SOPP693: Alina Rotaru on Early Music, Playing Harpsichord and Sigismundus Lauxmin International Harpsichord Contest
Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast #693!
Today's guest is harpsichordist Alina Rotaru. Alina studied piano and choral conducting at the music academy in her hometown of Bucharest. After moving to Germany, she studied harpsichord with Siegbert Rampe and Wolfgang Kostujak at the Folkwang University of the Arts Essen, with Bob van Asperen at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and with Carsten Lohff and Detlef Bratschke at the University of the Arts Bremen. She is an active soloist and ensemble player, and also in charge of various orchestral, opera, and sacred music projects of the German Early and Late Baroque as an artistic director. As a soloist, she has performed across most of Europe, as well as in Japan, South America and USA. She teaches at the University of the Arts in Bremen. Her solo recordings of harpsichord works by JP Sweelinck, JJ Froberger, and English virginalists have earned excellent reviews in the music press and among their peers. Together with viol player Darius Stabinskas, Alina is the co-founder of the ensemble MORGAINE, which focuses on the music of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In this conversation, we talk about her love for early music, playing harpsichord and Sigismundus Lauxmin International Harpsichord Contest which she organised the 2nd time this year.
Listen to the conversation
Today I recorded Allemande from Partita I, BWV 825 by J.S. Bach on Ruckers Harpsichord model Pianoteq software. Hope you will enjoy it!
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Today I had not much time to record between my online classes so I mastered Prelude from Bach's Partita No. 1, WV 825 using Ruckers harpsichord model and Pianoteq software. The sound is quite realistic. Enjoy!
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SOPP319: Have you ever partaken in an event where 2 organs (or organ + harpsichord/2 harpsichords) were played simultaneously?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 319, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Irineo. He writes:
Have you ever partaken in an event where 2 organs (or organ + harpsichord/2 harpsichords) were played simultaneously?
Very truly yours,
V: Uh, we certainly have played organ duets many times.
V: Does this count, Ausra? What to do you think?
A: (Laughs). I don’t think so, because I think what Irineo means, he means two instruments. But we definitely have played two instruments. Two...
V: Let’s say pianos—two pianos.
A: Two pianos. We played that...
V: Hindemith Sonata.
A: Many times, yes.
A: And Brahms’ variations and other pieces. Concerto by Telemann. And we also have played two harpsichords.
V: Two harpsichords.
V: Okay. On which occasion?
A: Well, at the Eastern Michigan University we have played a recital. Each of us played one of the solo pieces. I played the Italian concerto. It was entirely a J.S. Bach program. I played Italian concerto, you did French overture, and then we played two concertos, for harpsichord and orchestra but it was arranged for two harpsichords.
V: One was in D minor.
A: D Minor, where I played a solo part and then we switched to A Major concerto, and you played the solo part.
V: Wow. You remembered so many details.
A: Because I just loved that concerto.
V: How was I dressed?
A: I don’t remember that.
V: Probably black.
A: Sorry. This is not my strength.
V: How did you, were you dressed?
A: I don’t remember.
V: What did you eat for breakfast that day?
A: I don’t know. I just remember music.
V: I see. Um, maybe I need to eat more fish oil, then, to help with my memory.
A: Could be. But I don’t think it will help.
V: (Laughs). Nothing would help me.
A: Yes. Too hopeless case.
V: Alright. So what’s your impression about playing two instruments?
A: I love it!
V: More than playing one instrument together? Four hands?
A: Well, probably yes. Because you have sort of your space. You don’t have to share with same keyboards, which is very nice. Because sometimes when you are playing four-hands, it gets really uncomfortable. And I remember that Andreas Hildebrandt in Paslek, Poland, where that bench was so short, and we had to squeeze on it somehow to sit for entire hour and to play. It was really uncomfortable.
V: Let me say this: Hildebrand definitely didn’t plan on this organ to be played for two people.
A: That’s right. But when you play two different instruments, it’s wonderful. But if you are playing two different organs, you really need to be careful that they would be tuned in the same temperament.
V: How many organs or instruments do we have at home, Ausra?
V: Two. What kind of instruments?
A: Piano, and organ.
V: Can we play them both?
A: I have also block flutes, two block flutes, but I don’t remember where I purchased them.
V: Ah. You could call them by name.
V: Soprano flute, where you are? Alto?
A: That’s right.
V: So, could we play piano and organ together at home?
A: I think our piano is so out of tune that it really needs tuning and our organ is tuned in Kirnberger III temperament so I don’t think they would work together.
