Although advanced level organists usually have much concert experience,
sometimes it is a challenge to find suitable organ repertoire for a recital.
Recital pieces should have a balance between fast and slow, loud and soft,
joyful and sad music. In this article, I will share with you an example of some
of the most exciting and famous pieces from the repertoire which you can use to program you next organ recital.
1) Prelude and Fugue in E flat Major, BWV 552 by Johann Sebastian Bach. An excellent opening for your recital. This is one of the most significant Preludes and Fugues Bach ever wrote. The prelude is in an advanced Ritornello form (following the Italian Concerto tradition) and the fugue is a superb example of Bach's complex structure of the fugue with 3 subjects.
2) Chorale prelude on "Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele", BWV 654 by Bach. Sweet and gentle chorale prelude, one of the most beloved Bach's compositions for many organists. Felix Mendelssohn was also fond of it. The beauty of the piece consists of highly ornamented chorale tune placed in the soprano voice with solo registration and slow rhythms in the style of Sarabanda.
3) Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 65 by Felix Mendelssohn. This famous sonata consists of two parts - the majestic and dramatic Con motto maestoso and gentle and slow Andante tranquillo. The 1st movement is based on Luther's chorale "Aus tiefer Noth schrei Ich zu Dir". The opening part in choral texture of this movement is repeated at the end. There is a double fugue on the above chorale tune in the middle of this movement.
4) Chorale No. 3 in A minor by Cesar Franck. This is one of the most famous and the last composition by Franck. It is a perfect example of the French symphonic writing - chromatic harmonies, dramatic textures and sweet melodies will be appreciated by every listener of your recital.
5) Andante sostenuto from the "Symphonie Gothique", Op. 70 by Charles-Marie Widor. This is one of the most beloved pieces by Widor. Slow tempo, gentle melodic lines, a fantastic accompaniment (in double sixths) and absolutely adorable harmonies make this piece a nice contrast with the previous composition on this list.
6) "Dieu parmi nous" from "Nativite du Seigneur" (Meditation No. 9) by Olivier Messiaen. This is one of the most popular pieces of this composer and a perfect choice to end your recital. It has everything you need to excite the listeners: complicated rhythms, spicy and colorful French modes and bright registrations.
Encore (optional): Toccata from the 5th Symphony by Widor. This toccata
requires no introduction. Play it if your recital goes well, of course, and if
your audience demands an encore.
The length of this program is around 60 minutes which is an optimum timing
for an organ recital. Use the above list of these exciting organ compositions
for your upcoming recitals. Get the sheet music and start practicing for it
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my FREE Organ Practice Guide.
Or if you really want to develop unbeatable sight-reading skills, check out
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Organists who have intermediate level skills and want to play a recital have more options than beginners. This is because their technical abilities are somewhat more developed and naturally there is a wider variety of organ repertoire from which to choose. However, intermediate level organists still have to consider the instrument and the audience and create a program which has a nice variety of contrasts and unity. In this article, I will provide an example of organ recital program with the most famous organ works for intermediate level organists.
1) Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by J.S.Bach. This will be a spectacular opening of your recital. If you don't want to play the most popular organ piece ever written, try the majestic Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 546 by J.S.Bach or the Praeludium in C Major, BuxWV 137 by D.Buxtehude.
2) "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," BWV 645 by J.S.Bach. This is one of the most beloved organ chorales by this composer. Written in a trio texture with the tune or the cantus firmus in the left hand.
3) "Von Gott will Ich nicht lassen," BWV 658 by J.S.Bach. A nice chorale prelude from the Leipzig collection. Character is soft and gentle.
4) Fugue in G Major, BWV 577 ("the Gigue") by J.S.Bach. This is a virtuosic fugue with the rhythms of the fast and hopping Baroque dance - a joyful gigue. Although the tempo is very fast, the pedal is largely straightforward and could be played using the alternate toe technique.
5) "Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier," BWV 730 by J.S.Bach. A sweet chorale prelude with the chorale tune in the soprano.
6) "Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier," BWV 731 by J.S.Bach. An alternate version of the above chorale with the highly ornamented tune presented in the soprano.
7) Fugue in G minor, BWV 578 ("Little") by J.S.Bach. Although this fugue is often called "Little", we should not underestimate its artistic quality. This is a classic and very well-known example of Bach's fugal writing.
8) Finale from Sonata No. 6 in D Minor, Op. 65 by F.Mendelssohn. A gentle closing movement of the D minor sonata. The intermediate level organist could also play the Fugue from this work. However, the first movement - the variations on the chorale "Vater unser im Himmelreich" will probably be a bit too advanced for this level.
9) "Les Bergers" from "Le Nativite du Seigneur" by O.Messiaen. A slow and meditative piece by one of the most famous composers of the 20th century. This is a great way to get to know the fantastic world of Messiaen's modes.
10) "Suite Gothique", Op. 25 by J.Boellmann. An excellent very well-known major work to conclude your recital. It is written in four parts. Perhaps the two most famous are the sweet and gentle "Priere a Notre Dame" (3rd movement) and the dark and virtuosic Toccata (the last movement).
You can use the pieces from the above list as it is or you can modify it according to your preference. Note that the program presented above is about 1 hour of duration (with registration changes) which is an optimum length for an organ recital. Get the sheet music and start practicing for your upcoming recital today.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music: http://www.organduo.lt/organ-tutorial.html
Are you in preparatory stages for an organ recital? Do you have some ideas but are not sure what are the best ways to program it? If you want to achieve success with your playing, there are 3 things to keep in mind here. In this article, I will explain each of them one by one which will help you to make the best decision.
1) Instrument. This is perhaps the most important point to keep in mind and many people fail to give it some serious thinking. Because every organ is different and no instruments are alike, consider the technical capabilities of it. Ask some questions, like what is the ideal musical style, historical period, technical and registration limitations for your organ etc.
2) Audience. Once you have decided over the above point, think of your listeners in planning the recital. Give them something interesting, unexpected, and original in the theme of the event. It is really vital to the success of your recital that the program should be engaging and have a balance between a unity and contrast.
A unity could mean that there should be an overall general recital theme or idea, like liturgical occasion, one composer, one style, one historical period, one country etc. Although you can play a mixed program where all the pieces are chosen by accident, it is much easier to publicize the recital, if the above point is kept in mind. People will feel more interested in coming to your recital if you give them something unique, original, and special.
A contrast in your program might mean that you should give the listeners the ability to relax by programing pieces in loud-soft-loud-soft manner. Also, keep in mind the balance between the compositions in major and minor modes.
3) Performer. You must think also about yourself as the performer. Ask yourself, if the pieces you have chosen are not too difficult for you at the moment. Or perhaps you can play them one by one but when you put them in a row, they are too exhausting to play. A good idea is also to have some contrast between fast-slow-fast-slow compositions. Additionally, not the least important is that the pieces should be interesting to you personally.
Try to keep the above points in mind when you prepare for an organ recital. The more balance between the instrument, audience, and performer your program has, the more success you will achieve.
What are your thoughts on this important subject? Do you have some organ recital experiences that you want to share? Or perhaps you learned some lessons along the way? I am curious to know.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe
organ? If so, download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ
Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.
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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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