Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 187 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by Dan. He writes:
Hi Vidas and Ausra. What an excellent topic. I’m totally blind here, and have learned my music by ear for years. I did a bit of stuff with Braille music, (That could be another option,) if your listener already reads literary Braille, he could take up music Braille. For me however, I found it to be tedious and slow. Speaking of recorded tutorials on pieces, I thought you had done one going over the Prelude and fugue in c-minor of Bach, BWV 549), at one time. I’d purchased it off your site at the time you’d posted it, but I’d only gotten the first bit of the prelude, just up to slightly after the pedal solo, there wasn’t anything further. I really liked the way you’d went over it too.
V: So another question about practice suggestions for blind people, right?
V: I know I don’t have any experience with literary or music Braille versions so I don’t have much to add do you?
A: Me neither.
V: But what I have heard from other people is that music Braille is not very comfortable to use. They have special printers I think, very expensive ones so they could print out music and they can feel with their hands and touch the music sheet and that way they can read the music.
A: Yes, that is true.
V: But probably the easiest way is the one that Dan describes when somebody posts a piece of music recorded in advance separate parts only. Soprano, alto, tenor, bass and played very very slowly and that way a person who cannot see can play along.
A: That’s true but I think this method only works if you have a good ear you know, because if you don’t have a good ear then it’s hard for you then it would be easier to learn from the Braille notation.
V: Um-hmm. Right. Do you think they have a Braille language for every language of the world or just English and other languages are separate?
A: I hope that it’s universal.
V: Like sign language you know for people that cannot hear.
A: Yes, silent language is different, sign language is different for each nation so this is I think you know ridiculous. Because that way we cannot communicate let’s say Lithuanian and American people and that’s just too bad. We could have some sort of you know universal sign language like Esperanto for example.
V: Um-hmm. I hope people are creating something like that in time. So, I think people who cannot see should not be too discouraged to play the organ, don’t you think?
A: Well, yes I understand that you know it’s hard when you have such slow progress. And the way that the learning of the piece is going so slowly but I think you know I think it should give them some enjoyment and it’s very important.
V: Deep sense of enjoyment I would add because it’s through their enormous efforts that they could memorize the piece.
A: Yes and I think as a final result we really have to know the piece very well. I don’t think that we know our pieces that we are performing so well.
V: We, you mean you and I?
A: Yes. And I mean in general everybody who sees, who can see.
V: Um-hmm. You know in a sense they could think of themselves as visually challenged, right? They cannot see as well as some other person can. But then you and I are challenged in another way right? Maybe technically, maybe some other things we cannot do well that that particular person, the blind person can do better.
A: I think it should be like this if you know if you lose one, one sense of yourself you need to develop some some some other you know skills and maybe you have better hearing or you know.
V: And I heard it’s not always the case. It’s one of those myths you know that if you lose your vision you can feel with your touch better or smell or hear. Yes, there are some like that but not always I’ve read.
A: But I always admire you know people who face those challenges and overcome them.
V: Exactly. There are blind painters earlier we looked up beautiful paintings. I cannot even begin to imagine how they you know differentiate those beautiful colors and they probably see the colors or color combinations in their mind right?
A: Yes, that’s a sort of mystery for me.
A: How do they do it.
V: Or like Beethoven and other people who could not hear from outside they had this inner sense of listening and creating.
A: So, maybe you know for people with vision trouble, you know for blind people maybe they have sort of you know inner vision too and that’s how they can paint.
V: Yeah, they imagine the world around them and it probable depends whether they were blind from birth or whether they developed it later on.
A: Yes, I think it makes a big difference because as a kid you can see and differentiate different colors and probably you might be able you know to paint after losing your vision. It was the same with Beethoven losing his hearing. Like for example for myself I can hear music sounding inside my head almost all the time.
V: Mmm. Wouldn’t it be interesting for us to talk to that person who is blind organist and discuss that that in person and in real life those issues that he or she could transfer their experience.
A: Yes I think this would be the right way to do it.
