Choosing a piece
The Orgelbüchlein collection represents a wide range of technical difficulty: any piece, or level, is appropriate for the service playing exam. The table below assigns a difficulty grouping for each piece, 1 being the most accessible, 5 being the most challenging. (The groupings are adapted from Quentin Faulkner. )
Background and General Perspectives
These 46 short chorales were composed while he was court organist at the ducal court in Weimar (1708–1714).
Orgelbüchlein (literally translated, "Little Organ Book")--a collection of 46 of the most commonly-used Lutheran chorales. 164 settings were planned, but completed only 46. Most of them were composed during his Weimar period (c. 1713-1716), where he was a Chamber musician and later Concertmeister to Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst. Weimar (1708-1717) was his most productive period in organ composition
Organization of the planned collection: 2 halves: Part one traces the path of the Liturgical Year (Starting with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, etc.). Part two uses chorales based on events of Christian life. Thus, the title "The Liturgical Year" is inappropriate. It may have been conceived of as a complete yearly cycle of chorale preludes. The entire book was laid out (164 settings), the pages ruled, and the titles placed. The layout of the book required that the pieces be short.
Factors contributing to the historical importance of the collection:
- A. Limitation of size ruled out the large "for-imitation" style of the past--had to be a more economical format
- B. Motifs are often fragments of the chorale tune itself
- C. Pictorial motifs brought the message of the text forward in the music. Examples: "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt [corrupted]" dissonant, descending sevenths in the pedal refer to mankind's fall and "Puer Natus in Bethlehem" includes rocking cradle motif.
- D. Substantial, self-sustaining pedal part was rather unique
- E. The collection served several functions: 1. Pedagogical--practice material for up-coming organists, 2. Service music--introductions for congregational hymns, 3. Examples for advanced pupils on how to improvise a chorale prelude.
For details, see the Wikipedia article
Scores and Editions
- Completely fingered in early fingering styles. Includes helpful information on the original chorales and performing the works.
- Includes helpful information on the original chorales and performing the works.
- Free download
Registration and Organs
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See the footnote in the "Notes" section at the bottom of the page. 
Fingering and Pedaling
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Articulation and Phrasing
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Tempo and Meter
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Pay to Listen
William Porter at the 1723 Hildebrandt at Störmthal., including 10 other pieces from Das Orgelbuchlein.
Replace this text with any information on other resources pertinent to performing these works
- Faulkner, Quentin, ed. J.S. Bach, Basic Organ Works: Orgelbüchlein and Three Free Works. Historical Techniques and Repertoire, vol. 2. Edited by Wayne Leopuld. Boston: Wayne Leupold Editions, 1997, 32-33.
- This footnote was entered in the "Registration and Organs" article.
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