applicants to win the post of organist of Balmaseda, where he remaind till his death.

He composed numerous religious works such as masses, motetes, carols, misereres, including a Gran Miserere for choir and orchestra, etc. Of his profane production his symphonic poem La Vida for band is particularly worthy of mention. He dedicated special attention to the organ, for which he composed about 30 works of various formats and character which were on some occasions published not only in Spain but also in France and Germany. He had many pupils, among whom we should mention Luis Urteaga, his favourite.

Nemesio Otaño S.J. (1880-1956)

Father Otaño is a key figure in the development of religious and organ music in Spain in the first half of the XX century just as Hilarión Eslava had been in the previous century. He was born in Azkoitia in November, 1880, and died in San Sebastian on April 29th, 1956.

His first music studies were carried out with the organists of Eskoriatza, Zumarraga, Azkoitia and also with Victoriano Balerdi of Mondragon. He joined the Company of Jesus and during his novitiate in Loyola between 1896 and 1898 he had the opportunity of gaining a thorough knowledge of the grand Cavaillé-Coll organ of that basilica. He completed his music studies with Vicente Goicoechea and Vicente Arregui. In 1904 he also studied paleography and Gregorian chant.

Father Otaño was aware of the vast amount of work that needed to be done in Spain in the field of religious arts and decided to dedicate his life to this mission following the guidelines established by the Motu Proprio encyclical of 1903. He had an extraordinary capacity for work which led him, among other things, to create and conduct choirs in the various places he was sent to.

From 1905 he organised or took part in several Congresses of Sacred Music and in 1939 he was appointed director of the National Conservatory of Music of Madrid, as well as, on succesive occassions, Comissary of Music and President of the Philharmonic Orchestra. Due to his iniciative the National Institute of Musicology was created. Father Otaño was also the promoter of several very significant musical publications. He contributed to these with his own compositions and articles and was an active collaborator. Among these publications the following are particularly worthy of mention:  the magazine Música Sacro-Hispana (1907-1922) and the books Antología Orgánica Española (1909) and Antología Orgánica Práctica (1919), which included not only his works but also organ compositions by most of the outstanding composers of the day.

He also promoted the evolution of Spanish organ making while also emphasizing that restauration of the great French organs in his country should be carried out by technicians from the companies that made them. As a composer he cultivated different genres but paid particular attention to works of religious music, many of which are difficult to play. His organ works are both important and interesting and in them it is easy to feel his admiration for composers such as Reger, Bruckner, Mahler and Strauss.

Bernardo  Gabiola  Laspita (1880-1944)

He was born on August 20th, 1880, in Berriz (Biscay) and died in Madrid on January 24th, 1944. His brother José Cruz was his first music teacher. Later he went to Madrid to study at the National School of Music and Declamation with José Tragó and Pedro Fontanilla. In 1902 he joined the Brussels Conservatory where he studied composition with Edgard Tinel and organ with Alphonse Mailly. In 1905 he finished his organ studies obtaining first prize.

In 1907 he won by competitive examination the directorship of the Municipal band of San Sebastian, an appointment which also included the post of director of the Municipal Academy of Music. He gradually became known as an organist of great talent and gave concerts all over Spain.

In 1912 he won by competitive examination the post of professor of organ of the Royal Conservatory of Music and Declamation in Madrid, where he went on to stay for the remiander of his life.  In 1941 he was appointed subdirector of this Conservatory. He composed music for band, choir and organ. His organ works consist of only seven compositions of interesting harmonic development. In some of them the hand of the organ virtuoso is noticeable in the level of technical difficulty.

Andrés Isasi Linares (1880-1940)

Only composed this work for organ. It is part of his Mass in Fa of 1930..

José Maria Beobide Goiburu (1882-1967)

He was born in Zumaia on November 25th, 1882, and died in Burgos on March 1st, 1967. He began his music studies with Antonio Trueba, the local parish church organist, and later added to his knowledge with Samaniego in Pamplona and, afterwards with Llano, Grajal, Fontanilla, Rodoreda and Brescia in Madrid.

