Szostak Michał, "The Art of Stylish Organ Improvisation”,
in: "The Organ”, No 390, November 2019 - January 2020, Musical Opinion Ltd, London, ISSN 0030-4883, pp. 20-27.
The spontaneous musical activity of a man was the main source from which the entire musical culture of humanity was born. Before the musicians started composing their repetitive works, improvised music was used both for entertainment and for the needs of worship. For centuries, along with the development of instruments, the development of playing techniques has continued. The adaptation of organ for the use of the Western Church implied a dynamic development of this wonderful instrument. The flexibility of the liturgy meant that improvisation was the most optimal way of implementing live music during worships. In principle, until the early second half of the 19th century, improvisation was the dominant form of organ playing. At that time, organs in concert halls were located (e.g. Albert Hall in Sheffield, The Royal Albert's Hall in London, Palais Trocadéro in Paris), and regular concerts were organized there, during which organ literature began to appear regularly.
The subject of this article is the issue of showing the methodology of the performer's approach to the art of stylish organ improvisation, which after a period of stagnation at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, has been experiencing its renaissance in recent decades. Detailed analyses will be provided on the base of the 19th-century French symphonic era, but the same approach and methodology can be used for each epoch and each style.
The dictionary definition of improvisation is “to compose a work of art on the spot, spontaneously, often under the influence of emotion or on a given topic, without any preparation”. The phenomenon of improvisation occurs in every field of art: in literature, music, theatre, or fine arts. Musical improvisation is a creation that combines elements of creativity and reproduction (performance) in a spontaneous and one-off process.
In musical creativity, three types of improvisation are distinguished depending on the role of the performer-composer: 1) creativity based on a specific topic, in close communication with the form (e.g. fugue, variation, partita) or consisting in adding some of its elements to an existing work (e.g., parts, or implementation of basso continuo); 2) creativity consisting in introducing one's own part into an existing work (e.g. cadenza in an instrumental concert), and 3) creation which results in a completely new and independent work (e.g. free fantasy, impression).