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Bergara, Iglesia San Pedro

In 1813 the organbuilder Jean- Baptiste Stoltz was born in Bouzonville (Moselle, France). After apprenticing with the John Abbey firm he went to Dau- blaine-Callinet where he was shop foreman for ten years. In 1845 he founded his own firm in Paris, at no. 33, Avenue de Saxe. Although in the initial years he had to face stiff competition from the Cavaillé-Coll firm, in the ensuing decades his company enjoyed increasing esteem.

When he died in 1874 his sons Eugène and Edouard took over the company, which was renamed “Stoltz Frères”. The firm delivered some 100 instruments within France and in addition received contracts from Spain, England, Cuba, Peru, Greece, the Philippines, Syria etc.

In 1885 the firm had already built an organ for the Church of Santa María in Tolosa, an instrument that is nearly identical to the one in Bergara. Thanks to a generous gift by Doña Martina Maíz, Vda. de Blanc, it was possible to complete the instrument in the parish church of San Pedro Apóstol in 1889. In the same year the small but nonetheless tonally beautiful instruments of the Santa Clara Convent in Tolosa and the parish church of San Pedro in Zumaia were dedicated. (Both towns are located in the Guipúzkoa province of Basque Country.)

At the time of the construction of these instruments the well-known organbuilder Fernand Prince, who was later to be active in the Basque Country on behalf of Cavaillé-Coll, was working as a voicer for the Stoltz company. Prince most likely became acquainted at that time with the organbuilder Charles Carloni, who in the same year was erecting the Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Sanctuary of St.Ignace of Loyola. Conceivably it was Carloni who introduced Prince to Cavaillé-Coll.

Whereas most of the Stoltz organs in France have been modified over the years, the Bergara organ has to this day been preserved in its original form. This is true as well for its original pitch which is a semitone lower than usual. Hence the Bergara organ is perhaps the most representative among this company’s still extant instruments. Its tonal integrity, the gentle sound of its overblowing stops and the outstanding quality of its reeds earn for it a status comparable to the well-known Cavaillé- Coll organs of the Basque Country.

Esteban Elizondo