V: So guys, if any of our students and listeners and readers are visually challenged right, in any way or entirely blind and want to share your experience with the world how you learn music, how you adapt right, how you orient yourself in daily life, that would be absolutely amazing topic for discussion right? So send us an email. We would be glad to arrange a conversation with you online right, and we could post it as a podcast too.
A: Yes it would be very interesting and you know exciting experience for us too.
V: I think we need to understand each other better and one of the first steps is to know each other better and share those experiences. Just like people from around the world are sometimes sending us emails about how they live, right, and about what challenges they have in South America, Australia, Africa, Asia, right, and North America and Europe. Various countries have their own ways of life and were all different but at the end we are all united with a common passion for organ.
A: That’s true.
V: At least for organ, there are many others right? All right. Thank you guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
One of the most famous passacaglias of all time, Bach's masterpiece will blow your mind!
I've played it during our Bach's 333rd birthday recital at Vilnius University St John's church last Saturday.
Listen to BWV 582 here
I played it from this score
Towards the end of the fugue, I decided I will improvise a short cadenza where the Frygian sixth chord with fermata is (around 14:00). Notice how I almost missed the re-entry of the music and had a hard time to come back from improvisation.
Let me know what your thoughts were while listening to this piece.
Today I would like to share a duet “Mein Freund ist mein” and chorale “Gloria sei dir gesungen” from cantata No. 140 by J.S. Bach (the same cantata where BWV 645 from Schubler collection is taken from). Ausra and I played these pieces as part of our Bach's 333rd birthday recital at Vilnius University St John's church last Saturday.
"Mein Freund ist mein" is a delightful and charming vocal duet between soprano and bass accompanied by the oboe and the basso continuo. Soprano and bass parts are interpreted by Vox Humana 8' stop.
"Gloria sei Dir gesungen" is the last movement of this cantata. We used Full Principal Chorus with 16', Tierce 1 3/5 and a mixture plus Bombarde 16' and Trompete 8.
Let us know if you enjoyed listening to them.
As part of our Bach's 333rd birthday recital Ausra and I have played this aria “Mein gläubiges Herze” from Cantata No. 68 as organ duet. The registration was: soprano solo - Flutes 8', 4,' 2'. Violoncello solo - Viola Gamba 8', Rohrflöte 8', Flauto 4'. Bass - Principal 16', Flauto Major 8' and Flauto Minor 4'.
In the second half of the aria when the soprano stops singing, solo oboe enters and our assistant Mindaugas from the Unda Maris organ studio changed the right hand stop combination accordingly. Ausra played soprano and oboe parts on the right, and I - violoncello and the bass on the left.
Listen to it here
Let us know if you enjoyed this beautiful piece.
I have played these pieces as part of our Bach's 333rd Birthday Recital at Vilnius University St John's church.
“Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit”, BWV 669 registration: right hand - Cornet, left hand - Principal 8', Pedals - Principalbass 16', Majorbass 16' and Fullbass 8'.
“Christe, aller Welt Trost”, BWV 670 registration: solo voice was played with Trompette 8' and Octave 4'. Right hand - with Principal 8' and Octave 4'. Pedals - same as before plus Subbass 16', Flautbass 8 and Flautbass 4.
“Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist”, BWV 671 registration: Organo Pleno - full principal chorus with mixtures and 16' in the manual and with Posaune 16' as well as Subbass 32' in the pedals.
Let me know your thoughts while listening to these chorale preludes. The scores with fingering and pedaling are available here, here and here.
Prelude and Fugue in Eb Major, BWV 552 is the most beloved organ piece by J.S. Bach for a lot organists. It's true for Ausra as well. Listen in as she played it during our Bach's 333rd Birthday Recital at Vilnius University St John's church.
Registration - Full Principal Chorus (Organ Pleno) with 16' and mixtures in the manuals, 1 3/5' on the Great to imitate a Tierce mixture which was common in Bach's area at the time. Principals 16', 8', and 4' and Posaune 16' in the Pedals.
