I always liked crescendo pedal. It's my ultimate registration saver. It reminds me of the accelerator pedal in the car and I use it similarly.
When I drive a car, I slow down before a turn and speed up afterwards. So in a piece of organ music I step on a pedal right at the start of the episode and release the foot at the end of it.
Last time I did it on Vierne's Berceuse. I began with the string stops, of course, but at about measure 3 I really started to push.
First came in the flutes, then the principals, then the reeds and finally the mutations. 'Cause it's a French piece, you know. Everyone knows that in a French style the reeds come in before the mutations. The Germans do it in reverse.
I never understood, though, why my priest told me never to return to that church again. He was so uneducated...
A perfect sound for the Communion.
Today's question was posted by Dan. Over the last couple of years he's been interested in practicing Handel's Largo, perfecting his pedal technique, learning some basics of organ registration, and mastering BWV 549.
Here's what he writes:
Hi Vidas, and Ausra as well, just want to say, I’m loving the new podcast you two are doing. It’s quick, short and to the point. When I had initially found your stuff online at first Vidas, it was back in 2014 or so, and you hadn’t started the podcast as of yet then, but you were blogging at the time, it was great. The stuff that you are doing with the podcasts and site, is really awesome. I don’t think there are any other podcasters out there, at least that I could find, podcasting on the topic of the pipe organ.
Crescendo pedals. Are they worth using or not? Many organists have widely differing opinions on this aspect of organ playing, and running an organ. For example, I heard Peter Richard Conte, the Wanamaker organist, in an interview with American Public Media’s Michael Barone for a pipe dreams episode, say that his opinion of these devices was that they’re clunky, and not very useful. ON the other hand, Great and well-known American organist Virgil Fox, made a fair bit of use out of this device in his time.
Listen to the full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
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Vidas: Hi guys. This is Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: ... and we're starting episode 16 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today's question was sent by Dan. So he asks about crescendo pedals:
“Are they worth using or not? Many organists have widely different opinions on this aspect of organ playing and running an organ. For example, I heard Peter Richard Conte, the Wanamaker organist in an interview with American Public Media’s Michael Barone for a Pipedreams episode say that his opinion of these devices was that they’re clunky and not very useful. On the other hand, great and well-known American organist Virgil Fox made a fair bit of use out of this device in his time.”
So people say a lot of different things about crescendo pedals. Ausra, what do you think? What's your take on this for starters?
Ausra: I think that crescendo pedals might be really useful. Of course you don't have to use them when you are playing baroque music, Bach for example, but later, romantic and modern music, they can be quite a help, a big help. Especially when you don't have much time to rehearse, or you don't have time to rehearse at all and you need to change the dynamics so then I think crescendo pedal might be a great help.
Vidas: I remember playing Liszt's Ad nos Fantasy and Fugue. It’s a very long and sophisticated piece. He has a lot of dynamic changes, sometimes sudden, sometimes gradual. And yes, I did use this crescendo pedal system at First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska and also at First Plymouth Church there too. On two occasions basically. So it really saves time if the crescendo pedal is well balanced.
Ausra: Yes, I think so. Yes, if it's well balanced, then it's I think very well to use in such music, such as Reger, Liszt, and romantic composers if you are playing let's say a Sonata by Reubke. It might be a big help too.
Vidas: Would you say that for French music, crescendo pedals would work or not?
Ausra: It probably depends on the organ because I think it works better for German Romantic music but not maybe so much for French. But I think you could adapt probably on some organs.
Vidas: Because French system of making crescendo is different.
Ausra: Yes, yes that's right, yes.
Vidas: They use appel pedals and appel pedals are different than crescendo pedals. And they have a different way of adding stops, and the order of adding stops is different, right?
Ausra: Sure. But you know, when you are playing not on the French organ then you might adapt that thing as well the dynamic systems, the crescendos and diminuendos too. Because anyway if you know it's not a French organ, it doesn't have French stops. It will not sound like Cavaille-Coll anyway.
Vidas: Yeah, you're right probably. On most modern organs which are maybe symphonically conceived in conception, probably it's not a big difference to create dynamic changes with pistons, preset your own combinations that you designed yourself in advance, with pistons or with crescendo pedals because they are usually well balanced and still you add reeds from all divisions gradually. That's what's similar about French system anyway.
Ausra: Yes, that's right.
Vidas: So what kind of piece from French repertoire are you playing right now Ausra?
Ausra: Well actually I'm still repeating my 2nd Fantasie by Jehan Alain which I had played many years before.
Vidas: But that's another style, right? That's not necessarily Romantic.
Ausra: And actually I'm also repeating Franck’s Choral in B minor No. 2.
Vidas: Frank might be quite specific in saying here you should use Voix humaine registration right in those slow episodes. So with crescendo pedals it wouldn't work probably.
Ausra: I know. So my best advice would be with each you have to decide either to use it or to not use it. Just try it, check it and then you will see.
Vidas: But definitely for the late German Romantic music it would work, right?
Vidas: Even for Brahms’ Prelude and Fugue in G minor, would say. Probably you could find some use with the crescendo pedals there too.
Vidas: So this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice...
Ausra: 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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