One of the most popular movements from the cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach is the famous "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". This work was originally composed as a choral part from the Cantata No. 147 sung at the end of parts I and II of this cantata. Many organists love to play this work for weddings and other joyful occasions. Because of the popularity of this work, there are so many organ versions available which are not necessarily perfect for you. In this article, I will show you how to make an organ arrangement of this composition for organ in 3 voices which will sound very well and will be comfortable to play.
Before we can make an organ arrangement, we have to become familiar with the orchestral instrumentation. If we take a look at the original scoring, we will
discover that this work is notated in 9 staves. The harmonized chorale tune is
performed by the 4 part SATB choir which in Bach's time might have been sung by the 4 soloists, too. The top soprano voice is also reinforced by the Trumpet in C.
The bass line is performed by at least 5 people: vocal bass, cellist, harpsichordist (or organist), the double bass, and perhaps the bassoonist as
well. The vocal bass joins in choral phrases. We can imagine Bach himself
playing the harpsichord or the organ and conducting at the same time. He would have been playing the bass line in the left hand and adding chords or another fully worked out solo voice from the basso continuo notation with the right hand. The double bass player would be playing the cello part one octave lower (at 16' pitch level).
The 3 instrumental parts are meant for two violins, viola, and also 2 oboes
doubling the violin I part. The viola player would have to play from the alto
clef. Note that the meter of the violin I part is 9/8 while other voices are notated in 3/4 meter. This is probably done to avoid triplets in the violin I part.
As you can see, it must have been quite an ensemble of at least 14 people. In
order to make an organ version of this piece, we have to decide which parts are most important because naturally we can't play every part on the organ at the same time. Obviously, there are 3 most important lines in this composition - the chorale tune, the violin I part playing orchestral ritornellos, and the cello
part giving the harmonic foundation.
By playing these parts on three separate divisions, we could make a very nice
and satisfactory organ version in a trio texture. The violin I part could be played using 8' and 4' flute combinations in the right hand. The chorale tune
would sound best, if played in the tenor range (one octave lower) in the left
hand on the solo registration, perhaps using a soft reed stop, such as an oboe.
We can take the cello line in the pedals using 16' and 8' soft stops.
The 3 part version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring will sound very well on the
organ and it will not be too difficult to learn. Just make sure you treat this
arrangement like a real organ composition, and practice slowly with correct
fingering, pedaling, articulation, and phrasing. It is best to practice repeatedly one small fragment at a time.
If you want to learn this piece in 10 days while working only 30 minutes a day, you can download my fully edited instructional 3-part arrangement of this composition from here. It comes with complete fingering, pedaling, articulation, tempo and registration suggestions and detailed step-by-step practice plan.
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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