Let us know your thoughts while listening to this fabulous piece.
AVA186: I get stuck when playing organ which I think is due to lack of finger movements/accuracy and speed
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 186 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. Today's question was sent by Patrick. He writes:
I hope you're doing fine. Please, I am requesting to be helped with the PDF files for the "fingering substitution" and "sequences" exercises. Because, sometimes I get stuck when playing organ. And I think it is due to lack of finger movements/accuracy and speed.
V: Do you think Ausra that finger accuracy and speed is important when you play the organ?
A: I think that accuracy is more important than speed because you know if you are playing accurately then speed will come.
V: Right. Because when you are playing fast and not ready for that fast movement you are making mistakes and being inaccurate.
A: That's right and I think this might perhaps you know when Patrick practices. At least that’s the impression I got after reading his question.
V: Exactly. I think it’s so important to play the organ slowly enough for long enough. Right? Lots of people don’t have the patience to play, you know, very very slow for a long period of time. For example right now we are playing in a few days Bach’s birthday recital. I’ll be practicing this week Bach’s Passacaglia and three of his organ preludes from the Clavierubung Part III. Kyrie, Christe, and Kyrie. And last week when we practiced with Ausra at the church I played everything at a concert tempo with some mistakes. And now since I know all the spots where I make mistakes my goal for this week is to play extremely slow. Is this a right strategy Ausra?
A: Yes, I think so, yes.
V: You said yourself that you will not be playing fast this week.
A: That’s right.
V: So Patrick is kind of getting stuck with accuracy and speed. But it’s not necessarily because of fingering substitution and sequence exercises, right? You can play literally anything you want on the organ as long as you are hitting the right notes.
A: That’s right and that technique such as fingering substitution requires especially good technique and it means that you know you need to learn that piece slowly first. But you know all those fingering substitutions which come up naturally.
V: By sequences do think that he means those four-part chordal progressions which go upwards in ascending motion or descending motion.
A: I’m not sure about this part of the question because he you know talks about PDF files and I think my sequences are on YouTube and not on the PDF.
V: So maybe he means something else. But playing sequences is part of the curriculum at school right? Where we teach.
V: For harmony. And this is not only good for understanding chordal harmony but probably good for keyboard technique as well.
A: Yes and for improvisation and in general for you know for playing repertoire. Because I notice that sometimes you know when my concentration you know disappears during recital for example and I’m at a place of cadence I can just play it.
V: A cadence.
A: Yes, a cadence.
V: Or a sequence.
A: A cadence, a sequence and all those you know theoretical things.
V: You know I think a few years ago I was substituting for a few weeks in a row for our friend Paulius at his church, he was still playing at the Holy Cross Church here in Vilnius and he was away for vacation and he asked me to substitute I think in Lent. And since I agreed I thought how I could best use the situation to my advantage and what I did I played Prelude, Offertory, Communion, and Postlude as improvisation but in the form of versets and those versets basically were just longer forms of modulations and sequences and cadences that were playing at school. Does this sound like beneficial Ausra?
A: Yes, it sounds beneficial. And another thing you know that I laugh at some beginners you know don’t have good muscle technique in fingers.
V: Finger independence.
A: Yes. So and that’s because the muscles are just too weak.
V: I know how to fix this.
A: And I think this might be a problem why you know you can not do sequences and playing the fast tempo accurate.
V: I know what to do. Patrick and other people could benefit from this too.
A: Because so many people come to the organ after playing piano first. And you know piano it’s much easier for fingers to play on the piano because sort of the touch is softer and you have that nice sostenuto pedal which can you know sort of cover up all your you know mistakes and makes things easier.
V: And organ doesn’t forget this.
A: Yes, organ doesn’t forget it.
V: And doesn’t forgive.
A: That’s right. Because on the organ if you have to play legato you have to use you know your fingers. If you need to articulate you have to use your fingers. You have no sostenuto pedal whatsoever. So you have to have you know finger independence and you know good good muscles.
