Welcome to the first of five videos in our Organ Registration Tutorial Series for 2019! In this first tutorial we’ve chosen to discuss two contrasting chorale preludes by J. S. Bach – Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639) and the Trio on Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (BWV 655).
In this tutorial series Francis Rumsey and Jonathan Kingston discuss and demonstrate approaches to registration for distinctive genres and styles of organ music. The aim is to give you some ideas about stop combinations that might be appropriate, and tips about handling some of the organ management challenges.
Read more about this series in our Organ Registration Tutorial introduction and find more useful videos on the topic of organ registration.
Bach’s Chorale Preludes
For the first tutorial in this year’s series, we’ve chosen to discuss two contrasting chorale preludes by J. S. Bach.
The first, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (BWV 639) will be well-known to many, and is the only trio in Bach’s Orgelbuchlein (“Little Organ Book”). It’s clearly marked for two manuals and pedals, as are one or two of the others in the collection, implying a separate registration for the melody and accompaniment.
Jonathan and Francis discuss alternative tone colours for the solo and accompaniment lines to ensure that the melody is suitably distinctive, and not overwhelmed by the accompaniment.
The Trio on Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (BWV 655), on the other hand, is from a collection sometimes known as “The Eighteen” or Leipzig chorale preludes. It feels a bit more like a trio sonata than a chorale prelude to begin with, with the pedal part taking an integral bass accompaniment role. Like Ich ruf zu dir this one’s also indicated for two manuals and pedals, but here both manuals are playing bright semiquaver figurations derived from the chorale, and overlapping a lot in pitch. Neither hand has a solo chorale melody.
For the last third of the piece, though, the pedal line switches to take on a more traditional role, sounding the chorale melody almost verbatim. The challenge for Jonathan is how to find complementary registrations for the two manuals, and what to do with the pedal registration in the light of that line’s changing role in the music.