AVA226: Could Jesu Meine Freude, BWV 610, be setup with a big registration, which includes reeds and mixtures?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 226, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. And this question was sent by Daniel. He writes: “Vidas: In your opinion, could Jesu Meine Freude, BWV 610, be setup with a big registration, which includes reeds and mixtures?”
V: So, this is a narrow question, quite Ausra?
A: Yes, it’s a very narrow question.
V: But we could talk a little bit about what type of pieces requires reeds and mixtures, right?
V: So, first of all, I don’t think Jesu Meine Freude would work well with a big registration, because, for several reasons: We have this score in front of us. Maybe the first reason is the slow tempo, Largo.
V: What do you think about it?
A: Yes. Of course some Largo could work with reeds and mixture, probably not this one. Because when I have the free works, then you know, I register them as the free works. But when I have the choral-based works, I always try to look at the text—what it means. And I don’t think the meaning of choral Jesu Meine Freude, or Jesus my Joy, you know, requires reeds and mixtures.
V: I agree with you Ausra. And plus, if you look at the mode, it’s another thing. It’s written in basically in C minor although in the original notation, Bach didn’t use three flats.
A: That’s because that’s C dorian, so it has the six scale degree.
V: And only two flats are required.
A: That’s right.
V: So in any case, it’s a minor mode, rather somber character. And for that reason I think, more quiet registration would work well. What do you think about Principles 8 and 4, for example?
A: Yes I think that I would not go louder than the principles. Even I think it’s possible to play this choral on the flutes too. It wouldn’t hurt, but definitely not a big registration, with mixtures and reeds. Not the Organo Pleno.
V: Could it be, maybe a mixture of two stops? Maybe a Gedacht and a Quintadena.
A: Yes, could be.
V: If your organ has Quintadena. Very soft nasal sounding stop.
A: Yes. And for example with like some smaller organs, they have Principal 8. You could Principal 4, but Flute 8.
A: Yes, and you know, experiment with the softer stops.
V: And after I wrote down suggested registration for this piece, I took a look at the recording that George Ritchie made.
A: So what did he use?
V: Principles 8 and 4.
V: Somehow we’re both intuitively agree with this concept.
V: So in general, Ausra, if you want to use mixtures and reeds, what kind of piece would you choose for that?
A: If we are talking about J. S. Bach, I would choose, you know, his Preludes and Fugues, or you know, Passacaglia, Fantasias and Fugues, or Toccata and Fugue.
V: Free works.
A: Yes, free works basically.
V: But not trio sonatas!
A: True. Not trio sonatas, and probably not all of the choral based works also would work with Organo Pleno. Some of them yes, maybe. But not as often as free works.
V: The thing about Organo Pleno and mixture sounds that are included in Organ Pleno, is that Bach frequently indicates his choice, right?
V: For example; in the first choral fantasia from 18 Great Choral Preludes or the Leipzig collection. It’s called Komm, Heiliger Geist. It is written for organ, Organo Pleno.
V: For Organo Pleno. Which means, yes, you need full principle chorus, and probably 16’ reed in the pedals too, emphasize the Cantus Firmus in the bass. If you have a 32’ stop, it wouldn’t hurt there too.
A: True. True.
V: Because it moves in slower note motions.
V: Excellent! So in other cases, let’s say you’re playing In Dir ist Freude, BWV 615 from Orgelbuchlein. Would that be nice with mixtures?
A: Well, yes, I think it would suit the character of that particular choral.
V: And it’s different, right, from Jesu Meine Freude.
A: Yes, it’s very different in character.
V: And mode is joyful, the rhythm is repetitive, and the tempo is quick.
A: True. Or you know Herr Christ, der einge Gottes-Sohn, BWV 601 from Orgelbuchlein, I think it would also work nicely with the mixtures. It’s also has a joyful pattern, you know, of trust, fast tempo.
V: Mmm. Yeah, so Orgelbuchlein collection there are a number of those pieces suitable for playing with Organo Pleno.
A: Yes, but not so many longer chorals. Not so many, you know, light chorals, or other.
V: Mmm-hmm. So the main idea basically is to look at the character,
V: At the tempo,
V: And the text. Right?
A: That’s right.
V: Excellent! What about the soft registrations? What are the type of things you have to look for?
A: Well, you need to look if the choral or the piece is written or manual or pedals, or two different manuals and pedals, and that makes a big difference, you know, if you have a solo voice in one of your hands, then you need to register it on the separate manual. And sometimes you could use reeds for a solo voice or you know, other suitable stops would be, probably Cornier, or you could do you know, combination of various stops. Maybe Quintadena as you mentioned before, work nicely too, sometimes.
V: We don’t have a Quintadena in our church, so I haven’t used it for quite a while. The last time I used Quintadena, was probably in Sweden, in Stockholm.
V: St Gertrude’s church.
V: On the Duben Organ, a modern-day replica of the organ from the 17th century.
V: What is the last piece that you played with mixtures, Ausra?
A: Well, good question. Probably E Flat Major, Prelude and Fugue, BWV 552 by J. S. Bach.
V: Mmm-hmm. So it fits the idea very well. Free work and it’s even written I think for Organo Pleno.
A: Yes. Although you do some softer stops in the prelude, that Bach indicates himself. But you also use the Pleno but on the other, you know, manual.
V: Exactly. So maybe the second level of Pleno would be less thick without 16’ in the manual. Sometimes even without the mixture you could, if the mixture is too fierce and too harsh. My piece that I recently played with mixtures is probably, I think, one of the free works too. Mmm-hmm. That could be B minor Prelude and Fugue, BWV 544.
