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Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 175 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by Howard. He writes:
“I’m working on #8 of Bach’s Eight Little Preludes and Fugues. In my organ practice I find that measures 5 and 6 are a challenge to do smoothly. I'm sure fingering is an issue. In the fugue the "rocking" motion of the fifths and sixths can be a challenge to do well.”
Ausra, this is a fascinating prelude and fugue, right? The last of the series.
A: Yes. It’s the most fun to play!
V: And the entire collection of Eight Little Preludes and Fugues can help organists to boost their technique and skill level quite fast.
A: That’s right.
V: And they’re artistically very pleasing.
A: That’s true.
V: Which one is your favorite, by the way?
A: Well...each is different, and actually, I love them all! Right now, I would say probably F Major.
V: Right now I’m thinking about B♭ Major. This one, which Howard is studying, too.
A: Okay. Yes, it’s very exciting, especially that pedal solo.
V: Yeah, after the manual entrance. So, Howard is struggling with measures 5 and 6. These are basically passages downward and upward: at first a scale downward, where hands interchange R, L, R, L, with 4 notes in each hand. And then arpeggio upwards, between the hands, on a G Major chord. Do you think that you need to do some special fingering here, downward?
A: Well, that fifth measure, I think it’s very simple.
A: I would play it in my RH, 5-4-3-2, and then with the LH, 1-2-3-4; and then again with RH, 5-4-3-2, and then again with L, 1-2-3-4.
V: Why 5-4-3-2, and not 4-3-2-1?
A: Well, I think it’s simpler. Well, you could do it both ways, but…
V: I see. Of course, if you use 4-3-2-1, then you can connect easier with the previous measure’s F in the RH, remember?
A: That’s true; maybe then start with 4-3-2-1. But what I mean is that you have to keep your fingering consistent.
A: So if you decide to play 4-3-2-1, and then 1-2-3-4, so just do it, and don’t experiment.
V: Do you recommend making articulation between each note here, or slurring every 4 notes?
A: Well, you would still have to do some articulation.
A: What about you?
V: Agreed. Me too.
A: Yes, I would articulate each note. And I would say probably m. 6, the next measure, is probably a little bit more complicated.
V: It’s because this arpeggio doesn’t seem so visually easy to understand what is going on in terms of poles.
A: Yes, because it’s divided between hands. And like in the previous measure, we had sections of 4 notes, groups of 4 notes, so here we have sort of groups of 3 notes.
A: And that’s a bizarre-looking thing in common meter.
V: Exactly. So in order for the grouping to be consistent with the meter, the composer writes 3 notes in the LH, and then detached the note in the RH, and then 2 notes which are tied together; right? And then again, 2-1-3-3-1...It’s complicated even to understand. I think Howard would benefit from marking the subdivisions of the beat with a pencil.
A: Yes, that’s true, because actually here you play 3 notes with your LH, then 3 with R, then again 3 with L, 3 with R, then 3 with L, and one with R.
A: And then go to the next measure. But I think you really need to know where the middle of the measure is; because right in that middle section, you have to make an accent again. Thinking about strong and weak in common meter.
V: Exactly. We were talking about articulating between each and every note; but what Ausra means is that before the stronger beats, 1 and 3 here, you have to make an even larger space.
A: That’s true. So keep that in mind. This might be a little bit tricky, because when you are playing that second group with your LH (which is G, B natural, and D), you have to articulate more before the D note, because this is the 9th sixteenth note of the measure.
V: Exactly. Exactly. And going on to, let’s say, the pedal solo--is that complicated to learn, do you think?
A: Well, I don’t think so, unless you try to play some notes with the heels.
A: But if you are using toes, it should be pretty straightforward.
V: And for most of the time, it’s alternate toes, right?
A: Yes, that’s true...
V: Starting L, R, L, R, L, R, L, R...
A: I think it’s all the time, alternating left and right.
A: The only one complication comes at the last measure of that pedal solo, where you have two 32nd notes. But still, it’s R-L-R.
A: Or it might give you a sort of rhythmic spasm.
