Organists preparing for an organ recital often have a dilemma of what pieces to include and in what order. While concert organists with much experience normally have their own method of programing a recital, beginner organists often struggle with this question. This is because technical possibilities of the beginner organists are very limited, yet they still need to provide enough quality and interesting music for the audience. In this article, I will give you an example of beginner level organ recital with the most famous pieces of the repertoire of approximately 1 hour of duration (with stop changes). The compositions are arranged in an order for optimum listener-friendly experience.
1. Prelude and Fugue in B-flat Major, BWV 560 formerly attributed to J.S.Bach. An excellent opening composition for your recital. The prelude is joyful, loud, and fast with an exciting pedal solo. The fugue is in triple meter and fairly straightforward. Organo pleno registration with mixtures is very appropriate.
2. In dulci jubilo, BWV 751 by J.S.Bach (?). Soft and gentle chorale prelude will be a nice relieve both for the listeners and organist.
3. Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639 by J.S.Bach. This slow and meditative organ chorale prelude is among audience most-loved chorale preludes by Bach.
4. Pedal Exercitium, BWV 598. This piece was earlier attributed to J.S.Bach. Fast tempo, virtuoso pedal solo line will surely leave your audience stunned, especially if your feet are visible. By the way, this piece is a perfect work-out to develop your foot technique.
5. Prelude and Fugue in F Major, BWV 556 formerly attributed to J.S.Bach. Playful character of this piece does not require heavy Organo pleno registration with mixtures. Instead, various flute combinations work very well.
6. Herzlich thut mich verlangen, BWV 727 by J.S.Bach. A slow tempo and prayerful mood will be a nice contrast with the previous piece. Since it is an ornamented chorale prelude, use a soft reed, such as oboe, mutations or other colourful stops for the chorale tune in the right hand. The other parts can be played with the flutes and 16' in the pedals.
7. Gottes Sohn ist kommen, BWV 600 by J.S.Bach. Although the texture is in 4 parts with an obbligato pedal line, the pedaling is very comfortable and easy. Joyful registration with mixtures are perfect for this chorale prelude.
8. Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, BWV 558 formerly attributed to J.S.Bach. Although this is a free work, the registration could be without mixtures because of the serious and sad character. Even 8' principal will sound nice. The fugue is much more difficult than the prelude to learn because of the imitative polyphony.
9. Andante tranquillo from the Organ Sonata No. 3, Op. 65 by F.Mendelssohn. A slow, elegant, and soft piece. Easy to learn.
10. Fugue from the Organ Sonata No. 6, Op. 65 by F.Mendelssohn. Fairly straightforward fugue, serious sound and character.
11. Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen, Op. 122 by J.Brahms. Gentle and sweet chorale prelude, one of the most popular organ pieces by this composer. For manuals only.
12. Herzliebster Jesu, Op. 122 by J.Brahms. A fairly slow tempo and lack of imitative polyphony makes it easier to learn.
13. Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele, Op. 122 by J.Brahms. For manuals only. Lack of pedals make it quite easy to play but the polyphonic 3-voice texture is complicated.
14. Herzlich tut mich verlangen, Op. 122 by J.Brahms (6/4 meter). Easy to play because of very slow tempo, easy pedal line, lack of imitative polyphony. Gentle but sad character forms a welcome contrast in mode with the previous piece.
15. Herzlich tut mich verlangen, Op. 122 by J.Brahms (4/4 meter). Another setting of the same name, much louder and a bit faster.
16. Le Banquet Celeste by O.Messiaen. This fantastic meditative work is the easiest organ composition by the famous French composer. However, don't be deceived by the apparent short length of the piece. Although it is notated on 2 pages, the normal performance time is around 6.5 minutes which is extremely difficult mentally for many organists.
17. Fanfare by J.Lemmens. A joyful closing piece of your recital. Your listeners will love it. Loud but not too fast which makes it possible to play for an organist with little pedal experience. You will find repetitive motion of sixteenth notes in the right hand which reduces the stress for people who have a weak left hand technique.
You can use the above list as it is in preparing for a recital or plan your own program based on this example. Even if your technical abilities are limited, the pieces listed above should be within your reach with sufficient practice yet quite musically interesting. However, please note that although the pedal part is easy in all of the pieces, you should have some background of the piano playing to successfully learn this music.
Although the order of pieces may be changed according to your taste, they display the welcome variety in registration, tempos, mood and keys. Therefore, your listeners should be happy with your program. All you have to do is to master them one by one or all at once. This takes regular, wise, and persistent practice.
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.
Would you like to say "Thank You" to us? Buy Us Coffee.
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Do you have a unique skill or knowledge related to the organ art? Pitch us your story to become a guest on Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast.
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.