V: As I said, I know how to fix this. Would you like to hear the solution?
A: Sure, of course. And I know you are eager to tell it.
V: Like you know the famous answer from “Pride and Prejudice.”
V: Tell us.
A: (laughs.) “You want to tell me and I have no objections to hearing it.” That’s what Mr. Bennett told to his wife when she was gossipping.
V: OK. Then you will be Mr. Bennett and I will be your wife.
A: Yes. Excellent.
V: So, solution, according to Mr. Bennet’s wife or Mr. Bennet who I am now. So everybody knows the benefit of playing Bach’s inventions right? They are pedagogical little gems but not only pedagogical they are beautiful little miniatures for two voices. One for the right hand, another for the left hand. And you know in our youth you know we have played maybe a few of them, 1,2,3, until our teacher said “That’s OK, were going on to the next collection, maybe three part sinfonias now.” Right? Because in our classroom curriculum there is no time to play everything. But believe me when Bach wrote this collection for his son Wilhelm Friedemann I can guarantee that Wilhelm Friedemann played all fifteen of them. Do you believe this Ausra?
A: Yes, I believe it.
V: So, if you want to be at least as good as Wilhelm Friedemann and maybe even better, play those fifteen two-part inventions by Bach diligently at least for a few months and then decide if your technique is improving or not because each hand has its own beautiful melody. It’s like a two-part fugue basically, but not quite. Less complicated. But you will thank yourself for this later. Right Ausra?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: All of them. But not in the order that you know in the modern collections but in the order that they were written first. And the order was different. It was written in a different setting of keys; C Major, D Minor, E Minor, F Major, G Major, A Minor, B Minor, B-flat Major, A Major, G Minor, F Minor, E Major, E-flat Major, D Major, and C Minor. Imagine that. The second invention that we now have in the modern editions is C Minor but it is the most difficult invention from all collections. So people who learn C Major first and then jump to C Minor get frustrated right away. It’s almost like a canon - very advanced melodic line and I recommend leaving it for the last.
A: Yes and if you want to see original there is a facsimile edition of you know Bach’s inventions and you can find the original order in that collection.
V: What you do Ausra if you have mastered, even memorized all those fifteen inventions. What would you play next?
A: Then I would play three-part sinfonias.
V: I knew that. We are very similar.
A: And, you know at school we called them inventions as well. I don’t know why. That was the case at least at my school.
V: Because they are from the similar collections, right? Fifteen, fifteen. And the order of original ordering of keys is the same. Not C Major, C Minor, but C Major, D Minor. Right? That was original ordering that Bach wrote for his son, Wilhelm Friedemann. So then afterwards, after those two-part inventions, study three-part sinfonias. And afterwards check your technique. You will not believe what you have achieved at that time. So maybe it will take you I don’t know a year or two to do this but since you have a lifetime of education and improvement there is no rush.
A: And actually this collection is equally good for piano and for organ. Because for example Well Tempered Clavier, I would not suggest to play it on the organ. But but inventions sounds well on the organ.
V: Yeah, because each voice is so obligato and cantabile manner so you could even sing. Oh, you could improve your perfect pitch also, you could sing each line as we sometimes suggest and play the rest. That would be extremely beneficial. Of course, this is not for the weak of will.
V: But we teach the best. Thanks guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
AVA185: I could have done more back in high school if I had followed our then teacher's advice to practice 4 hours a day
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 185, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Leon. And he writes:
I have a ways to go before I am ready for BWV 531 by Bach, let alone Franck’s Finale. Thanks to one of your recent podcasts I have added the "Applicatio" to my Dupré chorale time each day. I had already changed his heel-&-toe pedals to toes only. When the "Applicatio" is comfortable, I will change the fingerings. My skills are generally improving, but I had still been resisting putting in 4 hours a day. From a recent discussion with my brother, I was reminded that I could have done more back in high school if I had followed our then teacher's advice to practice 4 hours a day. Writing up new practice schedule now.
