One of the best-known organ chorale preludes by Johannes Brahms, Herzlich tut mich verlangen, Op. 122 (6/4 meter) can be considered a beginner level organ piece. It is easy to play because of very slow tempo, straightforward pedal line and lack of imitative polyphony. Its gentle but sad character can make a nice contrast in your organ recital if you play it between two louder and/or faster pieces. In this article, I will give you 5 tips on how to learn this chorale prelude.
1. Repeated notes. There are several half notes which are repeated in the chorale melody in the pedal part. According to the tradition of legato playing technique, repeated notes should be shortened by an exact rhythmical value.
Shorten these notes by the smallest most frequently used rhythmical value in this piece (unit value). This would be a sixteenth note. It means that you should make a sixteenth note rest. The repeated notes in the left hand part should be made shorter by a sixteenth note.
2. Pedal preparation. It is best to automate your pedal playing in this piece by applying pedal preparation technique. For example, as soon as you release a pedal played by the right foot, immediately slide this foot with a quick motion in the position for the next note and let it wait there. The same applies for the pedal preparation in the left foot.
3. Lean on dissonances (harmony). Not all notes are considered equally important in this piece. The most significant notes in the Romantic music tend to be the ones which form a dissonant chord.
A dissonant chord consists of dissonant intervals, such as any second, seventh, diminished and augmented intervals. In this case, emphasize the chords which have four or more chordal tones and chromaticisms. In other words, lean on dissonances by coming in a bit late or holding them a bit longer.
4. Long melodic lines. A signature by Brahms are his endless melodies, somewhat similar to those of Richard Wagner. The difficult part of performing long melodic lines is that you can't take a breath in the middle of the line.
Instead, use your mental focus by seeking the end of that line. Do not stop mentally in the middle of the phrase. Also try to count out loud the parts of the measure. In this way, the long melodies will have a purpose and direction, and listeners will be able to follow and appreciate the lines.
5. Registration. Since the dynamic level of the manual part is piano, you should use several 8' stops combined. It is best to play the middle part on the secondary manual.
The chorale melody in the pedals should be based on the 8' stop. Do not use 16' in the pedals here. Instead, choose a soft 8' reed or 8' principal with or without 8' flutes.
Use these tips when you practice the chorale prelude Herzlich tut mich verlangen, Op. 122 today. For best results, try to be very precise in executing every detail, such as repeated notes, using pedal preparation, and emphasizing the dissonant chords.
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 learn to play any organ composition at sight fluently and without mistakes while working only 15 minutes a day, check out my systematic master course in Organ Sight-Reading.
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