Today I'd like to share with you my rendition of Prelude in D Minor on the hymn "Gorzkie żale" (Bitter Sorrows) by Polish Romantic composer Stanislaw Moniuszko (1819-1872) which I recorded during a recital at Cathedral in Torun, Poland. The recital was part of ProBaltica International Festival on May 4, 2019 which I played both magnificent organs of the cathedral. Hope you will enjoy it!
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What's the purpose of the introduction in a large-scale musical work? The role of the introduction is to establish the key and prepare for the main thematic material. Usually this is done by ending an introduction on the dominant chord in the main key which triggers the main material non-stop.
Very often, the introduction has a different character, meter, and tempo from the main material of the piece (just compare the Introduction (slow) and the main theme (fast) from the Sonata No. 8 "Pathetique" for piano by Beethoven).
Today's piece for sight-reading is Introduction from Introduction, Fugue and Variations on the chorale Christ is erstanden, Op. 15 by Johannes Barend Litzau (1822-1893), a lesser known German Romantic composer.
Here is the score for printing (p. 103). Since this is a Romantic piece, play it legato throughout. If you are curious how the chorale sounds after the Introduction, feel free to sight-read it, too (p. 104-105).
PS Often we play quite literal hymn introductions for church services. However, this piece could inspire you to create your own, musically more interesting Introduction before playing a hymn of your choice.
Many famous organ pieces from the Romantic period are inaccessible for organists whose technical skills are not yet fully developed. Such works usually have the advanced pedal part, thick chromatic texture requiring constant use of finger substitution which is necessary to achieve the perfect legato touch. Yet many organists are in need to identify the compositions which could easily be played after a little practice. In this article, I will provide a list of 5 collections from the Romantic period which are easy to learn and wonderful to listen to.
1) "Practical Organist" by Alexander Guilmant. A superior collection by the "Alexander the Great" of the organ which can be played either on the organ with or without the pedal division, as well as on the harmonium. Here organists will find fine short compositions suitable for liturgical organ playing, such as communions, versets, offertories, marches, postludes etc. Every piece is skillfully composed and could also be used for recitals. Perfect as a preparation for more advanced organ sonatas by Guilmant.
2) "L'Organiste" by Cesar Franck. This collection contains 7 suites of 7 pieces each intended to play on the organ or harmonium. Every suite uses different major and minor keys. Shorter works are wonderful for liturgical service playing while the larger concluding pieces at the end of each suite might sound very well during recitals as well. Perfect as a preparation for longer works of the founder of the French symphonic organ school.
3) "Heures Mystiques" by Leon Boellmann. In this collection you will find a wealth of easy and delightful short versets which you can use at various places in liturgical setting. If you like the "Suite Gothique" of this French composer, these versets will serve perfectly as a preparation.
4) "12 Morceaux" by Jacques Lemmens. This Belgian composer is responsible for creating the first modern highly influential organ method "Ecole d"Orgue" or "Organ School". He methodically presents his system of playing legato on the organ which was successfully used by the later French composers, such as Franck, Widor, Vierne, and others. Similarly to other collections, Lemmens' pieces can be played on the organ or harmonium.
5) "Favorite Organ Music" by Louis-James-Alfred Lefebure-Wely. The music of the favorite organ demonstrator of the most significant French organ builder of the period, Aristide Cavaille-Coll is very charming. The composer employs the popular harmonic language of the time which is similar to the operatic style. For today's audiences, his music is very delightful to hear. At the same time, these pieces are easy enough to be playable by organists who have a small amount of piano background. Pedal part is easy as well.
If you regularly practice the pieces from the above collections, you will improve your legato technique and prepare for more advanced compositions from the Romantic period.
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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