The Elderly Novice Organist
This page contains recordings of music that I have become able to play to an acceptable standard. It will be continually updated as my repertory expands.
These recordings are of complex music containing many important details. To hear them properly, they should be played at an ample volume level on high-quality headphones or loudspeakers. Use of a cellphone is NOT recommended😧
The recordings are all currently in the form of video captures of recordings I made using the recording facilities built into Hauptwerk, created by playing the recording and capturing the main console screen (or part of it) using Debut Home Edition by NCH Software. I selected the highest quality sound option.
- Pieces are listed in chronological order of first recording date.
- Where there are multiple recordings of a piece, they are listed best (in my opinion) first.
- For each piece, I give a link to the sheet music in PDF format.
- For each video, there is an icon that enables you to download it.
- For each video, I give the registration; check here for details of the stops.
- Unless otherwise stated, the video was made with the same settings (registration, tempo, pitch, etc.) as the original recording.
- Each recording was done in a single take from memory by an elderly novice (so do not expect perfection!).
J S Bach - Toccata "Dorian" BWV 538/1
Notes on Interpretation
This is the very first piece that I brought up to (more-or-less) performance standard. This was achieved after 6 months of learning the organ, struggling with the considerable difficulties for 1-2 hours a day. After a number of weeks working on bits and pieces, I decided to focus on this toccata, in the belief that it would be less likely to go down like a lead balloon with a naive audience than other works by Bach.
- This piece is usually played at a tempo that to me sounds unduly ponderous and hardly toccata-like. Although it can nonetheless sound pleasing with a characterful organ/registration, with my sample sets the typical tempo of 70-75 BPM seemed dull. So I set a practice target tempo of 88 BPM, and found anything slower to be less satisfying. The difficulties of playing at this tempo (like all others I have encountered in learning the organ) eventually yielded to practice.
- The rhythm: 𝅘𝅥 𝄾 𝅘𝅥𝅮 𝅘𝅥 𝄾 𝅘𝅥𝅮 pervades this piece. For good rhythmic impetus, I have endeavored to inflect this onto many of the passages with running sixteenth notes. Although many organists cut the quarter notes short (in some cases much shorter than an eighth note), I play these full length. However, like most, I play short eighth notes.
- Unusually, Bach specifies numerous interchanges between two manuals, given as Oberwerk and Positiv (played on manuals I and II respectively), the latter denoting a smaller sound. Partly due to this, registration is more involved than is normally the case with Bach. A particular issue is with the pedals; in fast passages with sustained chords in the manuals, these tend to require an incisive sound, but this sound is likely to be overbearing in sustained pedal notes. The balance between the two manuals, and between each manual and pedals also needs to be carefully considered.
- Variant Editions
- The edition I have been using has a D in the pedal at the beginning of bar 84; however, I noticed late on that many organists play this note as a C♯. Another edition I checked (which unlike the one I was using predates the BWV catalog), also has D. Further investigation revealed that the autograph is lost, but that there is a copy made by Muzio Clementi. This does have a C♯, and I noticed one or two other differences (although these are less important). I was not aware of this issue until I made the latest recording (Modern Composite), where the C♯ seems to me more consistent with a lively and vigorous reading (as I believe Bach conceived the piece). The first two recordings have a D (but I think that fortuitously this is actually more appropriate in the somewhat melancholy account on the Bückeburg organ).
I offer three recordings, made from about 6 months to 7 months after starting to learn the organ:
- Sonus Paradisi Modern Composite by Augustine's Virtual Organs; date 19 February 2023 (T + 7 months).
- Janke Organ, Bückeburg by Sonus Paradisi; date 2 February 2023 (T + 6.5 months).
- Eisenbarth Organ, Friesach by Piotr Grabowski; date 13 January 2023 (T + 6 months).
Recording 1: Sonus Paradisi Modern Composite by Augustine's Virtual Organs
I offer two videos of the same recording on the Great Modern composite sample set, created by Augustine's Virtual Organs from three Sonus Paradisi demos. The recording date is 19 February 2023 (T + 7 months).
I arrived at the initial registration rather hastily; this included two very strong and sharp mixtures (in the Great and Pedal). I also recorded it faster than I intended (at a breakneck 92 BPM), but feeling more relaxed than usual, continued to the end. Despite the fast tempo, it became my choice of recording on this sample set.