A: Yes. It’s very sad piece I would say, tragic piece. Don’t you think so?
V: It is tragic piece, exactly.
A: It has all of dramatic descending lines all the time, you know, throughout the Prelude. And I think that the theme of that fugue, it has sort of like sign of cross.
V: I think I first learned this piece at the Lithuanian Musical Academy.
A: Had you played it? I don’t recall it. I played it, at the academy.
V: With Gediminas Kviklys.
A: So it was much later, yes.
V: In our masters degree program. And only yesterday I understood why I played this piece. Because Gediminas Kviklys himself loved this piece and plays it all the time.
V: Wonderful, guys. So please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And we hope that this question was useful to you. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember; when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
AVA206: I am to give a recital on an organ which has 3 mutation stops and would like to demonstrate all 3 during the recital
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 206, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Alison. And she writes:
I enjoying reading your blog and would appreciate some advice on repertoire using the mutation stops. I am to give a recital on an organ which has 3 mutation stops and would like to demonstrate all 3 during the recital. I have looked out a Cornet Voluntary by John Stanley and a tierce en taille by Michel Corrette, but perhaps you could suggest some other repertoire I could play?
Here is the full specification of the organ:
Department and Stop list
Pedal Key action Suspended Stop action Me Compass-low Compass-high Keys
1 Sub Bass 16 RDH Bourdon
Manual I Key action Suspended Stop action Me Compass-low Compass-high Keys
2 Principal 8
3 Stopped Diapason 8
4 Octave 4
5 Fifteenth 2
6 Nineteenth 1 1/3
7 Twentysecond 1
Manual II Key action Suspended Stop action Me Compass-low Compass-high Keys
8 Gedackt 8
9 Chimney Flute 4
10 Nazard 2 2/3
11 Flute 2
12 Tierce 1 3/5
Console type attached Stop type drawstop Pedalboard radiating concave
Naturals black, sharps black/white; couplers by hitch down pedal;
Manual II to Manual I
Manual II to Pedal
Manual I to Pedal
I hope you will use this question in your blog.
V: Basically, you can find the specification in the description of this conversation as a text. But we could also summarize, right? In the pedal, if it has only one stop, SubBass 16’, in the first manual, if it has Principle 8’, Stop Diapason 8’, Octave 4’, 15 2’, 19 1 1/3’, so that’s the mutation. And then 22nd one foot. And then on the second manual, Gedacht 8’, Chimney Flute 4’, Nazard 2 2/3’, Flute 2’ and Tierce 1 3/5’. Basically on the second manual it has two mutations—a fifth sound and a Tierce sound. And in the manual one he has a high pitched fifth; 1 1/3, right?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: So the most common mutations, I would say.
A: Yes, yes.
V: And if he has suspended key action, which means the keys should be depressed quite lightly, in Italian fashion, I believe, according to this specification.
A: Yes, it looks like very much Italian, because it doesn’t have reeds.
V: So, so she chose Cornier Voluntary by John Stanley. Let’s see if we could build the Cornier. For Cornier remember we need five banks.
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: 8, 4, a fifth, a two foot and a third. So on the second manual you have all, everything you need, right? Because we have to remember that they have to be flutes.
A: That’s right, so it looks like, you know, the second manual is actually a Cornier.
A: If you pull all stops together.
V: And then Tierce en Taille by Michel Corrette is something different. Tierce en taille. Tierce en taille means, it’s like a Cornier but in the tenor.
A: That’s right. It’s a French manor. Piece written in French manor.
V: Maybe without Nazard. Maybe, maybe Gedacht 8’, Chimney Flute 4’, sometimes for depth and reinforcement and this Tierce. And that might be enough, don’t you think?
A: Yes, I think so. I actually have to listen to that balance. Because sometimes its sort of risky you know, to decide to, what stops you will pull out before you actually, you know, play on that particular organ. Because, well, some, some stops, sometimes stops sound so much different from what you imagined. And from sort of, common, common stops. So you need to adjust right on the spot. But, but I think it might work.
V: And, my guess is that 1 1/3 19th on the first manual might be a principal stop.
A: Yes, that could be. Because it looks like you know, the first manual is stronger. It has no other principles.
V: So what we’ll be suggesting next might not work for the first manual. What about the ornamented chorales? You see? They’re probably more suited for the second manual, right?
A: Could be. But then it would probably be hard, you know, to select something for accompaniment on a different manual.
V: Well, sometimes you can play with Octave 4’ but one octave lower. If the tenor is not lower than tenor C.
A: That’s right. But then again, you know, maybe you could use one of those new principles. Probably Principle 8’ not a stop Diapason. What do you think?
V: Yeah, if it’s not too loud of course.
A: I know. You need to check the balance.
V: If it’s too loud then check Octave 4’ one octave lower and you have a couple of choices here on the second manual, to bring out the melody.
A: What do you think; would it possible to accompany the Gedacht 8’ on the second manual and then play solo on the first manual?
V: With 19th?
V: And stop Diapason?
A: Yes. Would that be possible, a possibility?
V: It could be possible, yeah. It could be possible. If it’s not too harsh, this 19th. If it’s not…
A: Yes. Then again you have to check on the spot to listen to how it sounds.
V: Right. So any type of ornamented melody in the soprano might work for any of those mutations, high pitched 3rd stops, like 1 1/3’ or Nazard together with Gedacht, right? Or a Tierce together with Gedacht, without Nazard.
