VIDAS: Hi, guys. This is Vidas.
AUSRA: And Ausra.
Lets continue our discussion from yesterday about articulation in baroque music. Listen to the audio version here.
A: You just not play like non legato, but you know you think about the meter, you think about strong and weak beats.
V: But that is another level of sophistication, right?
V: Not every note is full of value then and in duration but before the strong beat you are to play it more.
A: Yes, that is true.
V: Or before the relatively strong beat such as the third beat in the 4/4 meter. You also articulate a little bit more than before the second or the fourth beat.
A: Yes, that is correct. And you know I believe it’s hard for people who were studying in their youth to play Bach legato and now they have to relearn it. And George Ritchie and Quentin Faukner, our professors we were both taught to play legato Bach when we were young. And we had to actually to adjust and to relearn it and they just succeeded in doing that so well.
V: So what does it tell you, Ausra, what qualities should you retain even if you age.
A: Well I think you still have to retain a high quality
V: I mean, quality in your character; if you all the time, all your life have learned a certain way, right, and then styles change with times, and you still continue to play in a certain way you are sort of left behind, right? So what I mean you should stay curious about new developments in your research.
A: Yes, certainly. Don’t trust that old saying that an old dog cannot learn new tricks. That is probably not true. I am talking about us, in general, you know people, human beings.
V: Yeah, we can learn new tricks all the time.
A: Yes, and if you don’t trust us, play or listen to different recordings when Bach is played legato, and when it is played non-legato. YouTube is full of excellent recordings.
V: And listen to baroque violins...
V: Bowing, down, up, down, up. At the instant that the player changes the direction of the bow, there is a very short, almost imperceptible silence, but that is articulation.
A: Yes, that is true, yes.
V: So it should be a singing manner, cantabile manner of singing, such as Bach described in the title page of his 2-part inventions. Don’t play in a choppy manner, but try to physically sing the parts. That is a good practice too.
A: Yes, I think it takes years and years to master all the baroque articulation. It’s a separate world within the organ world.
V: And if you want to master it easier, then simply apply early fingerings, right?
A: Sure. That helps too.
V: We try to help you by providing you with early music scores like that, so that you have instant fingering and further linking your organ pieces. You can start practicing right away almost without thinking. It’s given, it’s almost automatic because it works in a way that the fingering will produce perfect articulation.
A: Yes, it helps. It means that if you choose your pedaling and fingering correctly then you don’t have to worry so much about articulation because it is automatically done.
V: Wonderful. And of course if you compare organ with wind instruments, there is another similarity, right? Like tonguing. Each not is also articulated, unless they are playing legato.
A: Yes, that is correct.
V: Like tah tah tah tah tah. Each note is articulated in, let’s say, oboe or flute, and trupet players do the same in their way. So it was a widespread practice, across the board, in all musical instruments, in the music composed, I would say, up until the 19th century.
V: Or even sometimes into the 19th century, right?
A: That is true.
V: Remember the famous saying of Franz Liszt, which he spoke while he was traveling through the villages of Germany, and that he was amazed that some people in those villages were still playing with an articulated manner in the middle of the 19th century – which means really that this articulated legato did not go out of fashion overnight on January 1, 1800. Someone decided ‘no, no, no, you should be playing legato and suddenly they began playing legato. But it was a very gradual process partly dictated by the composers together with the instrument builders, because the style of instruments changed, and the style of music changed as well as the fact that the style of composing also had changed. It was similar to opera and piano music, really, and symphonic music. That is how legato touch came into fashion.
A: I know, and this is a reminder that we must choose our music appropriately to fit our instrument. If you are working on a baroque instrument don’t choose music by Reubke. If you are playing on a Walcker organ or a Cavaille-Coll organ then don’t play Estampie Retrove from the Robertsbridge Codex from the 14th century.
V: I remember my first mistake in articulation when I was in the 10th grade. I was just starting to play the organ, and my first organ teacher had me choose one of the chorale preludes from Bach’s Orgelbuchlein. And she reminded me that you should use articulation between the voices. But at the age of 16 what did I understand about articulation? So for ten years before that I was taught to play everything legato. I could not simply change my playing style overnight. So over the course of two weeks I learned some episodes of that chorale prelude – I believe it was Jesu Meine Freude – and it was all legato. My first teacher was infuriated over that and said ‘you should not have even played this piece at all over those two weeks. Now you have to relearn it and it will take you months to change your playing style.’
So guys remember to think about the correct articulation from the start. It pays off in the future.
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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