Organ repertoire

Organ music is music that has been specifically written for the organ. It is the organ music, analogue divide to music history, in eras. A second distinguishing feature is the organ landscape as organ music, was often tied to their inspired origin of specific instruments or instrument types. A third distinguishing factor is the difference between " spiritual " and " secular " organ music.

  • As a spiritual organ music is what is being played as part of religious ceremonies or based on religious songs. This includes, for example, with few exceptions, the organ music, which is played as part of a Christian worship.
  • As a secular organ music is religion independent music, such as the antique organ music on the Hydraulis, the arrangements of dances and secular songs in the Renaissance period, which were usually played on house organs, positive and shelves, or even the silent film accompaniment on the theater organ.

In the area of ​​spiritual organ music "free" literature is also a differentiation between " choral bound ", ie on a spiritual song based, and common.

  • 2.1 solos organ
  • 2.2 improvisation
  • 2.3 chamber music and orchestra
  • 2.4 Jazz


Middle Ages

As the oldest, writing traditional organ music is the music from the " Robertsbridge Codex " ( Appendix to 1350). A few sources from the late Gothic period, the Codex Faenza ( 1420 ), the organ pieces from the collection of sermons from Winsen ( 1431), the Oldenburg Orgeltabulatur the Master Ludolf Lying ( 1445 ) and the tablature of Adam Ileborgh from Stendal ( 1448 ). From the time of the musical break from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the very extensive for that time Buxheimer organ book dates ( 1460/1470 ).


In the 16th century, numerous losses recognized in organ tablature pieces already appeared. The organ music enjoyed its first heyday. Known representatives of this era are, inter alia, Arnolt Schlick (~ 1460 ~ 1521), Leonhard Kleber (~ 1495-1537 ), Hans Kotter (~ 1485-1541 ), Antonio de Cabezon ( 1510-1566 ) and Jacob Paix ( 1556 - 1623? ). During the Renaissance, in addition to sacred organ music was also very much secular organ music. The organ had except in the church at this time also a firm place in castles and similar property. There, especially smaller instruments ( house organ, positive, shelf ) were used. Through the Thirty Years' War sources and organs from the Middle Ages and Renaissance were lost in Germany in a rather unclear extent.


In the Baroque organ music reached its second peak. The fully formed at this time, regional differences in organ types led to correspondingly diverse organ music. Organ music from the Baroque period is now an integral part of many organ concerts, which also has to do with the fact that from this time have survived until today very many sources, but also instruments. Famous representatives of this era are Heinrich Scheidemann, Franz Tunder, Johann Adam Reincken, Dietrich Buxtehude, Vincent Lübeck, Georg Böhm and Nicolaus Bruhns in northern Germany, Samuel Scheidt, Johann Pachelbel, Johann Kuhnau, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow, Johann Nikolaus Hanff, Johann Gottfried Walther, Arnold Matthias Brunckhorst, Johann Ernst Rempt and last but not least, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Ludwig Krebs, Johann Christian Kittel in central Germany, Johann Jakob Froberger, Georg Muffat, Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer and Gottlieb Muffat in southern Germany, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and Anthoni van Noordt in the Netherlands, François Couperin, Louis Marchand, Nicolas de Grigny, Nicolas Antoine Le Begue, Jean -François Dandrieu, Gaspard Corette, Louis -Nicolas Clérambault, Louis -Claude Daquin in France and Juan Bautista José Cabanilles in Spain.

JS Bach, autograph of the chorale " How lovely shines the morning star", BWV 739


Some students, such as Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) and Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780), but also already Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) can be as representative of the sentimental style already hinted classical music. In contrast, the famous composer of classical music, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Ludwig van Beethoven have (1770-1827) almost did not compose for the organ, even if the former occasionally played the organ. On the threshold of classical romanticism Christian Heinrich Rinck is ( 1770-1846 ).


With the end of the Baroque period in the 18th century, interest in the organ subsided greatly. After a long break in the classical organ music experienced its third peak in the Romantic period, in which even the symphonic organ music took shape next to the reawakened interest in old forms that were associated with the new musical language. Famous representatives of this era are, inter alia, Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847), Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and Franz Liszt ( 1811-1886 ). Max Reger (1873-1916) was formed on these historical foundations out its own late romantic and expressive, going to the ends of the major-minor tonality organ style. In France, at the same time created a symphonic style, César Franck (1822-1890) and Jacques -Nicolas Lemmens (1823-1881) was founded. Other famous composers of this style are Charles -Marie Widor (1844-1937) and Alexandre Guilmant ( 1837-1911 ).

