Fun Italian Classical music today. Composer Gaetano Valeri wrote 12 organ sonatas and most of them sound amazing on our home practice organ. Sonata IV is meant to be performed on a 4' flute so I transferred the music one octave higher and played with Gedackt 8. Hope you will enjoy it!
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Vidas: Let's start episode 44 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Annunziato.
He writes, "Hello Vidas and Ausra Motuzaite. I hope that this email finds you both well. First of all, I would like to thank you for the mails you are sending me. There is a lot to learn. I wish you every success in all your dealings. The podcasts are very interesting. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to ask you questions. Currently, from the end of last May, I am playing a Sicilian pipe organ, builder Santucci, period 1775. We having one manual, 53 keys, 17 pedal notes, 15 manual stops, three pedal stops and two accessories. At the right column stop list among covers are interesting markings as individual stops. Like in Roman numerals, XXVI and XXIX, XXII and XIX. Can you please tell me what they are? Perhaps they have names like Flauto XXII in soprani and when can I use them? Until I receive your reply, wishing you my very best regards, Annunziato."
So wonderful, Ausra, this is Italian organ tradition, to write stops as intervals, basically. Not like German, French or other traditions. Well, maybe English have something like this too, when they write 12th for example or 15th as an organ stop.
Ausra: I know since you were in Italy, not so long ago, maybe you could now explain for our friends how to understand it?
Vidas: Yeah, it's basically if you take the lowest note, let's say C, right, in the base octave. It is the basis of the principal. They would write "Principale", right, for the principal 8’, but later they would write "Ottava". Ottava means octave, above this principal. So this is like a 4’ stop. Later, instead of adding one of them more, they would write an interval. You have to count interval from the bass note.
So what comes next is like 15th and that would be like Roman numeral XV. This means like a 5th, 2 ⅔’. In Italian, Decimaquinta. Then you have another Roman numeral denoting maybe 2’ principal, right? They would not write, "Super-octave", they would write something like XIX. Then maybe a XXII and XXVI. You have to count intervals, basically, back to the bass note. That's how Italians wrote their stops. It's may be confusing, but it's very logical.
Ausra: Yes, if you get used to Italian instrument. But if encounter it for the first time, it might be a little tricky. Then just try each stop separately and listen to it.
Vidas: Listen to it, which octave are you playing?
Vidas: Sometimes you will get an octave sound, but sometimes you get a 5th sound, too.
Ausra: Yes, and then you figure it out. You just make yourself like a dictionary in your notebook.
Vidas: But if it's an old organ, and it is, right? From 1775.
Ausra: It looks like it's very Italian, because it has only three pedal stops. That's so common for Catholic countries, like Italy, or France.
Vidas: Yes, it has maybe three pedal stops and maybe the coupler, perhaps I hope, to have a longer sustained pedal point. Or sometimes they don't even have pedal couplers.
Ausra: No, you don't use so much pedals in Catholic liturgy. Especially in those times, in those days.
Vidas: You only have 17 pedal notes, this means that you have incomplete pedal compass, like 1-1/2 octave perhaps, right? So you don't play a lot of Reger.
Ausra: Oh, definitely not. Probably some Frescobaldi, Fiori Musicali.
Vidas: Or improvisation, improvisations could sound really well on these type of instruments. He told me he has one manual, right? Some stops might be divided as he writes. "Flauto in Vigessima Seconda" means flute in twenty second, but only in soprano, which means that only the right hand starting from C can play this. So in the tenor range, it doesn't sound. Only in the soprano range with the right hand you can place the flauto. Vigessima Seconda.
Now let's calculate 26 from the bass. 26, 24, 26, 7, 8, 8, 16, 8, two octaves, right? It's a 5th. It's a 5th, I think, but not 2 ⅔’ but 1 ⅓’. It looks like this. Very high-pitched flute.
Ausra: High-pitched flute, yeah.
Vidas: But as a flute, not a principal. So it doesn't fit with any Ripieno sound at least, I think. The Ripieno is another tool entirely in Italian organs. It's a handle. You take out this handle and entire row of principal stops like a plenum sounds are present and could be sounding. It's like a mixture, organ Ripieno. Full principal chorus if you use this piano handle. But remember in Italian, organs they don't have a mixture sound per se, you have to assemble mixtures.
Ausra: Yes, you have to pull it out from the organ, yes.
Vidas: Pull everything together. Sometimes everything together if you want a big sound, and sometimes just a handful of stops.
Ausra: Yes, because sometimes they have full Ripieno, and sometimes you have just smalller Ripieno.
Vidas: Yes. Maybe it's for a later conversation because it's a long subject but every mode in this tradition have different type of registrations. Sometimes one principal would be enough for one particular mode, sometimes a flute, sometimes principals 8’ and 4’ for another mode. We will discuss it another time, I think.
Wonderful guys, please send us more questions. This was very interesting. We hope this is useful to you and you can do this by subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt and reply to any of our messages.
And remember, when you practice -
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast #72!
Today's guest an Italian concert organist Domenico Severin who is the Titular Organist of the Grand Orgue at the St. Etienne Cathedral in Meaux, France.
In this conversation we talk about what it means to be an ambassador of Italian organ music in France, how different Italian organ culture is from the French tradition, how can we adapt ancient music to other styles and instruments to inspire people of the 21st century.
Listen to the podcast
How did the Italian Romantic composers portray prayer in music? What kind of musical elements were the most characteristic when depicting the feeling of contemplation and meditation?
First of all, tempo had to be moderate to slow with no virtuoso or dance elements. Rhythms which evoked very dramatic emotions, sudden action, such as sharp dotted rhythms or figura corta (eighth note and two sixteenths) were not used in such pieces.
Melody had to be singable without any association with instrumental music. Phrasing was largely natural which often subdivided the piece into symmetrical units. Harmony was used quite colorful with nice modulations, chromatic chords and sequences as well as frequent major-minor mode borrowings.
Registration and dynamics focused on soft to medium sounds (strings, flutes, perhaps one or two principals, sometimes a soft reed).
Such a piece for today's sight-reading is Elevazione (p. 3), Op. 120, No. 2 by Luigi Bottazzo (1845-1924), a Romantic Italian organist and composer. This piece was intended to be performed for Elevation section of the Mass (in those days, organist played organ music during Elevation (after the Benedictus).
By the way, this composition is a wonderful exercise for the use of the swell pedal (for the right foot). In places where there are crescendo and diminuendo markings, avoid playing the bass part with the right foot. Observe that the swell motion is gentle and natural enough without too sudden and too powerful changes in dynamics. On modern organs, Italian Organo Espressivo could mean Swell and Grand Organo - Great.
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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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