A: What, let’s say, you know, if you would go to that organ and you would find out that mutations are just really loud. What would you do?
V: I don’t…
A: I think, I think it would work for Stanley like, you know, well, that piece, but, but for major ornamented chorale it would be too much. Would it be possible to register and not use mutations?
V: Yeah. Principle 8’ or Octave 4’ one octave lower, would be perfectly suitable for the solo voice, I think.
A: And what would you do when for accompaniment on the Gedacht 8’ or would you also add Chimney Flute 4’?
V: Chimney Flute 4’ of course. And we have to probably recommend to Allison to use Chimney alone sometimes in the demonstration too.
A: Yes. That would be nice. Because some pieces sound just beautiful played on the 4’ flute.
V: Or Flute 2’ on some passages.
A: That’s true.
V: If it’s a full, full demonstration too. So lots of choices even though it is just a twelve stop organ.
A: I know. You could also use some gap registrations as well you know, like 2’ 8 and 2 together.
V: Oh, you mean on the second manual Gedacht 8’ and Flute 2’,,,
A: That’s right.
V: Would sound perfect for, or even for ornamented chorale.
A: That’s right. Sometimes it works very nice.
V: Or remember you played the Canzona by Scheidemann this way.
A: Yes. I did it, and it worked quite well.
V: Mmm, hmm. It think you have to, you have to maybe play with coupler in the pedal, sometimes, right? To reinforce,,,
A: Yes. Yes, I think so, yes.
V: Because Subbass alone is not enough sometimes. Then you need to do either pedals to manual two or pedals to manual one, depending on which manual is accompanying.
V: Yes. But I think it’s, you know, its a nice, nice size instrument. It seems like it’s not a big one but you can still do lots of things with it. Don’t you think so?
V: I think so, yeah. And hopefully the room is a little bit reverberant so it can even enlarge the sound and reinforce the acoustics. Excellent! Lots of variety. It can be done very nicely I think during the recital. So you don’t need to have hundreds of stops to register some elegant and delightful organ music and play for, for thirty minutes or entire hour this way.
V: Yes, that’s right.
V: Even solo organ music, you don’t need to play with, with a friend or a singer. I mean you could, if you have an instrumentalist, but it’s perfectly possible to do a solo recital this way.
V: Yes and I think some Italian music would work well on this kind of instrument. Remember those sonatas, by,,,
V: By, by, I’m thinking about, eh, you’re thinking about Italians, right?
V: And we played it?
A: Well, yes you did. Remember, at the museum.
V: Oh, Gaetano Valerj’s sonatas are perfect for this too.
A: That’s what I thought but I also forgot his name. Getting old.
V: Mmm, hmm. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 164, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. And this question was sent by David. He writes:
“I'm working on a "paper" about understanding what 18th century French classical registrations really mean when an organ of that period is not being used, since, of course, the French Revolution wiped most of them off the face of the earth. It’s easier to find unicorns!”
V: So it’s a fascinating question, right, Ausra?
A: It is. But I can think that it still would be harder to find the Unicorn.
V: Yeah, we should ask David if he found any Unicorns.
A: Yes, if you would look, let’s say at Paris, in Paris, you would search for French classical organ, you wouldn’t find them, but if look in the provinces, like tiny villages, in those you can still find French classical instruments.
V: And there are of course modern day replicas being built.
V: Great. The basis for understanding 18th century French classical organ registration, probably relies not only on the organs, but on the registration suggestions by the composers.
A: Yes. And I think actually, if you have little experience, I think it’s easier to register French classical pieces of organ music comparing to let’s say, German.
V: What do you mean?
A: Well, because, as you talked earlier, composers indicate what they want from a piece, how they should be played and registered, and French are just very systematized.
V: So, people who don’t understand the system probably don’t read French.
A: Yes. I mean if you know what Plein Jeux or Grand Jeux is, then you should be able to register, you know.
V: Do you think that a lot of people understand the terms Plein Jeux or Grand Jeux? Maybe we should explain a little bit.
A: Yes, so Vidas, let’s tell us or remind us what the Plain Jeux or Grand Jeux and what is the difference between them.
V: In general terms, Plein Jeux is the sound that reminds of the organum plenum sound. Except with some difference maybe from the German. But it has, I think, Principles, right, of many pitch levels, and it has the Mixtures together, right?
V: And if it has the term Grand Plein Jeux then you add the 16’ Bourdon in the manuals too. And very often you would need Cantus Firmus in the pedals, then you would need, I believe a Trompette 8’, maybe together coupled with the Flute 8’. Or if you have Clarion 4’, you could add 2’ to reinforce the sound of the pedals, but no 16’ in the pedals.
A: Well, what about Grand Jeux?
V: In my understanding here, it’s more of a flute sound combined with the cornets, flutes and reeds.
A: Reeds, yes.
V: Which means, Trumpets, then Cornet either real Cornet with five ranks, based on flute sounds; 8’, 4’, 5th, 2 1/3, right? Or you can select those five flute sounds from the manual and add them to the general plunger sound, right? Do you need the 16’ in the manuals here? I believe so.
A: I think so, yes.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: And what about solo registration for solo voices? What if you have tierce en taille?
V: Those characteristics stops that French organs have, I think, they have specific meaning and specific function, right? Tierce registration means you use a third based on 1 3/5 sounds. But in addition to that you of course need 8’ flute, right? And then a Tierce sound, and maybe even a fifth sound to remind a little bit of the Cornet. You have to check on you balances on your organ, if it’s not your know, historical French organ, if you’re adapting it.