20th century

In the first half of the 20th century neo-baroque a special school ( Siegfried Reda, Johann Nepomuk David) was born, on the other hand, a further development of symphonic music for Organ ( Louis Vierne, Maurice Duruflé, Jean Langlais ) took place. Also composer of the dodecaphonic ( Arnold Schoenberg ) and then serial music ( Olivier Messiaen ) written for the organ. The increased organ building outside of religious buildings ( cinema organ, organ in the concert hall ) meant that now again increasingly secular music was played on the organ. With the advent of electromechanical organs and electronic organs later, however, the majority of these new secular organ music was relocated to these instruments. Since the second half of the 20th century, experimental elements and new compositional methods can be used (cluster with György Ligeti, graphical notation with Mauricio Kagel ). Addition, however, also flow elements of older ( Gregorian chant, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque) and foreign genre ( blues, jazz, rock) music styles in the organ music one. Also borrowed from the soundtrack can be observed, and it is primarily not about the revival of the old cinema organ tradition.

21st Century

In the 21st century, the project ORGAN ² / ASLSP was started. In addition to the everyday function of the organ are also interested in composers for the instrument. Special centers for contemporary organ music are the church of St. Martin in Kassel and the Kunst-Station Sankt Peter in Cologne. There commissioned works will be awarded for contemporary organ works regularly.


Solos organ

On artistically significant is the solo organ. Since the Baroque are the most important forms: Prelude, Toccata, Fantasy, voluntary, Tiento, Chaconne, Passacaglia, Ricercar, fugue, variations, suite, sonata, trio sonata and Organ Symphony; where the combination of a fugue often occurs with a preceding another portion (eg Prelude, Toccata or fantasy ). This organ pieces are called " free" organ music called because they are exposed written by the composer underlying themes. In addition, chorale compositions on liturgical topics: Gregorian Chant or Protestant and Catholic hymns, some of which are also composed in the forms described above. A common form of organ arrangement of a mostly Protestant hymn is the chorale prelude.

See also: List of organ composers


Improvisation is closely associated with the organ. This is among other things, that a musician on the organ a polyphonic improvisation alone, so it can no interaction with other instruments make. Secondly, the improvisation is just in contact with a musician unknown organ a very good opportunity to learn the instrument without being constrained by associated with composed music sound ideas.

Improvisation is very important in the spiritual organ music and solid in every church music education part of teaching; it is also in the form of chorale preludes and intonations integral part of the liturgical organ playing and evolved from the more functional requirements of the music in worship.

See also: liturgical organ playing

In the secular organ music improvisation has always been a companion of the organ. One example is the musical accompaniment of silent films at the cinema organ. This is almost always improvised, the performing musicians has to do this in real time to the current movie. Normally this is only possible if the musician knows the movie already.

Chamber music and orchestra

The organ in the form described here plays no major role in chamber music. Smaller organs have passed since the Baroque particularly as Basso continuo instrument spread. Orchestral music with organ was occasionally cultivated first in the Baroque, especially in the organ concerts Georg Friedrich Handel, rare at the time of classical music, and then with great organ in the romance - in the latter case, at the end of the 19th century, more and more Giant orchestras even more sound variety of colors to give and to expand the tonal range to the Subkontraoktave ( 32' - register of the organ).


Increasingly, played on the church organ jazz, even if it is associated with particular difficulties because of the often reverberant acoustics in church interiors, which often precludes the heavily accented game. Barbara Dennerlein is currently the most famous example of a Jazzorganistin. But also " classic " church musicians use especially in liturgical play new spiritual songs, but also in compositions or improvisations of jazz elements.


Current organ music is usually listed with three lines per system. Here, on the top two lines, the game is listed on the manuals usually like piano notes in treble and bass clef and the third row contains the scores for the pedal play, most of which are listed in the bass clef. In simple chorales also a notation is common to two lines (like a piano). What sounds are then played in the pedal, is either not predetermined or easily recognizable, which usually applies to the lowest voice. For non- chorale-based organ pieces often indicates a game without use of the pedal a two-line notation (as in a piano). If, with such pieces listed the deepest voice nevertheless be executed wholly or partly in the pedal, it is often noted accordingly. Caution is advised in Baroque organ music in two-line modern notation. This might get the impression that the lowest voice is to be executed in the pedal, since the piece is otherwise on a modern instrument unplayable. In fact, many of these pieces on Baroque organs with short octave can be played without the use of the pedal. In Iberian organ music from the Baroque period, this is only a few exceptions the rule. On modern instruments, the remedy is to attach the pedal without their own register of the bass voice leading Manual and to the extent necessary to play the notes of the bass part on the pedal.