Every organist who has modest technical abilities has to face a question of what to play and practice. Many famous compositions are technically out of reach for them and some that are easy and short might be musically uninteresting. If you are looking for a list of manageable quality Baroque organ compositions, you have come to the right place. In this article, I will provide 5 organ collections which you can choose from for your practice.
1) Orgelbuchlein, BWV 599-644 by Johann Sebastian Bach. This is a wonderful collection by many respects. It is not easy, because most of the 46 chorale preludes have 4 independent voices, including a pedal line. However, the technical challenges are compensated by the very short length of each piece - most of them are only 1 page long in the autograph. They are perfect as a preparation for longer chorale preludes.
2) 44 organ chorales by Johann Christoph Bach. This is very practical and playable collection of the composer from the Bach family. The chorales are written in the fughetta form with points of imitation. Most of the pieces contain very easy pedal part. which also could be played on the manual. Highly recommended for organists with modest technical abilities.
3) Chorale preludes by Johann Pachelbel. Excellent works by the significant south German Baroque composer. Compositions are written using variety of compositional techniques, most notably vorimitation and cantus firmus with long note values in the soprano voice. Most of the works employ 4 voices and many of these pieces can also be played on manuals only.
4) Chorales from the Clavierubung by Johann Ludwig Krebs. This is a superb collection by one of the most famous student of J.S.Bach and contains 13 chorales each written in the following system: a prelude (praeambulum), manualiter chorale with chorale melody in one of the voices and chorale harmonization with the soprano and bass part in continuo notation. The last part could be played with or without pedals.
5) Chorale partitas by Johann Pachelbel. These are wonderful sets of manualiter variations in 2, 3, and 4 voices. Each variation employs one melodic and rhythmic figuration throughout. They are highly practical and playable by organists with modest technical abilities. In addition, they are perfect for demonstration of variety of organ stops and their combinations.
Note that this list is not written in a graded order. Although these pieces don't require an advanced organ technique, they might not be sight-readable. Some organists will have to put in some practice time in order to master them but they are artistically very pleasing and well worth the effort. They will be perfect works for service playing and recitals.
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.
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.