Listen: Orgelbüchlein at the Tower of London

Listen to curator William Whitehead talk about The Orgelbüchlein Project

This Winter Festival we’re heading back to the chapel at the Tower of London for the third instalment in the Orgelbüchlein Project. If you haven’t heard of it before, we thought we’d take a look at what the Orgelbüchlein is and what the project’s about.


Orgelbüchlein manuscript

Bach’s Orgelbüchlein is a set of 46 manuscripts most of which are short pieces originally meant as a collection of chorales for the church year. He began putting it together in about 1713 but never finished it. We know which chorales he meant to include as these are listed, but we don’t know which version of the melody he planned to use, or why he only wrote 46, leaving another 118 chorales to be completed. This where the Orgelbüchlein Project comes in. It’s a long-term commissioning project that plans to complete the remaining spaces with composers writing in their own styles.

So what’s the challenge? To write a piece that uses the chorale melody in some form for solo organ. Pieces could be minimalist, jazz or any other contemporary style, or something written in the style of an age since Bach’s death. If you fancy trying your hand at it, you can even share your work with others on the project website.

If you’re wondering what people have come up with so far here’s a selection of the works that were presented at last year’s Winter Festival, played by Christian Wilson.

In dich hab’ ich gehoffet, Herr by Eriks Esenvalds (recorded by Alex Barnes).

Warum betrubst du dich, mein Herz by Juste Janulyte (recorded by Alex Barnes).

An Wasserflussen Babylon by Jonas Jurkunas (recorded by Alex Barnes).


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