About a month later, I revised it, and using the facilities in Hauptwerk, created another video with the following changes:
- Tempo reduction to 88 BPM (96% of the original). It would have been easier to have recorded the original at the target 88 BPM!
- Substantial changes to the registration (including removal of both mixtures).
- Pitch raised from A=429 Hz to A=440 Hz (to me, this helps give a lighter and brighter sound).
I present first the revised version of the recording, which I think best represents this piece. There are some organ tuning issues in this registration, which appear about halfway through.
|I (Great)||Octav 8', Holjpip 8', Octav 4', Blockfluit 4', Quinte 2 2/3', Octaf 2', Flute 2', Fuerte 4', III → I|
|II (Swell)||Gamba 8', Octava 4'R, Open-Fluit 4'L, Octaaf 2', Waldflaut 2', Terz 1 1/3', Scherp VI-VIII|
|III (Positive)||Octav 4', Salicional 4', Flute 4', Octav 2', Waldfloet 2'|
|Pedal||Subbass 16', Trumpet 16', II → P|
For completeness, here is the Original Super Turbo version; 92 BPM basic tempo as I played it, very sharp registration, A=429 Hz.
|I (Great)||Octav 8', Holjpip 8', Octav 4', Blockfluit 4', Quinte 2 2/3', Flute 2', Mixtur VI-VIII, Fuerte 4'|
|II (Swell)||Gamba 8'R, Octava 4'R, Octaaf 2', Waldflaut 2', Terz 1 1/3', Scherp VI-VIII, II:4' → II, III → II|
|III (Positive)||Octav 4', Salicional 4', Flute 4', Octav 2', Waldfloet 2', Mixtur IV, Krumhorn 4'|
|Pedal||Subbass 16', Mixtur X, Trumpet 16'|
Recording 2: Janke Organ, Bückeburg by Sonus Paradisi
This Bückeburg sample set is actually the demo version, but lacks only two of the six channels on two of the divisions; I am using only the two normal stereo channels. What really defines the sound for me is the Cornett; this soft but prominent stop adds a touch of melancholy that made me adopt a rather slower tempo. I found the pedal reeds unusable (too protuberant and unblending), and consequently the pedal sound is rather soft (even with manual coupling); however, this is perhaps appropriate for this rather gentle reading.
This recording sounds a bit sad, even though it is still much faster than most interpretations. But I personally would not want to play this piece any slower. The recording date is 2 February 2023 (T + 6.5 months).
|I (Hauptwerk)||Principal 8', Octave 4', Quinta 2 2/3', Octave 2', Mixtur V-VI, Cornett IV, Fagott 16', Trumpet 8'|
|II (Oberwerk)||Salicional 8', Octave 4', Octave 2', Flöte 4', Waldflöte 2', Nasat 2 2/3', Quinta 1 1/3', Mixtur IV, Sesquialtera II, Vox Humana 8'|
|Pedal||Subbass 16', Principal 16', Mixtur V, I → P, II → P|
Recording 3: Eisenbarth Organ, Friesach by Piotr Grabowski
This Friesach sample set from Piotr Grabowski is what I first started practicing on. It is perhaps the best free sample set available, but I had some difficulty in finding a registration for this particular piece that I was happy with. I wanted a bright sound in the manuals (without a 16' stop), but was unable to get the incisive sound in the pedals that I wanted, even coupling all three manuals to it. The Posaune 16' was too protuberant to be usable, and the Trompete 8' seemed rather weak.
|I (Hauptwerk)||Principal 8', Rohrflöte 8', Gambe 8', Octave 4', Spitzflöte 4' Quinte 2 2/3', Octave 2', Mixtur major IV-V 2 2/3', Mixtur minor IV 1 1/3', Trompete 8', III → I|
|II (Schwell)||Viola 8', Geigenprincipal 4', Nazard 2 2/3', Flageolett 2', Tierce 1 3/5', Larigot 1 1/3', Plein jeu IV-V 2', Hautbois 8', Clairon 4', III → II|
|III (Solowerk)||Trichterflöte 4', Englischhorn 8'|
|Pedal||Subbaß 16', Trompete 8', I → P, II → P, III → P|