Improvisations

My doctoral thesis, Schemata and Rhetoric: Improvising the Chorale Prelude in the 18th-century Lutheran Tradition investigates the pedagogical, cultural and methodological role of the Lutheran Chorales in teaching improvisation in the eighteenth century. The study examines the role of memorization in composition treatises, and draws comparison between structural layers in composition and memorized patterns in improvisation. These structural layers correspond to terms used in classical rhetoric, borrowing Michael Callahan’s improvisational model to distinguish long-range improvisational goals (dispositio), generic voice-leading progressions that accomplish these goals (elaboratio), and diminution techniques that apply motives to these progressions to yield unique musical surface (decoratio).[1] I apply his model to chorale-based improvisation, and examine how chorale melodies contain material for each of those layers and thus can be used effectively in composition and improvisation.

Chapter 1 describes the cultural significance of the Chorales in 18th-century Lutheran Germany focusing on their role in keyboard pedagogy. Chapter 2 examine typical 18th-century genres of chorale-based compositions from an improviser’s point of view. In Chapter 3, I analyze model-improvisations based on specific genres. In my study, I do not intend to offer a comprehensive study of hymn-based improvisation, rather I aim to come to grips with hymn-based keyboard pedagogy from an analytic and historical angle.

Full  thesis is published at Academia.edu


[1] Michael Callahan, Techniques of Keyboard Improvisation in the German Baroque (PhD. Diss. University of Rochester, 2010).

Please check out my weekly  Sunday Podcasts at the First Lutheran Church website for some of my  liturgical improvisations.

Videos:

Lecture Recital at Marquand Chapel, Yale University, March 24,  2014 - Schemata and Rhetoric: Improvising the Chorale Prelude in the 18th-century Lutheran Tradition



Improvisation on a given theme on the historic Eilert-Köhler Organ in Suhl, Germany (July 6, 2014) 



Improvisation on a given theme on the new Aeris Bach Organ in Cegléd, Hungary. (July, 27, 2014)



Improvisation on a Hungarian Christmas Carol (Duna TV, Hungary, September, 2008)