V: And the structure of this beginning is very similar to how, let’s say, German Baroque composers would write: Buxtehude, or Lubeck or Bruhns, right?
A: You mean Stylus Phantasticus?
A: Yes, it sort of resembles it, at least in part. Because it has sections.
V: Plus, the first passaggio with hands, it establishes the key of B♭ Major, although it quickly modulates to the dominant key of F Major also; and then the pedal solo enters with its own theme, in B♭ Major, and finishes in B♭ Major. And then what happens later, Ausra?
A: You have sort of a combination of those previous sections. But at the same time, both hands and pedals are playing, but you sort of also have that opening motif.
A: In the manual part.
A: But it’s a thick texture. It’s very exciting.
V: So, Howard and others who are studying this need to be careful about practicing separate lines first. Maybe RH first, and then LH. And then pedals.
A: Yes. What about that measure where all voices come together after the pedal solo? Would you play 3 voices in your LH, or 2?
V: 3, definitely. Because they’re different textures--soprano and the rest. So it’s easier, of course, for people to divide the texture between the two hands.
A: Yes, that’s right, because if you would try to play that lower voice of the upper staff with your RH, you would get in trouble sooner or later.
A: So better learn it right away, in the correct way--and the easier way, actually, and play 3 voices with your LH.
V: Remember our student from Unda Maris Organ Studio here in Vilnius--Regina?
A: Yes, I remember her.
V: She played this one, I think right at the beginning of her studies with us, and at first she didn’t understand why I chose this kind of fingering and pedaling, early type fingering and pedaling. But later she told me that it makes sense, because she can produce the articulate legato automatically, almost without thinking.
V: And she has a goal to master all 8 of the Preludes and Fugues in this collection.
A: And I think she’s on the right track; I think she’s almost done with the whole collection...
V: Should be only a couple left.
V: The fugue is kind of...in a different meter. What is the meter, Ausra?
V: 3/4. Is it easier than 4/4 for you to understand, or not?
A: Well, no actually, the common meter is easier for me to understand. Because there are actually 2 ways you can treat the 3/4 meter. One way is: the first beat is the strongest one, the second is lighter, and the third one is the lightest. But I have heard some other opinion, that the first of course is the strong one, then the second one is the lightest one; and then you have a little accent on the third one.
V: That’s how Johann Kirnberger wrote.
A: Yes, and that’s actually how George Ritchie taught me to play 3/4 meter. Making a slight accent on the third note.
A: Because if you will do that, it will lead you nicely into that strong beat of the next measure.
V: This is true for minuets, right?
V: And this fugue reminds me of the minuet, as well as A Major Fugue from the A Major Prelude and Fugue, BWV 536, also. It’s in ternary meter and reminds of the minuet, too. So it wouldn’t hurt to make an accent on the first and on the third beats here.
A: But of course, that third accent, on the third beat, should not be as big as on the first, on the downbeat.
V: For Howard, I think what is difficult here in the LH part, most of the time--sometimes they have rocking perfect fifths and minor sixths playing, in repetition--right? But I don’t know what is difficult here. He wrote that “in the fugue, the rocking motion of the fifths and sixths can be a challenge to do well.” Maybe articulating?
A: Well, yes, you need also to divide between strong and weak beats. But if you will lean enough on the strong beat, on the downbeat, I think you should be just fine.
A: Then just lean down on the first beat, on the downbeat, and then just relax. And I think your head will do it.
V: And of course, keep counting, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, right?
V: And make an accent on the first and on the third beat as well, a little bit.
A: And then again, at the end of the fugue, be careful that you would learn to play the inner 2 voices with your LH, not 2 voices with your RH.
V: Mhm. So if people are using my fingered score, I notate accordingly, and this will be easy to understand. Actually, I gave B♭ Major Prelude and Fugue score to Howard, because he didn’t have that before. Excellent, guys. We hope this was useful to you. And please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow, right Ausra?
V: Okay. And we’re going to practice now, and we hope you will practice, too, because when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.