When he was only 18 years old he moved to Quito (Ecuador) where he worked as organist and music teacher at the Jesuit school, as well as piano and solfa teacher at the National Conservatory of Ecuador. After four years there he moved on to the United States where he established relations with several music publishers who went on to publish his several of his works. In 1914 he settled in Burgos as organist and teacher at the Jesuit Colegio de la  Merced. It was there that he married and went on to compose many of his works for organ.

He stayed in Burgos until 1932 and in this period he was very active undertaking, among other things, the reorganisation of the Orfeón Burgalés. He was also appointed director of the Band of Casa de la Caridad. In 1930 he won by public examination the post of music teacher at the Teachers Training Colleges and chose as his destination Pamplona where he also became the organist of the Jesuit church. In this city he carried out important work bothas a pedagogue and as a player.  In 1940 he was appointed professor at the Pamplona Academy of Music and later sub director of both the Academy and the Orfeón Pamplonés.

As recognition to his work the city of Pamplona named a street after him. When he retired in 1959 he returned to Burgos where he lived until his death. Among his outstanding pupils are Antonio José and Father Francisco de Madina.

Throughout his life Beobide won many composition prizes. Many of his works are religious. He has 24 works for organ in which he shows a great mastery of harmony and melody as well as great ecclecticism in the choice of themes; these are works composed in an language well adapted to the characteristics of romantic organs. As mentioned earlier, some of his works were edited in the United States and others in  Germany, France and Spain.

Luis Urteaga Iturrioz (1882-1960)

He was born in Villafranca de Oria (today called Ordizia), Gipuzkoa, on December 5th, 1882, and died in San Sebastian on April 11th, 1960.

He started his music studies with Francisco Gárate  organist and director of the parish choir of his home town. He continued them with Lorenzo Martínez and Cándido Elorza and in 1889 joined the Municipal Music Academy of  San Sebastian where he studied harmony and compostition with José Rodoreda. In  1900 he applied to be a pupil of Martín Rodríguez then organist of Beasain. When Rodríguez moved on to Balmaseda Urteaga also decided to go there to continue studying with his master.

In 1903 he won by competitive examination the post of organist of Berastegi (Gipuzkoa). In 1905 he was appointed organist, director of the parish choir and of the Municipal Band of Zumaia, where he stayed for almost 15 years. In 1919 he became the organist of the parish of San Vicente in San Sebastian and in 1924 he won by public examination the post of professor of solfa in the Municipal Academy of Music of the city, where he was also in charge of the organ professorship. He remained there until he retired. 

Luis Urteaga, a gentle, accesible person of deep religious beliefs, was a prolific composer who wrote almost 90 works for the organ. Although the majority of these works were destined for liturgical use and have a small format, often without a pentagram for the pedal, he also composed important works which were edited in France and Germany at the beginning of the XX century. He also cultivated choral music, especially for religious use, and music for the txistu and won numerous composition prizes in both fields. A faithful follower of the Motu Proprio encyclical, he often used themes based on Gregorian music as the inspiration for his musical creations. He was renowned on the one hand for his mastery of harmony (his collaboration as a harmonist was often requested) and on the other for his pedagogic qualities.H was known for the attention and advice he would give with simplicity and wisdom to his numerous pupils.

Brother Tomás de Elduayen (1882-1953)

Tomás Echeberría Elósegui was born in Elduain (Gipuzkoa) on September 9th, 1882, and died in San Sebastian, on November 12th, 1953.

He joined the Capuchin Order at their college in Lecároz (Navarre), where, as was their custom, he adopted the name Brother Tomás de Elduayen. While there he studied humanities and theology, as well as music with Ismael Echezarra, who taught him harmony and counterpoint. He was ordained on December 21st, 1907. He was then sent to Chile and Argentina where he combined his pastoral and musical work. A self taught man with deep musical, literary and artistic knowledge he became known for his great culture in several fields. In 1920 he returned to Lekaroz and later went to Hondarribia, and while there his first compositions were published. Tomás de Elduayen was a prolific author who composed more than 200 works of different kinds though mostly religious; his use of harmony is at first chromatic but then evolves towards a more direct and personal language based on a free, impressionistic harmony which occasionally ventures into polytonality. 

