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WORKSHOP #1: "Fantasy in C Major (BWV 570) - Easy to Play and Versatile"

In a pinch, we organists turn to old stand-bys in our repertoire or look for something easy to "whip up." Unfortunately, Bach isn't usually the first composer who comes to mind when we're looking for something easy. For those stressful situations I keep Volume 8 of Bach's Complete Organ Works handy; I use the Kalmus edition which is fairly inexpensive. Vol. 8 contains the Eight Little Preludes and Fugues, which by themselves are invaluable for service playing, but it also contains a few overlooked gems that I have come to rely on over the years.

In particular I'd like to focus on the Fantasy in C Major (BWV 570); Example 1 shows the first five bars in case it's not familiar. In the Kalmus edition, the Fantasy is No. 9 on page 78 and arranged for manuals only. It sounds perfectly fine without pedals and can also be used in this form on the piano or other keyboard.

Ex. 1: Fantasy in C Major (BWV 570)

If you'd like to incorporate pedals, it's simply a matter of splitting off the bottom voice. Example 2 shows how that would look using the same five bars.

Ex. 2: Fantasy in C Major (BWV 570) arranged for manuals and pedal

If you find it too difficult to create a pedal part from the manuals only arrangement, Toccatas, Fantasias, Passacaglia, And Other Works For Organ (J.S. Bach) by Dover Publications has an edition with the pedal split out as in Example 2.

As a Prelude: When I use the Fantasy as a prelude, I set a full, even lush, registration, using 8' stops. Certainly nothing above 4'. The tempo I choose is around = 68 and while that may seem awfully slow, if you have the right registration and you maintain tempo, the result is very meditational. With an appropriate ritard in the final measures, you will have a prelude of just over five minutes duration.

As an Offertory: The effect created using the tempo of = 68 is appropriate for an offertory but five minutes is generally too long for that part of the service. Rather than increase the tempo and spoil the effect, I would look for someplace to truncate the piece. There just so happens to be a V-I cadence we can use in measures 19 and 20.

Ex. 3: Good place for an ending

By adding a ritard in measure 19 you can end the Fantasy in measure 20, as shown in Example 4, for an offertory of just over 2 1/4 minutes. Plus, it's always a good idea to have a "bailing out" place in a piece in case you need to cut it short.

Ex. 4: New ending

As a Postlude: A tempo of = 120 is better for a postlude with a suitably loud registration. This will clock in at 3 minutes. You may need to rehearse a bit with the faster tempo but if you've been using the piece for a prelude then you will have already put in your slow practice time :-).

It's a Prelude! It's an Offertory! It's a Postlude!
With a little arranging you now have a new prelude, a new offertory and a new postlude. That's over ten minutes of music added to your repertoire requiring little or no preparation.

Other Gems
This method of arranging can be applied to other pieces as well and in fact, there are two additional pieces in the Kalmus, Volume 8, that adapt well. There's the Prelude in C Major (BWV 943), shown in Example 5, which is mostly manuals only with a bit of pedal toward the end.

Ex. 5: Prelude in C Major (BWV 943)

There's also the Prelude in C Major (BWV 567), shown in Example 6. It has pedals throughout but the texture is much lighter than the other two pieces discussed above.

Ex. 6: Prelude in C Major (BWV 567)

Both of these pieces are in the two minute range and if you take the time to find an appropriate slow tempo with soft registration and fast tempo to match your loud registrations, you'll soon have two more preludes, offertories and postludes. That's an additional twelve minutes of easy music for your repertoire.

Finally, be aware that tempos and regisgtrations that work for you one day may or may not work for you another day, depending on your mood and other variables that affect the sound of the organ such as weather and attendance. Happy playing!

Click here for a full listing of the contents of Kalmus Edition, Volume 8

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