The chorale prelude "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme", BWV 645 is one of the most often played chorales by Bach. Originally it was a part of the Cantata No. 140 but Bach later transcribed it to the 3-part organ texture and included in the collection which later became known as 6 Schubler Chorales.
Since the Advent and Christmas season is comming up soon, this piece will be an excellent addition to your repertoire of this exciting time of the year.
If you want to learn to play this wonderful composition on the organ, follow these 9 easy steps:
1. Analysis. I advice you look at the tonal plan and discover how the piece is put together. Find the closely related keys and cadences. Also make sure you analyze the form of this chorale prelude and make note of various appearances of Ritornellos.
2. Fingering. Because this piece has 3 flats, and originally was not composed for the organ, it will not be always possible to avoid the thumb on the sharp keys. However, at least avoid finger substitutions.
3. Pedaling. In order for your performance to be stylistically correct, play using alternate toe technique without heels. However, in instances when the pedal part goes to the extreme edges of the pedalboard, you can play with the same foot.
4. Ornamentation. In order to play in the genuine Baroque style, make sure you play all the ornaments - trills, appoggiaturas etc. correctly. Play them starting on the beat and not earlier.
5. Articulation. This piece has lots of original articulation indications written in which you should try to re-create. Also, many notes have to be performed using Articulate Legato touch.
6. Tempo. Remember that practice tempo should be much slower than that of the performance tempo and you should always be in control of each note.
7. Registration. The composer indicates that both hands should play on different sounds based on 8' stops. The pedal part should be based on the 16' stop.
8. Practice. Do not try to play all the parts together in this piece from the beginning until the end. For the best results, work in voice combinations in shorter fragments.
9. Memorisation. Although this is an optional step, I highy recommend it, if you intend to play this chorale prelude in public. Note that even if you choose to perform it in public from the score, knowing the piece by heart will give you this extra confidence and fluency.
By the way, if you like this chorale prelude, check out my brand new BWV 645 Home Study Course in which I will teach you how to master this chorale prelude and even provide a score with complete fingering and pedaling written in for easy practicing.
BWV 645 Home Study Course
To your success in Bach organ playing,
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.