A: Yes, and my next question would be, do you think it’s okay to play the French classical music on modern instruments.
V: I think it’s okay to play whatever a person wants and likes, right? But the result will not necessarily be the same as on the historical French organ. A lot of people don’t care about that. They just love the music.
A: Well should you then just follow closely to the original registration? You should look for and make up your own registration, depending on the sound of a particular organ.
V: Yeah, I believe you’re right. You should listen to some recordings, not necessarily of the same piece but maybe a typical French classical registration that you are looking for, like Tierce en Taille or dialogues of the Voix Humaine or the Crumorne registration, right, or the Cornet, all those things. You could listen to a piece like that, and then check if your organ has similar kind of stops. If it’s not you have to, you know, adapt.
A: Yes, but for example, if you are playing a German organ, those reeds are different from the French reeds. What would you do then?
V: I wouldn’t play French music on a German organ.
V: But you know, a lot of people think differently, and they have the right to do so, right? We’re just telling people, sharing with people our experiences, right Ausra?
V: And you don’t necessarily have to agree with us. And I believe people who are opposed to that, their opinion might change if they try out a lot of historical organs.
V: French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, right? And all those areas have different styles and different types of music.
A: Yes. And what is your favorite French classical composer?
V: Ohhhh, a tricky question. Mmm,
A: I have my favorite.
V: Let’s see. Does it start with the letter called ‘G’?
A: Yes. How do you know? Yes. Nicolas de Grigny. Yes, that’s my favorite.
V: Nicolas de Grigny was very polyphonically oriented composer, because a lot of French composers like Couperin not necessarily wrote polyphonically advanced music. They wrote a lot of harmonically advanced pieces, and their harmony system is basically a pioneer system of the system that we used today. It’s based on the Rameau treatise, right?
V: But Germans were more keen to the polyphony, right, just as Italians were a century later, or earlier, in the Renaissance, even in the 16th Century or the beginning of the 17th Century. But then the Italians started to play those different types of pieces, like Scarlatti, right?
A: I know, it’s just like everything an opposite way.
V: Polyphony changed. But Germans were more strict with polyphony with Bach and that tradition. And French were more eager to explore the sounds and the colors.
A: But yes de Grigny polyphonic pieces were quite complex. You can even find 5 part fugue.
V: And Bach also learned from de Grigny. He copied his Livre de Orgue and based some of his earlier compositions, Fantasy and Fugue in C Minor, for example, or other pieces, like Piece d’Orgue for example. A lot of pieces which have five part texture, they’re based on the French model.
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: And do you know Ausra, why French wrote five-part textures and not four-part textures like Italians? I’ve read that Italian string chamber music, was,
A: I think they had an extra voice, yes?
V: Italians, four parts, and then,
A: Like string quartets, yes?
V: Yeah, two violins, viola and the cello. But French had one extra instrument: two violins, two violas, and one violone.
A: Two violas, yes, wow. That’s amazing.
V: And they used different kinds of clefs. And people sometimes today like to read those clefs, right? Some crazy organists.
A: Yes, like Vidas.
V: Like Vidas. Are you a crazy organist, Ausra?
A: Well, not as crazy as you are (laughs).
V: You are sort of in between normal humans and you can relate to normal humans, right?
V: You can read the music that normal people read. And I can do too. But sometimes, I’m not satisfied with normal stuff so, I get crazy. Alright, guys. Please explore the French classical registrations. It’s really a fascinating topic. We could actually recommend a book, right? Maybe Fenner Douglass and Barbara Oven. They both wrote interesting treatises about organs and registrations, so if you read the transcript from these podcast you could click on the link and check out those books.
A: Yes. They would be a big help exploring different registrations.
V: Wonderful! Thank you so much for listening, and applying our tips in your practice. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 161, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. We’re continuing our discussion about the preparations that John from Australia, John Higgins is doing in order to be well prepared for his upcoming recital in April in our church, Vilnius University St. John’s church. In the previous podcast we discussed the questions about the action heaviness, about the situation with the swell pedal, right? About English speaking listeners and if we can translate English speaking words from John that he will be saying in between the pieces, right. And now, let’s start a little further bit further. He asks:
5) How many people who might attend my recital would speak English? I'm guessing my poster and program need to be in Lithuanian and you would have to interpret any words I say?
6) Would people expect me to speak at the beginning of the recital and then play all the pieces, or is it ok to play groups of 3 pieces and introduce each bracket of three pieces? If it takes a long time to walk from the organ loft, this may not be possible unless there is a wireless microphone?
7) On the St John's organ playing Bach fugues, would you normally register the pedal with principal chorus and no couplers, plus the pedal Posaune or is this reed too loud? I am used to playing small organs more in the English style, so you always use the Great to Pedal coupler. Sometimes on Australian organs the pedal Posune is too loud for fugues, so you might use the Swell 16’ reed coupled to the pedal with the Swell to Pedal coupler, and just use the Great principal chorus in the manuals.
Can you believe it's only 9 weeks to go!
Look forward to hearing for you!
I hope you have a lovely day,
V: So, Ausra, it’s a very simple situation, right, we have?
A: Yes, we have a wireless microphone.
V: No, it’s, a cord, we record.
A: It’s a cord?
V: Yeah, it’s an old-fashioned microphone you have to
A: It’s connected to that speaker. I remember now, yes.