V: Ausra; do you regret of not playing for four hours a day when you were first studying playing the organ? Or maybe you did play four hours a day.
A: Not every day, but sometimes, yes, I would play four hours a day.
V: How did you feel afterwards?
A: Well, I felt good, but of course, I didn’t have the possibility, you know, to play and to practice every day for four hours on the organ, because I did not have an access to the instrument.
V: What is the average time you would suggest people might practice every day, depending on their schedule, health, condition, and availability of the instrument?
A: Well, you know I think that the best way to practice for two hours. But one hour is already good, so everything depends on the, you know, your, your way of life, and you know.
V: And your goals.
A: Yes, and your goals.
V: It’s hard to tell precisely for everyone, but probably for the most efficient way of practicing I’ve found is depending on your own plans and goals, that you could play at least three times, you know, each fragment or each piece, you would have enough time. For example, if I’m practicing really slowly and I’m playing, let’s say, five pieces at the moment, and if those five pieces take about, about maybe half an hour to play, so I would maybe practice ninety minutes, you know, with some breaks in between maybe in order to be able to repeat everything three times, at least three times. How does it sound for you, Ausra?
A: Yes, it sounds perfectly fine.
V: And um, what would be the incorrect way of practicing, scheduling for practice? Too much or too less time?
A: Both these, you know, ways would be wrong. You know, you need all this to practice as much as you know, your head can still guide you. Because the mind, you know, what you’re thinking is the most important. Because, you know, if you just play, you know, to break up some records, you know, or to make some records, oh, today, practice for six hours straight. That’s wrong way you know, of practicing.
V: What happens tomorrow, right? You’re exhausted.
A: Yes, I know, and plus, you know if you practice too much it means that you just are doing mechanical work without much thinking, and it’s never good.
V: Mmm, hmm. So, two hours is probably optimum time.
A: Yes, I would say so.
V: So in my case, for example, if I can play a few of my pieces three times right, or more, maybe five times, so I might play a little bit more than two hours. But then I am careful and take breaks, frequent breaks, drink a glass of water in between, have a walk, stretch, things like that, to refresh my mind.
A: Yes. I wish I would have time for to practice everyday for two hours.
V: Would you practice if you had?
A: Yes, I would.
V: How much time would you practice if you had all the time in the world.
A: I think I would practice more than two hours. Three maybe.
V: Three! That’s a lot.
V: You can do a lot of things in three hours.
A: Well, you know, every day I spend a lot of time at the keyboard, but unfortunately instead of practicing what I need to practice for my organ things, I just play, you know, the pieces for my students at school.
V: Could you divide the dictations based on your pieces?
A: Probably not.
V: Like I do sometimes?
A: No. I don’t think administration would be happy about it.
V: (Laughs). I know what you mean. Um, sometimes I choose segments or, or, or even variations from my, you know, pieces that I’m playing right now at the moment, and especially if I haven’t practiced that day, that I’m teaching, and I say “oh guys, now there will be dictation, in two parts. Right hand in the treble clef and the bass clef will be played by the left hand”. Let’s say we’ll have like twenty measures, not eight measures, but long dictation, and I would play for them like ten times or twenty times.
A: And, are they will to write it down?
V: Oh, that’s a good question. Something like the soprano voice, yes. But when it comes to the bass clef they generally are lost.
A: Because you know, when I’m giving them like Christmas dictation, based on Christmas carols, some of them that we know well, some of them they can write down, but if it’s a little bit more sophisticated then that’s all. They cannot, you know finish it.
V: Why do you think the second voice is so difficult to hear for them?
A: Well, um, for those who play just a melodic instrument like flute or violin, I think they are not used to hearing the bass line. Or like piano measures you know, choir conducting measures, that’s an easier way to write the bass. Or for someone who plays cello or trombone.
V: But even people who play cello they cannot really think in two parts, they just hear one voice.