V: Mmm. And piano is tuned one half-step lower.
A: Yes, comparing to 440.
V: So it would be like comparing situation when ancient historical organ tuned in Kammerton tone half-step lower, about 415, would be played together with a 440 instrument, still tuned in Kirnberger. But in historical times I don’t think this was ever possible.
V: Can you promise me to try how it sounds, both instruments, and I can transpose something and you would play on the organ and see if that’s nice sound or not.
A: Yes, we could do that sometime. I could transpose too.
V: No, please...
A: But I cannot transpose.
V: No, no, no. Only one of us should transpose, because if you transpose and I transpose then the difference will be too much
A: But you know I transpose every day, in my work.
V: So maybe you should take a break from your work.
A: Yes. That would be nice.
V: For once. Okay. You see guys, we enjoy playing together in any situation, whether on one instrument or two instruments, when we get a chance. In our church of course, there are, there is a possibility to play two organs. Well there isn’t anymore because the chapel organ just broke recently. We broke it recently.
A: I broke it.
V: You did it. Okay. So we’re waiting for a new organ blower to arrive. But later of course, we could play the big organ and the little organ together. That would be nice. And there are some pieces written for the positive organ and the big organ too.
A: That’s right. What to you think about organ and harpsichord duets? Do you like it?
V: Mmm-hmm. I do. It’s so contrasting sound—organ sound lasts forever while harpsichord sound fades away very quickly. And you could play Soler concertos I think, very successfully with this kind of layout.
A: Sometimes Clavierubung III by J.S. Bach was done in that way that Prelude and Fugue and long chorales are played on the organ and the little ones are played on the harpsichord.
V: So not simultaneously but...
A: Yes, but still in the same...
V: In alternation. Right. I wonder why Irineo has this question about this instrument.
A: True. I he going to perform with somebody simultaneously?
V: Could be. Maybe a friend, or a family member. It’s quite common for two organists to go to one place. For example, if I had a friend, let’s say in Sweden, or in Poland, a local organist, and they have a concert series. They invite me, right? And I go to play may solo repertoire, and then we switch—he plays his own, and then we play both together on two different instruments, if they have one, if they have two different organs. But as you say, they need to be in tune.
A: Because I vaguely remember but I still remember a little about, when we had two organs, in nowadays, it’s called Holy Cross Church in Vilnius.
A: We had two organs, remember?
A: In the early days. But I don’t think we were entirely in the same tuning, and I heard some recitals where at least one or two pieces were played by two organists. I didn’t like it so much, actually.
A: Have you heard it?
V: No. You were living in Vilnius...
A: Oh, that’s right.
V: For a longer time.
A: That’s right.
V: You’re a native. Indigenous.
A: And you are, alien.
V: Alien, immigrant. From Klaipeda, from the seaport. Okay, so guys, if you ever try to install two instruments in your own church, or initiate a project like that, always make sure it’s in one tuning temperament. Or it could be in double tuning temperament—multiple temperaments—but in general, at some point those tuning systems should coincide. Okay guys, we hope this was useful to Irineo and others who are listening. And please us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
Yesterday we celebrated Independence Day in Lithuania. In the morning I also had a fascinating podcast conversation with the Italian organist and harpsichordist Maurizio Croci (the Artistic Director of Organ Academy in Fribourg, Switzerland) about his new CD "Bach Mirrored".
This project is based on the concept to find out Bach's harpsichord and organ works that are based on similar patterns and creative procedures.
Here 12 ideas that I learned from him:
1. Harpsichord helps organists to develop a better technique.
2. Harpsichord technique is meant to prolong sounds.
3. Organ technique is meant to make the sound more clear.
4. Intabulations were a standard practice among organists in the 16th and 17th centuries.
5. Same affects are valid for the same keys.
6. Bach's harpsichord and organ works often have commonalities.
7. Is it true for music of other composers as well?
8. Children love interdisciplinary events.
9. Variety is key in early music programming.
10. When composer creates, what comes first: keys or patterns?
11. In the 16th and 17th centuries all organists played any keyboard instrument of the day, including organ, harpsichord or clavichord.
12. For early music loving organists harpsichord is as essential as piano for enthusiasts of French symphonic style.
Next time I'll play or listen to Bach's harpsichord works, I'll make sure to check for correlations with his organ works.
If this topic is interesting to you, stay tuned for March 12 when my conversation with Maurizio goes live.
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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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