V: So the system is this; before recital, I turn on the lights and we have the headlights pointing to both sides of the organ loft and beautiful organ facade is lighted in golden colors then. And then I take out the speaker from the inside of the organ and put it someplace close to the balcony, eh, balcony rim. And then, what happens; I connect the microphone and I recommend then probably you could do both ways: You could speak just at the beginning of the recital and then play all the pieces of your program non-stop, right? Or you could talk between each of the pieces, or between some groups of the pieces, like John says, three pieces, and then play. What would you prefer, Ausra?
A: Well, if I would be listener or if I would be a player. Because you know if I would be a player then I would just talk at the beginning and then would play the entire recital through. But if I would be a listener I would prefer that somebody would speak, maybe in groups of three pieces as John suggested.
V: And, I know what you mean. For a player, you concentrate better if you play non-stop.
V: But it’s also more difficult to concentrate for an hour, right, non-stop. So if you talk and play, talk and play, talk and play, you could kind of switch actions and activities and can start afresh in each piece.
A: Well it depends what is easier for you, to talk or to play. For me it’s easier to play than to talk.
V: Of course, John is a great storyteller. It will be easy for him to talk.
A: So what I would suggest is that he would talk , you know, during the recital.
V: Mmm, hmm, as many times as he wants because we can translate it for people. Excellent! Another question that he had is that about playing Bach fugues on this organ. He says ‘would you normally register the pedal with principle chorus and no couplers, plus the pedal Posanne, or would this be too loud?’ No, I wouldn’t say it’s too loud, right? If you have, let’s say, full Principle Chorus on the great, like Principle 16’, 8’, 4’, 3’, 2’ and a Mixture, maybe some flutes, 2’, 8’ and 4’, and if you like you could add a Tierce, right?
A: This is on the right side, yes.
V: You could also have many stops in the pedals; 16’ Principle, 16’, another, you know, wooden stop, and then maybe full basso 8’ level, and then 4’ flaut bass, and then you could add Posanne. Right?
V: Would you need, Ausra, pedal coupler for these two?
A: I wouldn’t have pedal couplers. If I have Posanne, it is not necessary unless you want to have more pedals.
V: For example, if you have a large pedal solo.
A: Then yes, you could do that.
V: Because at the moment our mixture, pedal mixture is not working.
A: Then you could add the coupler. Great to the pedal.
V: Then of course, and then you could use the pedal coupler in spaces when you need the manual coupler too. 3rd’: to the great, 3rd to the first coupler and 2 principle choruses combined then, and you would need it and you need more pedal power too. You see what I mean?
A: That’s right, yes.
V: If you couple two manuals, then you might probably need pedal coupler as well.
V: Excellent. Wonderful! So, nine weeks to go for John to prepare because of course, it’s a long process to adjust, adjust to the unfamiliar organ. And we’ll be talking about the next question. How we prepare for our international tours on unfamiliar instrument, especially when we don’t have a lot of rehearsals scheduled, right?
A: That’s right?
V: This summer, we’ll be going to St. Paul’s Cathedral to play in London and before that we’ll going to go to the oldest organ in the Baltic States. What is it?
A: Yes, it’s Ugale, in Latvia.
V: Yeah. Our friend, organ builder Janis Kalnins has restored this beautiful Cornelius Rhaneus from 1601 or 1701, I forget. It doesn’t matter. 100 years older or younger, who cares...
V: But you find a beautiful movable eagle.
A: This reminds me of a duck, because as an eagle seems too fat. So I imagine that it’s a duck with eagle wings.
V: Oh, I remember, it’s 1701.
A: Yes, 1701.
V: Yeah. So, but we’ll be talking about how we will be preparing for these unfamiliar instruments in the next conversation. In the meantime, go ahead and try to practice some more because it’s really a wonderful day, right Ausra? You will be playing today, some of the pieces solo, recital pieces on your program for the upcoming Bach recital, and will be playing organ duet pieces.
A: Oh yes, that’s right.
V: Everyone knows your playing E Flat Major Prelude and Fugue by Bach. How’s that going for you?
A: Well, it’s going well. I just have to repeat it time after time just to keep myself in good shape.
V: It’s not a big deal.
A: Yes. It’s not a big deal. It was a big deal you know, last year when I played it after like ten years after not playing it.
V: And you are scheduled to play this piece in Notre Dame in Paris,
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: in a couple of years.
V: So, wonderful piece, wonderfull instrument too. And Ausra, what about our Duets? Are you enjoying the quick runs with your right hand from the Bach arias we’re playing together?
A: (Laughs) Are you teasing me?
V: Of course! That’s my, that’s my character, always.
A: Yes, we are working on two duets from Cantata 140 which is probably my most favorite cantata by J. S. Bach.
V: Wachet auf…
A: Yes, Wachet auf.
V: You remember, guys, BWV 645 is taken from this cantata.
A: The 1st of the Schüblers chorals.
V: Yes, Middle movement from the cantata. And we’re playing organ duet arrangements from that cantata.
A: Yes and we are playing one which has the nice oboe ritornello?
A: Ritornello. And another one which has violin ritornello. And I play that ritornello with my right hand in both of these duets, and then with my left hand I am playing, you know, one of the soloist, I think the rhythm parts of soloists. Because these are sort of like that between bass and soprano. And of that you know, ritornello of the solo instrument. And then of course there is the continuo parts. So with this playing the continuo part and doing one of the soloists, the bass soloists, and I’m doing the other two. So my, my sort of role is small, virtuoso and I’m not enjoying it so far. Maybe I will when I will learn the text.
