AVA193: How do you recommend practicing to bring out the individual parts in BWV 671?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 193 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by Jasper and he wrote:
Thanks for the recordings of the BWV 669, 670 and 671 choral preludes. I purchased your 671 fingered score a couple of months ago and have had much enjoyment playing through it (very slowly). I am treating it more as an exercise in multiple parts as I cannot see myself playing it at listenable tempo. Incidentally, one thing I had to do was to white out all your fingering with correction fluid and print it back in freehand to a font size that my poor eyesight could cope with.
One question I have: how do you recommend practicing to bring out the individual parts? Just playing it through to get the fingering and notes correct must sound awful unless the parts can be articulated. To deal with this problem I assume two methods: one to play each part separately – although this is not easy with so many parts together on the printed score. The other seems to be to play everything but to concentrate on just one part at a time and ensure that at least that one ‘sings’.
V: So Ausra, first of all Jasper played Kyrie, Christe, and Kyrie from Clavierubung Part III by Bach, and he seemed to enjoy the recordings and he recently played the last Kyrie right? The five part setting and that’s a very thick texture.
A: Yes, it is but it’s very beautiful too.
V: He had to adjust my fingering a little bit to enlarge it right, because his eyesight is poor and he had to have a bigger font. So his question is about listening to individual parts, right? That’s a tricky question.
A: Yes it is.
V: Do you remember the time when you last played this piece. Did you have to do something special or articulation came more naturally for you?
A: Well it came quite natural although this chorale is not that easy to do because it is very chromatic and as you said earlier it’s a thick texture. But I had to practice each single line of this particular chorale. Usually I practice individual lines when I’m working on fugues.
V: Um, you know if you have a trouble to articulate thick texture it means just that this piece is too difficult to you.
A: Could be. Could be.
V: I would go back to the like three part texture or at least four part texture. You know because five part texture is something that has to come very naturally. When I played it for myself a few weeks ago yes I slowed down the tempo quite a bit, made it very very slowly and that saved me of course a lot of time. But I also didn’t practice each part separately. I listened to each part separately, yes, but I didn’t have to do all those separate parts because I prepared my homework you know for many years before.
A: Yes. Another thing that might help I think singing each line would help too.
V: He didn’t say Jasper about singing but he says to concentrate on just one part. He sort of concentrated, focused on one part at a time. And you suggesting basically to sing it, right?
V: That would probably help him a lot. I remember another trick I think my first organ teacher suggested to me. She was in Eduardas Balsys at the Art School, Elena Paradies I think her name was. She said you could play with silent keyboard, you know, one part and louder with the others, you know. The part you need to concentrate on you could first play louder that the others and then do the opposite, make it much softer that the others.
A: But I don’t think it would work for this chorale because you play all voices on one manual so how would you put it into a different manual?
V: Most of the time though, you could do two voices in each hand, most of time, not always. So then at least two parts would be softer and two parts would be louder. But it’s not perfect solution obviously. You suggested better I think right? To sing.
A: Yes and of course articulation. Doesn’t matter how many voices you play you must articulate each of it.
V: Well let’s assume that Jasper is so motivated to play this piece that he can do all those individual lines first, right? It will be more than sixteen combinations, maybe twenty something. Over twenty or even thirty. I haven’t counted all the individual solo parts, then two voice combinations, three part combinations, four part combinations, and only then, you know, five part texture. Maybe he can do that but not everybody is so focused, right?
V: But then you see he has to sing any part. Soprano, second soprano, alto, tenor, the bass in his range.
A: Yes, that’s true but I also mean that you must play all other voices you know, while you are singing one.
V: Ah, you are not suggesting that you omit that voice which is being sung.
A: No, no, no, no. Because I think it’s very important to practice in this kind of thick texture that you will get used to it and you could control your touch Ordinary Tuch.
V: If this was a training exercise you would omit.
A: Sure, but not in this case.
V: You would omit the part you are singing.
A: Because look, if you will omit one voice that you are singing for example you might ruin your fingering and it’s important to play with the same fingering all the time because you know, fasten up your progress.
V: Um-hmm. What if he uses you know, our scores with printed out fingering and pedaling and can then play let’s say one soprano and another to sing with correct fingering?
A: Well yes and no because still the position of the hand will be different while playing one voice.
V: Mmm. Your right, your right.
A: So I would say you know, practice all voices together. Maybe not all voices together but right hand, left hand, right hand and pedal, left hand and pedal, and then both hands together and then everything together. That’s what I would do. In slow tempo and sing each line.
V: And if it’s really really difficult or too difficult like huge mountain, like Everest in front of you then I think you should do a few easier pieces.
A: Yes and you know if you like this particular collection which I personally do I would suggest that you don’t start with large chorales. You could perfectly do those little ones.
V: and duets.
A: And duets, yes. And you know those little chorales are just wonderful pieces. Excellent examples of you know baroque writing and baroque composition and know these three kyries. I remember playing them in a concert actually those little ones in Lincoln. So, I think they are wonderful. Vater Unser is wonderful example of you know chorales, the short ones.
V: Um-hmm. Did you have fingering written out for those pieces or not?
A: Well maybe just a few spots you know for those.
A: But you know if you are a beginner organist I would suggest you write down fingering for those pieces as well.
V: We haven’t prepared such scores yet for you but in the future we hopefully will so stay tuned for that if you are you know, eager to play with our fingerings which produce natural articulate legato almost without thinking. OK thanks guys this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. It’s a really fascinating discussion we are having here with Ausra. We love helping you grow. 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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