Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 218, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. And this question was sent by Bruce. He writes:
Hi Vidas and Ausra,
I am working on BWV 615 (In dir ist Freude) from the Orgelbüchlein, and I have a question about possibly moving a measure or two written for the pedals and taking them in the left hand instead.
In measure 8 (and later, equivalently in measure 24, and also possibly 4 bars from the end), it seems to me that the quasi-Alberti figure in the pedals could (and possibly should) be taken by the left hand. In terms of registration this also makes sense to me (allowing the pedals to have a 32 foot stop, and individuating the left hand from the pedal with a 16 foot stop in the left hand). Also, by doing this, the pedal part that is established in the wonderful figure in the first measure (and found throughout the piece), can be given it's own character.
Besides, to be honest, my pedal technique still isn't quite up to a full measure of 8th notes yet ...
A few quick questions then:
1) Is it a common and acceptable practice for an organist to essentially move parts between manuals, and between manuals and pedals? I feel somewhat uncomfortable doing this (after all, who am I to alter Bach's written score?!).
2) I'd like to hear your suggestions on registration for this work, if you would care to share them.
3) As I am new to pedal work, can you suggest appropriate pedal footwork for the predominant figure in the pedals in this piece?
(And yes, I am working on my pedal technique, it's coming along, thanks to your pedal power course ... slow and steady ... it's a miracle.)
V: So, Ausra, we have a score in front of us, right?
V: And what can we say? I think he refers, Bruce refers, to the first passage of the pedals which has eighth notes, throughout one measure—this is measure eight. Before that it was mainly quarter notes and then ostinato figure in the, in the, in the pedals, right, which obviously is repeated. But what happens then is arpeggio figure in the pedals. What do you think about it?
A: About what? If it would be possible to play that measure in…
V: In the hands. In the left hands.
A: Well, technically, yes, it would be possible but I wouldn’t do it. Because, you know, Bach was really specific about what he wrote down in each of his pieces. And sometimes, you know, he even wrote a riddle in his pieces, and various symbols, religious and his personal symbols in the pieces. So I, I, I would not mess up this, you know, what he originally wrote. Because if he puts those figures in the pedals it means that he wanted them in that place, be played with the pedals.
V: I can understand Bruce while he, why he would want to do this because it’s very high in the right hand, in the, in the tenor range, extreme right, right of the pedalboard and it’s really uncomfortable, right? And if he is just struggling with his pedal technique and, and still has ways to go, then playing eighth notes in, in rather fast tempo, as it is with ‘In dir ist Freude’. It’s a struggle.
A: Well, but since, you know, you have a so many rests in that measure in the hand part, maybe you could, you know, shift a little bit, you know, higher up and look at the measure before. You again, in the pedal part, you have like a, a half-note D, D and C and that’s the highest notes in the pedal, on the pedalboard, basically. So you are already, have to be in the right position.
A: So I don’t think it would be so hard to play that next measure. Of course you have to practice it in a slow tempo and find the right position—comfortable position. I, I still think it should be okay, and I think it would take, you know, less time to learn it correctly with the pedal, than, you know, rearranging it and playing with manuals.
V: And think about this: what happens in a few years, when Bruce is really advanced and can play almost anything, and he comes back to this beautiful piece, I’m sure he would want to repeat it, right? And, and suddenly he sees himself playing left hand with this measure. At that point in a few years, I think his mind will change.
V: And his abilities change. He would be able to do so much more, right?
A: And you know, somehow, in, in this particular measure, pedal part is written in such a way that actually it has two melodies; one is played with left foot and other one is played with right foot. You need to hear them both, and I think the, the left one is more important so you have to lean more on it. Yes?
V: You are very, very right here, Ausra. Because if we see what’s happening one measure before the pedals are playing half-notes, D, D, C. And then if we continue just this model of noticing half-notes, the next important pitches in the pedals would be B half-note, B and A. So what does it mean? It’s a, it’s a choral tune.
A: That’s right.
V: Its a choral tune. If you suddenly drop this choral tune to the left hand, it sort of breaks up a little bit, right, half of the tune is in the pedals and half of the tune or the theme is in the left hand. It doesn’t make sense in this case.
A: So, yes. So I would just you know, leave it in the pedal. I’m sure you can manage it, you know, after a while of you know, correct slow practice. Just be really patient.
V: Mmm, hmm. Exactly. The next measure after this arpeggio figure in the right hand demonstrates exactly what is happening with the tune in the right hand; D, D, C, B, A, G. So these are the pitches that are present in, in, in the pedals as well. And I think it makes sense to keep them in the pedals as well.
A: Yes, that’s what I think too.
A: True, and maybe then you play pedal part like that, maybe you need you know, to underline or, you know, to make in circles those most important note. Like in this hard measure it would be B, B, and E.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: And you would lean more on those notes with your left foot. And this might help too; look, don’t try to push hard each of those eighth notes. That might, you know, make also it technically challenging. But if you will focus on those three most important notes, I think the others will be played easier.
V: Mmm, hmm. You’re right. And we should point out, that the right place to switch direction to the right, is right after you finish the ostinato figure in the bass on the note G.
A: That’s right.
V: Right? You have one measure rest then. And when you release G with your left foot, afterward, you have to push off with the left foot to the extreme right.