V: Are you enjoying the third eye, I remember from, it’s called Mein glaubiges Herze. It’s Cantata No. 68. But we have to read from the C clef.
A: Yes. Actually it’s okay because when I have the C clef I have only one voice. And then later on when I have the two other parts and two voices I have two treble clefs so that’s fine with me. What about you?
V: In my part of the third, this aria, or duet, probably I need only two bass clefs, no C clefs for me. Umm, which is easier then. But I don’t mind C clefs. I enjoy them. It takes a little more time to get used to them, especially in, you know, live situation, when you play in public. But it’s not a big deal anymore for me. But playing together with you is really fun, especially to see how your right hand is running all, in all passages up and down.
A: Yes. And now when we’re talking about clefs, I remember a funny story we had that just happened when you just started learning your organ book. I remember you were talking about or writing about clefs, and instead of bass clef, you just left that ‘B’ letter, you know, just by accident.
V: Ah, I see.
A: And, and when you did the spell check it still, you know, showed it’s okay because such a word exists. And then you received a letter from one of your readers, you know, telling you, ‘O Vidas, look at this! Was this a new class that starts not with the ‘B’ letter but with the letter ‘A’?’.
A: it was so funny. Funny, funny joke.
V: I felt embarrassed.
A: I know.
V: But uh, I corrected my, my typo right away.
A: Yes. That’s funny.
V: Excellent, guys. So we’re going to stop this recording now and go ahead and practice some duets and solo pieces. And we hope you do the same, right?
V: Please send us more of the questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 130 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Listen to the audio version here. Today’s question was sent by Aleksey, and he wants to know about registration: “What are some of the perfect, or worst, stop combinations?” That’s a broad question, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, it’s a very broad question.
Vidas: Where should we start?
Ausra: I think, you know, not understanding the style well can make you to put wrong stops for your pieces.
Vidas: Remember sometimes we go to churches, and...especially not in Vilnius, but in other cities where people play the organ, but they completely--they don’t know what they’re using, what type of instruments, and what type of stops they should use. Sometimes they play with all the stops drawn out, and with vibrato, with tremolo.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right, yes.
Vidas: Have you heard that?
Ausra: Yes, I have heard that actually many times.
Vidas: It’s like a big Hammond organ--although it’s a pipe organ. It sounds quite funny!
Ausra: I know, or when you use some undulating stop and you don’t use an 8’ stop.
Ausra: That’s another thing; I have heard that also many times.
Vidas: Or when you use mixtures without foundations.
Ausra: Yes. It’s also a horrifying sound, at least for my ears.
Vidas: The reason they do that is sometimes mixtures are positioned closest to the player, in the bottom row--
Ausra: And it’s easy to pull them!
Vidas: Easy to find them! And the principal is on the top, and you have to reach for it. And maybe an amateur organist just looks at the closest stop and draws it!
Ausra: I know, it’s a hard thing, you know. And it takes time to develop good taste, and knowledge about different styles and different registrations; and how to adjust, for example, to a particular organ which is not built in that period, or not styled in that period, but you still have to play music from some particular period...
Vidas: What organ do you know the most, Ausra?
Ausra: St. Johns’, probably.
Vidas: I agree.
Ausra: And of course, our practice organ. I know it’s very big! It has 2 stops!
Vidas: Yeah-- 8’ and 4’!
Ausra: And pull-down pedal.
Vidas: There is so much to learn about those 2 stops.
Ausra: I know.
Vidas: Soft, and softer!
Vidas: Hahaha. Do you have a favorite organ stop in our church?
Ausra: Well...well...my very favorite? ...Cornet. If I had to choose one, it would be the Cornet stop.
Vidas: If I had to choose...I would choose two, actually: Unda Maris, and Viola Gamba. At first, Unda Maris was better for me than Gamba; but recently, I’ve been discovering such beautiful (and quite intense!) colors with the upper range of Viola Gamba on the third manual, that I kind of keep improvising on these stops all the time.
Ausra: Yes. And I find that Cornet really beautiful; it’s very nice for a solo voice.
Vidas: I think in every recital, we use Cornet at least once.
Ausra: Yes. And there are also other nice stops. Some flutes are really nice. And I like Posaune in the pedal--Posaune 16’ in the pedals.
Vidas: Especially the low E♭?
Ausra: Haha yes!
Vidas: Why E♭?
Ausra: Because it makes such a funny sound. And it’s fun to play Bach’s Prelude in E♭ Major, where you have to...press it!
Vidas: Oh, the B section?
Ausra: Yes, yes.
“Ba-ba-ba-bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum...BAHHH!” Haha! That low E♭!
Ausra: Yes. It sounds funny! So, if we could tell people about things that they should probably not do while registering...I think even playing Trio Sonata by J. S. Bach...
Ausra: I would say you should always add 16’.
Vidas: In the manuals or in the pedals?
Ausra: In the pedals. In the pedals, because I have heard trio sonatas played so many times; and people not using 16’ in the pedal--I think that’s a principle mistake.
Vidas: Remember, we recently heard even Bach cantatas--Christmas Oratorio--performed--
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: And they didn’t play the continuo arias with double bass. Doubled bass was always present with choir movements, right? So always that octave-down sound was present in the loud sections; but when somebody sang an aria with 1 or 2 instruments, they didn’t use 16’.
Vidas: Which was, I think, not a good choice.
Ausra: No; in general, I like a low foundation, that gravity in the pedal. And I would suggest to always play with a 16’ stop in the pedal, unless there is some indication by the composer not to do that, or if it has like a solo voice, or it should be played on some particular stop.
