Liturgical organ playing

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The liturgical organ playing includes all organ music that is directly related to the liturgical events in the service and the congregation singing. As a rule, the liturgical organ is used to improvise over a sacred song or a liturgical chant . The accompaniment of the parish singing is also part of the liturgical organ play.

Liturgical organ playing is one of the main subjects in organist training .


Since the Carolingian period, organ playing has gradually found its way into Western churches with the building of organs or their early forerunners. Improvised organ playing was used for moving in and out, introducing the chants of the Schola or congregation, as well as alternative practice. The accompaniment of the congregation chant did not become common until the 18th century.

In the Baroque era, improvisation was the only discipline in organist exams (organist rehearsal). Choirs, fugal themes and figured basses were presented to the candidate for execution. Playing according to notes ("handpieces") was strictly frowned upon and possibly led to disqualification.

Chorale play

Choral play is the basic discipline in all courses. The knowledge of harmony and counterpoint find practical application here. The chorale movements are usually suspended for four parts; Three- and two-part movements are also practiced to loosen up.

In four-part movements it is common to play the three upper voices either on a manual and the bass with the pedal , or to play the melody ( cantus firmus ) on a separate manual, the middle voices are registered with the left hand on a quieter one Played manually and the bass performed with the feet on the pedal (so-called “obligatory” or “ trio-like organ playing ”). In the courses for full-time church musicians, choral movements with the melody in bass , tenor or alto (melody in the pedal on a 4 'basis) are maintained.

The choral movement in all its variants (4 voices, 2 to 5 voices) is the compositional basis for all larger forms.


The task of intonation is to prepare the congregation for the song through a few short bars. The intonation indicates the melody , key and tempo . Simple chordal sentences or imitations are common forms.

Chorale arrangement

A chorale arrangement is a composed or improvised arrangement of a hymn for organ with the function of preparing the parish chant for the hymn and performing the hymn artistically. Choral arrangements are also called chorale preludes - regardless of whether the work is used as a prelude to church singing in a church service or is performed as part of a concert.

  • In the organ chorale, the entire chorale melody is performed once without interruption.
  • With the Orgelricercar (also called organ motette or “ Pachelbel -form”) the individual chorale lines are processed one after the other in an imitation.
  • The chorale fantasy varies the individual chorale lines several times in different techniques.
  • The chorale fugue usually uses the first line as the fugue theme.
  • The chorale variation combines several techniques into a series of variations ( chorale partita ).

Tradition begins in the 15th century in Italy and Germany (Paumann school). The heyday of the chorale was in the 17th century in Protestant Germany by Samuel Scheidt , Johann Pachelbel , Heinrich Scheidemann , Dietrich Buxtehude , JS Bach and others. Only then did Johannes Brahms and Max Reger make significant contributions to the genre again. The style copy of these composers and compositions is an essential part of organ improvisation.

Modulation and transposition

In liturgical music, very different basic keys often follow one another. For example, a chorale prelude may be composed in a different key than the hymn from the hymn book that the congregation should sing immediately afterwards. Therefore the organist must be able to improvise the transition and quickly change the key in order to get to the new basic key ( modulation ).

It also happens that a key recorded in the hymnbook is changed if the situation so requires. The ability to transpose is therefore also one of the requirements of the organist.

Free forms

In addition to the chorale-related forms of liturgical organ playing, free forms are also cultivated, such as meditation music , improvisations during the distribution of communion or the Lord's Supper ( sub communione ) as well as improvised organ preludes and replay.

International competition for organ improvisation

For organ improvisation there has been the International Competition for Organ Improvisation in Schwäbisch Gmünd since 1989 , which takes place every two years as part of the European Church Music Festival . It is considered the only permanent competition of its kind in Germany.

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Albrecht:  Choral arrangement. In: Friedrich Blume (Hrsg.): The music in past and present (MGG). First edition, Volume 2 (Boccherini - Da Ponte). Bärenreiter / Metzler, Kassel et al. 1952, DNB 550439609 , Sp. 1303-1323
  2. ^ Arno Forchert, Rudolf Innig, Peter Wollny:  Choral arrangement. In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present . Second edition, factual part, volume 2 (Bolero - Encyclopedie). Bärenreiter / Metzler, Kassel et al. 1995, ISBN 3-7618-1103-9 , Sp. 827-848 ( online edition , subscription required for full access)