A: Well you know for kids, it’s often the case that they can write down what they can sing, I mean what is in their voice range, in their diapason, so, and usually because kids have high voice and they can sing in the first and then second octave but not so much you know, in the lower octave, in the bass range, so, and because the second voice in those low octaves.
V: Do you think that some of our organ students around the globe are writing dictations too, based on their organ works, let’s say?
A: I don’t know. And honestly, the longer I live, the less I think, you know, that writing down dictations improves you hearing so much.
A: I think there are better ways how to improve your hearing and your pitch.
V: Oh, you know a secret. Tell us.
A: Well I think actually that singing what you are playing improves it a lot and playing organ improves it a lot. Because let’s say for example, pianist plays a Bach’s fugue on the piano and you know, let’s say three voices, three parts with fugue, so, you know the theme comes and he can play it louder, and you know other voice not so loud. And when another you know, theme comes in and he can also to play it forte, or you know louder in other voices. But in the organ we don’t have that possibility. For example you playing the fugue by Bach and you play it organo pleno. How can you make one voice sound louder than another voice?
V: Then you need to hear it.
A: Yes, you need to hear it of course,,,
V: Listen to it.
A: Of course, you need to articulate it but definitely need to hear it, and how can you hear it if all voices, all four voices, sound, you know, loud. Equally loud.
V: Would singing each part help?
A: Yes. It helps a lot.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: I’m convinced of it.
V: So, guys, whenever you have some quality time at the organ, consider singing some of the inner parts, especially. And not playing not necessarily all other parts, but just let’s say, one additional voice, like in two parts, combinations. Or just maybe, for starters, just a single line, right? Especially if you know the melody well, you should be able to repeat it with your voice.
A: Yes, and I’m convinced that if you can sing all the voices you can play them too.
V: Mmm, hmm. That’s a good advice. I think that we are singing not enough in this age and day.
A: Well, that’s because we have, you know, iPods and MP3 things and smart phones and all that our day of technique.
V: Which sings for us.
A: Yes, and plays for us too.
V: Mmm, hmm. Back in Bach’s day, probably they didn’t have any other options to entertain themselves but to sing and play.
A: That’s right. Even not as far back, even when my parents were young for example. They would go dancing each weekend, and they did not have recordings you know, and they spent time in the villages so they had to play themselves.
V: And making music together with other members of the family or your friends, it’s so rewarding. It strengthens probably your connection with those people. Like you become closer basically.
A: That’s true.
V: Would you, Ausra, recommend, our students make music together with their family members, let’s say?
A: That’s a lot of fun if you have opportunity you know, if you have family members that can sing or you know, play an instrument, you definitely have to make music together.
V: Like we do on the organ bench. We sit and we play together with four hands. Is it fun for you, or, or you feel some pressure?
A: Well yes, it’s fun.
V: You don’t feel like pressure, from me, or I don’t feel pressure from you.
A: I don’t feel pressure from you. I don’t know about you, maybe you feel pressure, pressure from me.
V: Stupid question. I know.
A: I enjoy playing together.
V: So why don’t we now go and practice together,,,
V: Organ duets.
V: And you guys do the same, right? If you find a friend on the street, grab him or her and bring them to church or whatever, and practice some Bach. Thanks guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember to send us your questions. We love to helping you grow. And don’t forget to practice. Because when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
This is a collection of transcripts from #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast (157 pages). Vol. 8. (PDF file). For students who want to have all our ideas in one place.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this e-book:
1. PLEASE HELP ME LEARN TO PLAY ORGAN PEDALS
2. HOW TO SUBDIVIDE IN 2/2 TIME
3. HOW TO PLAY ORGAN PEDALS WITHOUT LOOKING DOWN AT YOUR FEET
4. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST AND WORST STOP COMBINATIONS?