Vidas: You sound like Mendelssohn, now.
Vidas: He wrote in his Preface to his 6 Organ Sonatas that you should always include a 16’ stop unless there is indication otherwise.
Ausra: Because, you know, without a 16’ stop in the pedal, organ loses half of its beauty.
Vidas: But then there is the question of the historical period, right? Before the 17th century, for example, 16’ in the pedal was not very common.
Ausra: Well, yes, because most of that music before that period was written only for manuals, so you don’t have that trouble. Think about, like, early Italian music, early French music--they didn’t have a developed pedal, so they did not need 16’.
Vidas: What about German?
Ausra: Well, I’m talking about non-German, starting from non-German. Look how the organs are developed; I mean, look at their huge pedal towers…
Vidas: But before the 17th century, 16’ pedals even in Germany was not always chosen.
Ausra: Well...do you mean if the performer would not choose it, or that it was absent from the organ?
Vidas: Performer, of course. Because of course, those big huge pedal towers sometimes include 32’ stops. But cantus firmus in the pedals, when they used chorale notes in the long values played by feet, they did not always include 16’.
Ausra: So then you have cantus firmus in the pedal. I already mentioned it’s when the pedal has a solo voice, then actually yes, you don’t include the 16’, but that’s another story.
Vidas: Unless it’s the bass.
Vidas: In the bass, yes.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: But if it’s in tenor, it’s 8’ level; if it’s alto, maybe 4’ level; if it’s soprano, maybe 2’ level. Right?
Ausra: Yes. But for most cases, still you can find, you know...If you would compare repertoire with 16’ stop in the pedal and without it, I would say that with-16’ would win over those cases without 16’.
Vidas: Especially the repertoire that we are accustomed to today.
Ausra: Yes; and plus, if you are a church organist--if you are accompanying congregational singing--I just would not imagine that you would not use 16’ in the pedal.
Vidas: Yes, you’re right. For congregational singing, 16’ stops are essential.
Ausra: Yes. What about putting 16’ in the manuals? What would you suggest for people to do then?
Vidas: There are choices when you want to have more gravity. And for example, some organs don’t have a pedalboard at all, but they have 16’ in the manual. Then you have stop combinations with 16’; and it’s a little bit muddy, but it’s a broader sound, with more gravity. It fits sometimes. And then there was a question with mixtures. Sometimes mixtures are high, sometimes low. With low mixtures, like in our St. John’s Church, the first manual mixture is based on the 4’ level; which means that you do need to have 16’ in the manual.
Ausra: And I have heard many times, when organists come, and they just don’t use the 16’ in the manual but use that mixture--and it sounds, actually, not good.
Vidas: Can you use mixtures with strings, for example? Is it a good idea?
Ausra: Well...not so much.
Vidas: You don’t...?
Ausra: I don’t like that combination. Although I’ve heard some organists do that. What about you?
Vidas: Yeah, sometimes. If the string is soft--and I don’t mean, here, undulating strings, like Viola Celeste, but just like Viola or--
Vidas: Gamba. Then sometimes it’s okay, especially when I improvise, and I build up a pleno sound, and I don’t have time to take out some of the strings--it sounds convincing, to me.
Ausra: Well, if I want to strengthen my principal chorus, then I add flutes, not strings. That’s what I prefer.
Vidas: Do you think flutes eat more air, or strings?
Ausra: Flutes, probably.
Vidas: So in our case, in our organ, there is some inconsistency with the winding system, and sometimes those “big” stops which require a lot of air don’t necessarily fit the large sounds--I mean, the large registration. I mean here, the 16’ flutes, on the third manual or on the second manual--I don’t use them.
Ausra: Well, I don’t use them either; but I use 8’ flutes, and that doesn’t hurt the organ so much. Other than the wind system. So basically, registration is a tricky thing. You can know it theoretically very well; but on each instrument you need to adjust, and you need to listen. Because sometimes, you know, if you just pull out the stops that are required for that piece, and you will not listen to it, you might get a disaster, because each organ is a little bit different. But, like, we talked sometime about that organ in Nida that we have on the coast in Lithuania, that has just a ridiculous mixture. It’s so awful! I never use it! Even if I’m playing a piece by J. S. Bach that requires mixture and pleno registration--still, I don’t manage it. It’s very ugly!
Vidas: It is too fierce, too...screaming.
Vidas: Too high-pitched.
Vidas: Like a cymbal, but too bright.
Ausra: I know. And I’m thinking if I would use it, after my performance, probably the church would be empty--everybody would just leave!
Vidas: Maybe it’s ok to use it just once in awhile, just for a special effect. And that’s it.
Ausra: But, well, if you are playing, let’s say, a prelude and fugue by Bach--
Vidas: A long one…!
Ausra: A long one! Then, you know, hardly anybody would survive it. And I’ve heard organists use that mixture, you know. So you always just need to listen to the organ stop, and to your registration.
Vidas: And how it sounds in the church, in the sanctuary.
Ausra: Yes. So it’s always a good idea, if you’re registering pieces for your recital, to have an assistant or somebody that could help you, to play a little bit of your music, so you could just go downstairs and listen to how it sounds.
Vidas: If you don’t have an assistant, put a recorder or a phone down in the pews, and then record yourself for a short moment, and see if you like the combinations; and then come back, listen to it, and change something if you don’t.
Ausra: Yes, that’s a good idea, too.
Vidas: Thank you guys! This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
#AskVidasAndAusra 71: How to do proper registrations for standard pieces (Bach, Vierne, Franck. etc.)