He composed about seventy works for organ, the majority of them published in series of six or seven pieces. These works, characterised by their brevity and often lacking the pentagram for the pedal, probably reflect the modest character of their author (as occurs with Urteaga, Beobide or Eduardo Torres) as well as the need to adapt to liturgical practice. In his repertoire themes based on Basque culture are abundant as are those based on Andalousian folklore.

José de Olaizola y Gabarain (1883-1969)

He was born in Hernani (Gipuzkoa) on January 27th, 1883, and died in San Sebastian on June 8th, 1969. He began his music studies with Manuel Cendoya, who was director of the Hernani Music Academy as well as the local organist. In 1899 he joined the San Sebastian Music Academy where his teachers included Bonifacio Echeverria, Germán Cendoya, José Mª Echeverría and Claudio Jáuregui. Later he furthered his music studies under  Ildefonso Lizarriturri, José Mª Agesta and Tomás Múgica. In 1906 he became temporary organist at the Santa María Basilica of San Sebastian. That same year he won that post by competitive examination and remained as official organist of the Basilica almost until his death.

Olaizola composed many religious works as well as profane compostions including one opera, one zarzuela, txistu, chamber and piano music. He paid particular attention to choral and solo voice songs, especially those based on Basque themes. His organ production is not very extensive but, on the other hand, it reflects a perfect mastery of the organ medium adapted to the sonorities of the romantic organ.

Brother José Antonio de San Sebastian (Aita Donostia) (1886-1956)

He was born in San Sebastian on January 10, de 1886 and died in Lecároz (Navarre) on August 30, 1956. His original name was José Gonzalo Zulaica but when he joined the Capuchin order he adopted, as was their custom, the name of Brother José Antonio de San Sebastian, which later, due to his links with Basque culture, he changed to its Basque equivalent of “Aita” or Father Donostia.

He started his music studies with Eleuterio Ibarguren for solfeo and with Toribio Múgica for violin. Once he joined the Capuchin college of Lecároz he was taught harmony and composition by Ismael Echezarra, whose friendly and understanding manner greatly influenced him. Later he received classes and advice from Adrián Esquerrá in Barcelona and Bernardo Gabiola in San Sebastian. Finally he also had  Felipe Pedrell in Barcelona and Eugène Cools in París as teachers. However, most of this tuition was very limited in time and as he himself once wrote: Once everything is said, I can really say that I’m self taught…

Father Donostia is one of the most relevant figures of modern Basque culture both for his ethno-musicological work as for his qualities as a writer and public speaker. He was a prolific composer both of religious and profane works for choir, piano, chamber and symphonic orchestra and the theatre. In some of his organ works his admiration for Tournemire is evident, an admiration based on his fantasy, modernity, liturgical spirit and gregorian depth. This model of composition and that of the French school of impressionist influence characterise his music in general. Of his 30 or so organ works, those of religious character based on Gregorian  themes with Latin titles are predominant.

Jesús Guridi  Bidaola (1886-1961)

He was born in Vitoria on September 25th, 1886, and died in Madrid on April 7th, 1961. He began his music studies in Madrid with Valentín Arín and furtheed them later in Bilbao with Lope Alaña (violín) and José Sainz Basabe (harmony). In 1903 he went to Paris to study with Vincent d´Indy and in 1905 he received classes of fugue, composition and organ from Joseph Jongen in Brussels. Finally, he took a course in instumentation given by Otto Neitzel in Cologne (Germany). In 1944 he became professor of organ at the Royal Superior Conservatory of Music of Madrid and in 1956 he was appointed director.

Jesús Guridi is a key composer in the history of music in Spain and the Basque Country in the XX century. His style was defined by  Victor Pliego de Andrés, as late romanticism with a nationalistic stamp directly inherited from Wagner. Later he went on to say …he remained apart from the revolutionary avantguard that flourished in Europe in his time but the solidity of his working methods, his inspiration and his enormous musical quality give his work a true and unique voice. 

His production spans a wide range: piano, choir, chamber and symphonic orchestra, operas, zarzuelas, as well as his compositions of religious music. 

Among his organ works the most outstanding is his Tríptico del Buen Pastor (1953) – Triptych of the Good Shepherd, winner of the competition organized for the inauguration of the organ of the cathedral of the Good Shepherd of San Sebastian. This work is considered the most important organ work written in Spain in the XX Century.