5. THERE IS A GREAT AND PROFOUND JOY IN PRACTICING AND PERFORMING ON THE ORGAN
6. I WOULD REALLY LIKE TO REVIEW YOUR RECOMMENDED FINGERINGS WHILE I'M ON THE ROAD
7. WHEN TO PLAY THE "AMEN" OF A HYMN?
8. HOW TO USE FINGER SUBSTITUTION TO IMPROVE LINE
9. THE AMOUNT OF TIME WE WASTE ON THINGS IS FRIGHTENING
10. KEYS MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE THEIR OWN "FLAVOR"
11. 10 DAY HYMN PLAYING CHALLENGE
12. WHAT ARE 20 OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ORGAN STOPS?
13. HAVE YOU MOVED THE PODCAST FEED OVER TO ANOTHER PROVIDER?
14. I HAVE BEEN INFORMED THAT IF I DO A HIGH VOLUME VOLUNTARY IT MAY DISTURB PEOPLE TALKING
15. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE FINGERING FOR TRADITIONAL HYMNS
16. CONCENTRATING ON THE MANUAL PARTS WHEN THE PEDAL ENTERS IS A CHALLENGE
17. YOU'VE SPOKEN ABOUT THE LINEAGE THROUGH YOU TO BACH
If you liked our other e-books from #AskVidasAndAusra collection, we're sure you will love this one too.
Until March 30 this e-book is available for the low 2.99 USD price.
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Free for Total Organist students
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 184 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Tony. And he writes:
Thanks for your very helpful guidance on organ playing. I've played for 55 years, and am still learning!
Perhaps some of your web-followers might appreciate a list of Bach chorale preludes suitable for Holy Week? I'd be very grateful for this, as they seem to be scattered over many books and collections.
With much appreciation,
I think, Ausra, this is a great question to discuss Orgelbüchlein Chorales, don’t you think?
A: Yes, because Orgelbüchlein has quite a few that suit us for Holy Week.
V: For example, “O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig”--we’re looking at the score right now, and it says it’s a canon, right?
V: Where is the canon, do you know?
A: Well, you can see it right away. It starts in the LH, and then goes to the RH.
V: The canon...What about--where is the cantus firmus, here?
A: It’s in the bass.
V: In the bass.
A: In the pedal.
V: And in the alto.
V: But the interval between the bass and the alto is not an octave, but a fifth.
A: It’s a fifth.
V: So it’s a canon of the fifth.
A: But also, you can see that the same--actually, the accompaniment that starts right away in the LH is repeated then a half measure later in the RH.
A: So you not only have a canon between cantus firmus, but you have it in 2 other voices, as well.
V: Mhmm. How would you register it? Reed, probably, in the pedals, or not?
A: Well, yes, something more audible. You need to hear the bass.
A: But also, you know…
V: Which descends lower--the LH or the pedals, here?
A: Hmm, it depends on how you’re registering. If you’re registering pedal with a 16’, then the bass goes lower.
V: I mean, which voice has the bass? LH, or the pedals, here?
V: Does it mean that the pedal part should not have a 16’ stop here?
A: Yes, I think so. I think it should be based on an 8’ stop.
V: And then probably the rest of the voices can be played on a single manual, right? Or not?
A: Probably, yes.
V: Because look--the span between the hands is sometimes too big for one hand, right?
A: That’s right, yes; you have to help sometimes, to play some music from the treble clef from your LH.
V: Mhmm. The next chorale, “Christe, du Lamm Gottes”--is it also suitable for Holy Week, or not?
A: Yes, I think so, because you know, “Lamb of God”--definitely I think it’s sort of a little bit similar in his meaning with the first one.
V: Mhmm. And if I’m counting voices correctly, here are 5 voices, now.
V: And the canon is at the 15--basically, an octave plus a fifth. Where is this canon? I have to find it...Oh, between the soprano, right, and the tenor in the LH.
A: But then it starts in the bass, too.
V: And then, probably, you need 2 manuals for that, right?
A: Yes, I think so, yes--definitely.
V: Mhm. But 2 voices would be played on each manual, so basically, not necessarily a reed--not necessarily a solo registration, but kind of a combination of stops.
A: I think this chorale might sound good on the soft stops. Because look at all the descending melodies--all the time going down.
