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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: Pieces for organ and orchestra

December 9, 2005

Dear Michael:
I have a personal question that I was wanting to find an answer for. I am a high school student and play organ. I am looking for an organ concerto that I could play with my orchestra, but is not extremely difficult. I am interested in a Baroque or Classical piece. Would you know any good pieces or know a good place to purchase an organ concerto? If you could help me I would greatly appreciate it!

Shanda Hendrickson
Buffalo, Minnesota

Dear Shanda:
I’m not quite sure how best to advise you, as the Baroque and Classical concertos, though not horrendously difficult, are not without challenge.

The last of Mozart’s Festival Sonatas (for organ and strings, in C, K. 336) is a little concerto-like movement, even with opportunity for a cadenza. No pedal part. Played in a little suite with K. 329 in C (which requires trumpets and timpani) and K. 67 in E-flat (a slow movement), you’d create a little three-movement concerto (336-67-329 for a loud ending). The organ parts in 329/67 are primarily “continuo” with a few chords standing out in relief.

If you are up to it, there are several Haydn concertos, others from the period are similar (Werner, J.C. Bach). Baroque concertos could either be Bach (derived from his cantata sinfonias with organ), up to and including S. 1052 (the big harpsichord concert in D-minor), but those are not at all easy.

Handel is in some cases manageable. John Stanley wrote some fine concertos, too, as did Arne.

A good source for scores is Lois Fyfe Music (800-851-9023). The Organ Historical Society online catalog could supply you with CDs to hear.

If you were willing to go beyond Baroque/Classical, there are some interesting shorter pieces by Guilmant. And the Rheinberger Concertos are good.

Really depends on your keyboard dexterity, and the quality of your student orchestra. For that matter, the last movement of the Saint-Saens Symphony #3 is easy for the organ (though requires a lot from the orchestra!).

Good luck.



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