José Maria Usandizaga y Soraluce (1887-1915)

Born in San Sebastian on March 31st, 1887, he died in the same city on October 5th, 1915.

He started his music studies with Germán Cendoya and later studied harmony with  Beltrán Pagola. Following the recommendation of his San Sebastian teachers he joined the Schola Cantorum of Paris in 1901and remained until 1906, where his teachers were Grovlez (piano), Barón de la Tombelle (harmony), Tricon (counterpoint) and Serrés (instrumental ensembles) as well as  Vincent d´Indy for composition.

On his return to San Sebastian his significant creative activity included composing works for piano, chamber music and choir and orchestra, but it was in the theatre that he had most success with his operas and zarzuelas Mendi-Mendiyan, Las Golondrinas and La Llama. His organ repertoire is limited but his works reveal great musical sensitivity in his use of highly refined harmony, which reflects his admiration for the French school of his time. Although he is the only composer included in this collection who did not dedicate himself to this instrument he uses an organ language perfectly adapted to this instrument.

Eduardo Gorosarri  Maiztegui (1889-1947)

Born in Eskoriatza (Gipuzkoa) on October 13th, 1889, he died there on September 12th, 1947.  He received his first solfa lessons from his father and those of piano from the local organist Benito Sáenz de Viteri. He continued his music studies first with Victoriano Balerdi  and, later, with Martín Rodríguez. In 1905 he joined the seminary of Salamanca, where he worked as organist and teacher of Gregorian chant and then moved on to the Seminary of Vitoria on the same capacity. Meanwhile, he continued receiving harmony classes from  J. M. Virgala. After his ordination he was appointed organist of Santa Maria of Ondarroa (Biscay) and in 1917 he won the post of organist of the Basilica of Begoña in Bilbao. Once there, he continued his music studies with Guridi. When the Biscayan Conservatory of Music was founded in 1922, he won the post of professor of solfa. In 1937, during the Civil War, he was evacuated to England with 4.000 Basque children. Later, he moved on to Belgium where he studied counterpoint, composition and history of music in Mechelen with  Floor Peeters, Meulemans and Van Nuffel. He returned to Eskoriatza in 1940. Gorosarri composed about 30 religious works, as well as songs and music for txistu. His repertoire for organ is limited and in small format without pedal, in line with those of  Urteaga, Torres, etc. as mentioned before. He often uses Basque themes as a starting point. Like all the other composers included in this collection he shows a solid musical background in harmony and good mastery of the organ language of romantic influence.

Miguel Echeveste Arrieta (1893-1962)

Born in Lesaka (Navarre) in 1893, he died in Pamplona on January 26th, 1962. He began his music studies in his home town and then in Irun with Juan José Garmendia. He later went to Madrid where he learnt to play the organ under the guidance of Bernardo Gabiola. Finally, he went to Paris to broaden his organ studies with  Ch. Widor. He became a concert player of great prestige and gave concerts throughout Spain and in many European capitals. From 1940 till 1957 he was organ teacher and director at the Municipal Musica Academy of Pamplona, an institution which became in 1957 the Navarrese Conservatory of Music  “Pablo Sarasate”. He composed several religious works, the best known being his Magnificat para órgano based on the Gregorian mode. In this work jone can appreciate the virtuoso style characteristic of certain concert players who are also at times composers.

Victor Zubizarreta Arana (1899-1970)

He was born in Bilbao on December 8th, 1899, where he died on November 13th, 1970. He started his music studies with Felipe Arando and Amadeo Baldor and later studied harmony with José Sáinz Basabe  and organ with Jesús Guridi. Then he moved on to Madrid, where he studied organ with Bernardo Gabiola and counterpoint, fugue and composition with Pedro Fontanilla. In 1920 he won first prize in the organ modality.

In 1937 he succeded Gorosarri  as organist of the Begoña Basilica in Bilbao. In 1949 he was appointed director of the Biscay Music Conservatory, where he was also organ teacher, thus following  Jesús Guridi in this post.

His musical production is rich and varied and includes works for piano, txistu and choir, a ballet and chamber and orchestral music. He composed numerous works for organ the majority of which have remained unpublished. One constant element in his production is his use of Basque popular themes which he develops simply and gracefully, thus rendering his work appealing to a wide public.