A: So you probably wouldn’t want to add mixtures or something--louder reeds, for this chorale.
V: And you’re right--pedals could have 16’ stop, right?
A: Yes, yes.
V: Because it’s not a solo stop.
A: That’s right.
V: In the tenor range. It’s real bass. Maybe--how about 8’ and 4’ flute combinations in each hand?
A: I think that’s what I do. And 16’ and 8’ in the pedal.
V: Mhm. The next chorale is also a canon--“Christus, der uns selig macht.”
V: Between the soprano and bass, right?
A: That’s right.
V: Do you think that it could be played louder?
A: Could be, although we are talking about Holy Week, so I would not suggest to play very loudly during Holy Week.
V: Mm, I see.
A: What about you? What do you think?
V: Depends on your congregation--how conservative it is. Right?
A: But I think all that waiting, you know, for the drama that happens on Good Friday...
A: Or...Good Friday--what is it called in English?
V: Good Friday.
A: Good Friday, yes.
V: The next is “Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund.” That’s definitely the chorale suitable for Holy Week.
A: Yes, because it means, you know, “When Christ was on the cross.”
V: Mhm. And the texture here is very simple, right? Soprano has the cantus firmus, and the rest of the voices have figurations and imitate each other. Am I right?
A: Yes, that’s right, yes.
V: Would you play it on one manual, or on two manuals?
A: I would play it on one manual. What about you?
V: On one manual, because, let’s say, in the sixth measure, between the alto and the tenor, you have intervals of more than an octave. So there’s no way you could play it on one manual--the 2 inner voices. So therefore, you need all 3 parts together on one manual, and sometimes playing alto in the LH, sometimes in the RH.
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: Most of the time in the RH. Mhm. And now we come to the most famous chorale from the Orgelbüchlein suitable for Holy Week: “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß.” And this is an extremely slow tempo, right Ausra?
A: Well, yes--yes and no. It’s a slow tempo, but it doesn’t feel like so slow, because it has that ornamented cantus firmus in the soprano, which has many ornaments and 32nd notes. So sort of despite the Adagio assai tempo, which is really so...it still...the music still flows.
V: Mhm. It’s in a beautiful E♭ Major key. And for that, you probably need some solo registration in the RH.
A: Oh, yes, definitely, you have to have it.
V: What kind of options do we have here?
A: Well, you could have some sort of reed…
A: It would be one of the options. Also you could use a cornet.
V: Maybe principal.
A: Yes, maybe principal too. It depends what you will put in the accompaniment, LH, and the pedals.
A: And of course, you know, you need to find out which stop is the nicest on the organ, too.
V: Mhm. To have a singing quality.
V: Don’t forget to play adagissimo at the end--to slow down extremely.
A: Yes. At that last cadence.
V: Mhm. And the last choice from Orgelbüchlein for Lent and probably for Holy Week would probably be, “Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ, dass du für uns gestorben bist.” What does it mean?
A: “We thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, that you have died for us.”
V: Uh-huh. It’s a little bit joyful, right? This texture, and faster tempo, I see.
A: It feels like in this chorale, you already have that feeling of what will soon happen, you know--that the Resurrection will happen soon.
V: Mhm. Excellent. And it also has 4 voices--3 lower parts imitate each other, and the cantus firmus is in the soprano.
A: That’s right.
V: So guys, that will be a great place to start, right Ausra?
V: It’s not terribly difficult; some of them are, but doable. Of course, it depends on your level of advancement.
A: Yes. I’m just wondering why Bach wrote so many of those Holy Week chorales based on canon technique. Don’t you find that it’s odd?. Maybe he was exploring canon technique at that time?
V: Yeah, he was probably creating this collection as a compendium of all possible techniques and textures suitable for chorale development.
A: That’s right.
V: And then later he stopped, because, as we think--or, not only we, but common scholarship--thinks that he got carried away with larger projects.
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: Okay! Thank you so much, guys, for listening. We hope you can apply our advice in your practice. Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. This was Vidas!
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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