SOPP608: "For the moment my challenge is BWV 564. I am able to play the toccata by heart, Adagio I still need the score and fugue is not yet on an optimal level."
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 608 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Paul, and he writes:
“Thank you for sending your Organ Duet Recital. Bravo!
For the moment my challenge is BWV 564. I am able to play the toccata by heart, Adagio I still need the score and fugue is not yet on an optimal level.
I try to realize what you call articulate legato.
V: Do you know the piece that he is talking about?
A: Yes, it’s famous! C Major Toccata Adagio and Fugue!
V: When was the last time you played it?
A: Well, I think it was back in the United States. Actually with this Toccata, I was accepted to a few different doctoral programs in the US, so although I haven’t played it for many years now, I know this piece very well.
V: Do you have a wish to play it sometime in the future?
A: Well, yes, I was thinking about it, but it’s not on the top of the list of my wishes. But definitely, I think I will play it again someday, because it’s a beautiful of music.
V: Yes, I will also try to refresh it. I played it probably at Eastern Michigan University? Maybe…
A: I highly doubt it, because that’s where I played it, so I don’t think we both did it at the same time.
V: Oh, I thought you were me!
A: Oh…. Ok…. Should I look at it as a compliment or not?
V: Yeah. So then, I might have played it even earlier than you.
A: I think so. I think you played it earlier, before our studies in the United States.
V: In the Masters program at the Academy...
A: I think so, yeah.
V: ...of Music in Lithuania. So of course, we are glad that our organ duet recital was liked by Paul.
A: Yes. It’s really exciting.
V: When people send us feedback and positive feedback, it only helps us to keep going, right?
A: Yes, it’s a big motivation, actually.
V: Imagine, Ausra, if everybody who wrote you would have written negative comments.
A: Well, I would have stopped playing, probably by now.
V: Definitely. Me, too! But since we know that some people appreciate it and in the future, people who have not yet discovered those videos, maybe, hundreds of people… thousands maybe in the future, it helps us keep going and plan for future recitals, too.
A: Okay, let’s talk now a little bit about this Toccata Adagio and Fugue! How do you like it? Do you think it’s a difficult piece of music or not?
V: It has some, let’s say, nasty parts.
A: I would say that probably it’s the hardest out of all five toccatas by J. S. Bach.
V: Not nasty, I should say, tricky parts. There’s nothing nasty about it.
A: Yes, it’s very beautiful, actually. I think that Especially the Adagio section is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. Don’t you agree?
V: Yes, it’s worth it to be sent out to the outer space as a specimen of human accomplishment.
A: Yes, and I love that Toccata so much, because it has such excitement in it—all those fast passaggio—especially the pedal solo part is really exciting.
V: The pedal part you mention here is a good way to get a little bit deeper into this. It has triplets… not triplets, but those three note motifs, you know what I’m talking about…
V: ...and since early pedaling is mainly alternate-toe pedaling, left-right-left-right, or right-left-right-left, three note motifs like this pose considerable difficulties. Don’t you think?
A: Yes, yes!
V: I’ve seen people do it with heels, I’ve seen people do it with left-right-left, right-left-right, crossing their feet and then stumbling…
A: And you know, right now, talking about this piece, I remember that actually I also played it in Lithuania in the Academy of Music when I was a student, and I used the heels and all that kind of stuff, and then in America, actually, I relearned it in the historic performance practice way.
V: In Lithuania you had a heel loving professor.
A: True, as did you!
V: Yeah, we both did. Different professors, though, but actually…
A: I think they all loved heels!
V: Yeah. So, yeah. In my score that I prepared, I have, of course, pedaling written in, so anybody who’s curious can check it out.
A: Yes, and I’m thinking about this fugue, which is so exciting, too, because it has such a fast tempo, and it’s basically a dance! What kind of a dance is it, Vidas?
V: The fugue? Oh…. I always like to say that it’s a gigue!
A: Yes, actually, it sounds like a gigue! At least the tempo is almost like a gigue!
V: But remember, there was a funny story with Guy Bovet and this fugue?
A: Yes, I remember when you were translating what he is talking about, and you added your remarks as well to his text! That wasn’t very nice!
V: Yeah. I thought everybody in the world knows that this is a gigue fugue, but apparently it wasn’t the main point that he was thinking about. That was back in 2007 he was visiting Lithuania and played a concert in our church, and I was translating from English into Lithuanian. Actually, this was one of the few concerts in this church that people came to see in droves! They flocked to the church! It was fully packed! More than 300 people were sitting.
A: I think not everybody got a seat! I think some of them were standing up because they could not be seated, there were so many of them.
V: Yeah, the ticketing process was not over in 30 minutes, which is unheard of in a situation like this for organ concerts. So basically, he played all kinds of repertoir. It was really nice. By the way, this was the time that he played Mendelssohn’s Adagio in D Major variations that Ausra loves so much!
A: Yes, and I just fell in love with that piece! I think it sounds just so beautiful at St. John’s Church. In general, the more I live, the more I think that Mendelssohn sounds particularly nice on St. John’s organ.
V: I played Mendelssohn today, there. Yeah, second Prelude and Fugue. I was just practicing, testing my live streaming, too. So but anyway, I think, getting back to this C Major Toccata Adagio and Fugue, I think in Adagio people should add more flourishes and ornaments and improvisation. Don’t you think?
A: Yes, I think so!
V: It’s very appropriate.
A: It is.
V: Because there are quite a few repeats.
A: Definitely, I think it sounds better when you repeat something in a little bit different way than you played at first.
V: Yes. I think I’ve heard Ludger Lohmann on CD improvise wonderful passaggios there. You remember that CD recording?
A: Yes, I remember that.
V: It’s very appropriate. So from hearing his recording, I got many ideas of my own and started adding flourishes in many other places of Baroque music, and it just feels natural to add something in a musical style where adding was like the right thing to do.
V: Wonderful. So guys, please keep sending us your question; we love helping you grow. And check out the score for Adagio Toccata and Fugue… no… Toccata Adagio and Fugue in C Major, BWV564 if you need fingering and pedaling. Of course if you can figure it out for yourself, it’s okay. And if you can figure it out the efficient way to produce articulate legato especially not thinking about it but naturally—automatically, basically. For this, my score is very helpful. Alright, and remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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By Vidas Pinkevicius
To me the most amazing thing about the Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C major by Bach is how difficult it is to play this piece. It's like learning to stand on your hands.
To observe an organist playing BWV 564 is the same as being asked "what happened when you lost control of your balance?"
"Well, I was trying to do this thing with my hands, dangled with my feet at some point and in the end my body tumbled down completely exhausted."
In order for you to avoid these troubles, Ausra and I have prepared a PDF score of this piece with complete fingering and pedaling for ideal articulation. We're offering a 50 % discount until August 10.
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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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