Tomás Garbizu Salaberria (1901-1989)

He was born in Lezo (Gipuzkoa) on September12th, 1901, and died in San Sebastian on November 27th, 1989. He received his first musical tuition from Father Julián Ayestarán, his elder brother José Millán and from José Gezala Alzate, organist of the San Juan Bautista church and of the Holy Christ Basilica, both in Lezo. When he was nearly fifteen years old he joined the Seraphic Seminary of Arantzazu where, as well as humanities, he also studied flute, Gregorian chant and piano. After leaving the seminary he joined the Music Academy of San Sebastian where he continued his piano studies with José Mª Iraola and those of harmnony with Beltrán Pagola. He lived briefly in Paris, where he received advice from the Parisian organist Charles Lebout, then moved on to Madrid, where he was appointed official organist of the French Embassy as well as organist of the church of San Marcos. In 1954 he won by public examination the professorship of solfa in the Conservatory of San Sebastian where he also taught organ, apost he held until his retirement in 1971.

Tomás Garbizu composed many works of all sorts: liturgical music, masses for choir and orchestra, choir and organ, choral works, chamber music, and music for piano, txistu, oratorios, etc. His organ music production is significant and varied. It reflects the strong personality of a largely self taught musician. He often used both Gregorian and Basque popular themes. He won several composition prizes. A large part of his production is still unpublished. 

Ignacio Mocoroa Damborenea (1902-1989)

He was born in Tolosa on January 24th, 1902, and died there on October 22nd, 1979. Despite being such a contemporary figure, there is very little information regarding his life and works. He studied music first with his father Eduardo Mocoroa and later in the School of Sacred Music of Madrid under the direction of Luis Iruarrízaga. In 1924, as well as being organist in the Real Cinema of this city, he was appointed organist of the San José church in Madrid. In 1953 he succeded his father as organist of the Santa María parish church of Tolosa.

Ignacio Mocoroa composed a lot of religious music for solo organ and, depending on the circumstances, organ combined with choir, soloists and orchestra. He also composed profane music for choirs, txistu and piano and symphonic music and music for the theatre. Often he developed his ideas using Basque popular themes.   

In the ten works he composed for solo organ one can appreciate his great imagination and stylistic versatility which combined to create attractaive, well written music, perfectly adapted to the sound possibilities of the romantic organ. 

Francisco de Madina (1907-1972)

He was born in Oñati on January 29th, 1907, and died there on June 30th, 1970.  He joined the order of Lateran Regular Canons and was sent to Burgos to study theology. Whilst in Burgos he studied music first with José María Beobide and then with Beobide’s favourite pupil, the local composer Antonio José. He also collaborated with Fernando Urkía whom Madina was to recognize as his first music teacher. Despite this tuition, the fact is that Madina was largely a self taught musician. In 1929 he was ordained as a priest and in 1932 was sent to Belgrano College in Salta, Argentina. For Madina those years spent first in Argentina and later in the United States at the end of the Fifties served first as a period of preparation and then of maturation of  what was to be a very important creative career. He composed a significant corpus of both religious and profane  works for a variety of  instruments such as piano, guitar, harp as well as orchestral, ballet and chamber works. His music oveflows with originality and freshness. He often uses Basque popular themes as well as themes from other countries. His organ works have remained largely unpublished.


  1. Tocata y Fuga en Do M Johann Pachelbel (1635-1706)
  2. Sonata de 5º tono Joaquín de Oxinaga (1719-1789)
  3. Paso de octavo tono Joaquín de Oxinaga (1719-1789)
  4. Passacaglia en Re menor Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
  5. «Valet will ich dir geben» BWV 736 Bach (1685-1750)
  6. «Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland» BWV 659 Bach (1685-1750)
  7. «Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g´mein» BWV 734 Bach (1685-1750)
  8. Toccata y Fuga en Re menor, BWV 565 Bach (1685-1750)
  9. «Christum wir sollen loben schon», BWV 611 Bach (1685-1750)
  10. «Gelobet sei´st du, Jesu Christ» Bach (1685 – 1750)
  11. Preludio y Fuga en Re menor Félix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
  12. Sonatina en Si bemol Mayor Nicolás Ledesma (1791-1889)

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