The history of the grand Marbella Organ

Photograph of the signature of the construction contract on December 29, 1971.


In 1966 at the age of 22, and upon completion of his training as a photographer,
Michael Reckling (Frankfurt/Germany) landed his first job as a cameraman
at the Spanish Television in Madrid. In his spare time, he gave organ concerts
in many different and remote villages, playing ancient Spanish organ music,
in an effort to remind the citizens of their musical heritage,
and the numerous forgotten organs.

Three years later, an invitation to exhibit his photographic works led him
to the new Hilton Hotel in Marbella, at present Hotel Don Carlos,
at the south coast of Spain. A passionate organist, he visited all churches nearby
and was notably taken by the outstanding acoustics of Marbella's main church,
Our Lady of Encarnation.

The idea came to him, to build an organ in Marbella's church
that would not only serve for workship, but would also familiarize tourists
and inhabitants with classical organ music. The Parson at that time,
Monseñor Rodrigo Bocanegra, enthusiastically took over Michael Reckling's
initiative to build a new organ, the previous instrument having been burned
and destroyed one October night during the Spanish Civil War.

    Monseñor Rodrigo Bocanegra 
en el día de San Bernabé en 1971 Monseñor Bocanegra felicitando a M. Reckling 
        después de una actuación en 1971 Monseñor Bocanegra felicitando a M. Reckling 
        después de una actuación en 1971

click to enlarge

Commencement of this unique project was swift, due in large part
to the numerous contacts held by the most influential parson in Andalusia
of that time and also due to the efforts of the Association of Hotel Directors
of Marbella. As early as December 29, 1971, they entered into a contract
with Spain's famous organ builders: Gabriel Blancafort & Joan Capella
from the small village Collbató nearby Barcelona.

Work began in 1972, when Michael Reckling designed the facade
of the instrument and created much of the disposition of stops in colaboration
with the organ builder José María Arrizabalaga and Gabriel Blancafort.

In 1973, the project was interrupted by the sudden and unexpected death of
Monseñor Rodrigo Bocanegra. The city's waning interest and lacking
benefactions resulted in the stoppage of construction of the instrument.
Nevertheless, Michael Reckling perseveringly looked for a new sponsor.
He was eventually introduced to the Baronesa Terry von Pantz
by the Soto Domecq family. She generously subsidized the project
so that the work could be resumed in 1974. Finally. on December 29, 1975,
Marbella witnessed the occasion of the unforgettable inaugural organ concert.

During the following twelve years, national and international artists performed
as many as 120 concerts at the Organo del Sol Mayor. It is reputed to be Spain's
most extended organ with tracker action. Since 1972, Michael Reckling
has been acting there as full-time organist and curator of the instrument.
In addition, he has been in charge of organizing all concerts
and also has sponsored several of them.

In 1982, Javier Villero became the regular organist at the Organo del Sol Mayor
and in 1986, Pilar Cabrera starts her activities as concert organist and assumed
direction and organization of all concerts at this great instrument.

In the same year, Michael Reckling and Pilar Cabrera realized the recordings
for the
first CD of th grand Marbella Organ. It is today the most important
singular document of sound of modern organ building in Spain.

Michael Reckling dedicated the first specimen of this CD
to the KING & QUEEN of Spain. It is a remembrance of a private concert
performed by Michael Reckling in 1967 in the presence of Princess Sofia
in the Basilica of the national monument Valle de los Caidos near Madrid.

click to enlarge
Photograph by Dalda - Madrid   © 1990 Dalda

The King and Queen of Spain
in conversation with Michael Reckling
about the Grand Marbella Organ at Burgos Cathedral
after the audiovisual presentation of Las Edades del Hombre ( Ages of Mankind ),
produced by the team of IAP Audiovisual Productions under the artistic direction of Michael Reckling.

Johann Sebastian Bach
at Michael Reckling's residence in Valladolid.