A: Yes, to shift your body to the right side.
V: Your lower body will be shifted to the right and your upper body will be facing straight to the music rack.
A: That’s right.
V: That’s the most comfortable way, actually, and the most efficient. And now let’s see if Bruce wants to hear our suggestion about registration. Registrations of course should be played with Organo Plano, don’t you think?
A: That’s what I think because this choral has such a joyful, joyful and confident character. So that’s what I would do, I would play it Plano.
V: Would you a add 32’ in the bass?
V: If it’s not too muddy, right?
A: Yes. If it’s not too muddy. If acoustic is, is, is dry enough I would add 32 probably.
V: Mmm, hmm. And in the hands, the lowest principle should be 16.
A: 16 yes, if you use 32 in the pedals, then yes, you need to have 16’ in the manuals.
V: Uh huh. And don’t forget to add all kinds of principles; 16, 8, 4, a fifth, 2 2/3, principle 2, and then probably mixture.
V: And maybe, possibly coupling the manuals and adding another plenum from the Positiv let’s say.
V: To the Great. With the higher mixture.
A: And look this also sort of massive registration, it will, you know, slow down, slow down your tempo a little bit, because you don’t want to play fast with a registration full like this.
V: Mmm, hmm. And of course, a third stop, 1 3/5 is appropriate in Bach’s area because it was included in the mixture composition too.
A: That’s right. I like actually to use third in Bach’s work.
V: It’s like a little bit of pepper in the dish.
A: True. True.
V: Then of course, Bruce asks is it’s possible to rearrange and move part between manuals and pedals in other pieces, right? There are some instances in other composers.
A: Well, yes, yes, yes, and, and no. Because for example, let’s say take a music for example for, of Cesar Franck, and I think everybody knows that the picture on the Dover’s Edition of Frank’s complete organ work.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: Which shows, you know, Franck sitting on the organ and pulling of one of the stops and it shows his hands very nicely. And everybody can see how huge his hands were. And thinking about that you understand why some of his range in the manual was just simply almost impossible to play legato. Think about such pieces in E Major Choral, Choral #1, yes, or Priere and some of his other organ music. But you know, I heard in some conferences and masterclasses that even in places like this, professionals don’t suggest to put and to play some notes from the manual in the pedals.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: Because it’s, it’s sort of inappropriate. You can do things like this easily when you play at transcriptions.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: Then yes, you can do whatever, you know, what makes you comfortable.
V: What about Ausra, for early music? Is it more acceptable to rearrange parts? For example, for example; take a look at Tabulatura Nova by Samuel Scheidt, right? You could easily play every piece for manuals only, or you could play Cantus Firmus choral melody in the pedals.
A: No about early music what I would do. If I would have organ without pedal, then yes, I would play pedal part in the manual. But if I would have organ with pedal then I would play pedal part in pedal.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: What about you? What about you?
V: Yes, I would probably do the harder, the hard way. I mean what, what would sound best, right? If the pedals would have it’s own stop, maybe with a reed, why not use the pedals, right? So, so the more pedals, the better, in this case. If it’s, of course it’s more, more difficult but it takes time to develop this skills but in a few years, I think Bruce will understand this easily, and,,,
V: And can play almost anything.
A: And I think if you, you know, if you will start to avoid pedals right at the beginning of you know, of your career as an organist, then you know, your progress will be much slower.
A: And you may never be comfortable with pedal parts. So I think it’s better you know, to play as much for pedal parts as possible, right, at the beginning.
V: The last point, question that Bruce makes is about pedaling the most prominent figure, ostinato figure in the pedals. How would you, would you Ausra, suggest to pedal this opening measure: D, G, B C D, C D, G.
A: Well, I would play left, right,
A: Left Right Right, Left Right, Left. That would be my suggestion. What about you?
V: It makes sense. We use alternate toes mostly, in, in early music, except, when pedal part switches directions. Or when you’re playing extreme edges of pedalboards. Or if the notes are very long, you could play with one foot. So, but in this case, it’s left right, alternate toe, then left right, alternate, but then the next note is with right also because afterwards it changes direction.
A: And in this place if you will play C and D with right right, you will have a sort of a good articulation too.
V: Yes. Before stronger beats, you articulate more. Especially when playing with the same foot.
A: And know, and that you know, the tempo is quite fast in this piece, if you will start to alternate between that C and D, you might, you know, mess up. I think it’s easier to play C and D with right right.
V: Excellent. We hope this discussion was useful to other organists besides Bruce, who maybe will be taking this piece and practicing. It’s a wonderful choral.
A: It is, it’s one of my favorites, yes.
V: It’s, it’s very unique in the sense that it’s not a Cantus Firmus choral or a ornamented choral. It has the structure with ostinato figure throughout the piece, but also, it is also fragmented. It’s not entire choral that is heard but just a measure or two at a time. So, we are actually in the process of making videos in the slow tempo. And our team are helping us to transcribe the fingering and pedaling. So in not too distant future, expect the pedaling and fingering prepared for this particular piece too, and maybe this could be helpful for other people.
A: Yes, I hope so.
V: Wonderful. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember; when you practice, and share your art…
A: Miracles happen!