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 71 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Matt, and he writes that he wants to learn how to do proper registrations for standard pieces (Bach, Vierne, Franck. etc.) and good registration approaches in general.
That’s a very broad question, Ausra, right?
Ausra: Well it is, yes; you could write several doctoral dissertations on this topic!
Vidas: And in fact, a lot of books have been written concerning separate topics of the registration for Bach, separate for Franck, separate for Vierne, right? Quentin Faulkner wrote on Bach registration, Barbara Owen on Baroque music registration in general, Orpha Ochse and William J. Peterson wrote on French romantic music, Fenner Douglas on French Classical music, there is a classic text by George Audsley - about the organ stops and the registration in general.
Ausra: Yes, these are different styles and must be registered differently.
Vidas: But probably Matt doesn’t expect us to give everything in those few minutes that we’re answering questions today; but maybe we could start with some pointers, to start with.
Ausra: Yes, let’s do that.
Vidas: So when a person, let’s say, takes a piece of Bach, and is ready to start registering it, maybe he’s learned some notes with pedals and hands, and the time approaches when he or she wants to perform it in public. And it’s time to start registering it. What would you think about first, when you register the piece? Let’s say, a chorale-based piece, a chorale prelude.
Ausra: Well, you have to think what you want for the piece sound and how that piece is put together, because, like, chorale preludes, they are very different. Let’s say in Orgelbüchlein you could have chorale with ornamented cantus firmus, and definitely then you would want to play those different parts on different manuals, and register them differently. Maybe to put a cornet stop for solo voice, and a couple of soft flutes for accompaniment (8’ and 4’); and a couple of soft flutes in the pedal (16’ and 8’).
Ausra: That’s one of the possible registrations. Or you could take not necessarily cornet, but a reed stop for a solo voice.
Vidas: Yeah, usually you could play with cornet, reed, then maybe mutation combination, like flute 8’, 4’ and 1 ⅓’, or high-pitched third 1 ⅗’ or a fifth, like 1-⅓, to make it more colorful. Can you play the solo line in the principal, alone?
Ausra: Well, in some cases you could do that…
Vidas: If it’s very beautiful?
Ausra: Yes, if it’s beautiful, but that’s not often the case.
Vidas: Sometimes on modern organs, a better solution is to play the 4’ principal, but one octave lower. Usually they are better-scaled.
Vidas: But first, Ausra, you mentioned you have to discover if the piece is to be played on one manual or two manuals, right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s the first step.
Vidas: If the lines have a melody, a solo melody, or not, and then register appropriately. What if the chorale prelude has to be played on one manual? All parts together, but on one manual--with pedal, perhaps.
Ausra: Well, such chorales often work well for organo pleno.
Ausra: And of course, it depends on the character. Sometimes you don’t want to add all the stops together; maybe just use a couple of principals.
Vidas: Should you read the text of the chorale?
Ausra: Definitely, yes.
Vidas: That will explain to you if the chorale prelude has to be performed loudly or softly, in general.
Ausra: Yes, and you need to find out also for what occasion you will play it. If it’s a church service, will it be for communion or will it be for a prelude? Or if you’re playing for a recital, you also see where in the program you will place it, according to the registration--do you need a soft or loud piece in that place?
Vidas: Are you starting the recital, or ending the recital, or somewhere in the middle?
Ausra: Well, but actually what you can know if you are playing preludes and fugues by Bach, that you can easily just play them with organo pleno.
Vidas: And by organo pleno you probably mean full principal chorus.
Vidas: What’s that? Can you spell it out for everybody?
Ausra: That’s principals 8’, 4’, 2’, sometimes even 16’ principal, if your organ has it; and then of course you have to add a mixture. And it depends on your taste and on the organ; you could add other stops to the pleno, too.
Vidas: Maybe a fifth.
Ausra: Yes, sometimes even a tierce.
Vidas: Tierce works well if the mixture doesn’t have thirds.
Vidas: Because in Bach’s area, in Bach’s time, the majority of organs had not only octaves, not only fifths in the composition of the mixture, but also thirds. So if you add the tierce stop, it’s not the same as having a third-sounding pipe in the composition of the mixture which would break every octave or so. It’s not the same, but the general feeling will be similar. It’s a little bit spicier than just the fifth and an octave.
Ausra: What about pedals?
Vidas: Pedals also need principal chorus--if they have principals. In Bach’s area, a lot of pedals had only Subbass and Posaune, and then a manual coupler.
Ausra: So if you would add like, principals on a modern organ, would you supplement it with the posaune 16’, or not?
Vidas: If the posaune is fitting for the chorus, for the chorus registration, then yes. Like in our organ at St. John’s church in Vilnius, I usually add a principal 16’. We don’t have, like, a proper principal 8’, but it’s called Fullbass. It’s a little bit similar. At least it’s an 8’ stop; a little bit darker than the principal, I would say. But then, I would add 16’ Posaune, and then a mixture, if you have one. Mixtures can be bright; don’t worry if the sound is very bright in the pedals, it’s okay! Then, 4’ principal is also good to have in the pedals. So...but you have to listen for the balance, in the manuals. Sometimes you can add the coupler, maybe to the Great sometimes not, depending on the acoustics, environment and location.
Ausra: Yes. So what about French composers that Matt asked?
Vidas: French composers used different organs, right? Cavaille-Coll organs for most of the time. And...it has a lot of differences with the Bach tradition. Probably you need to start with the knowledge of what are the foundation stops and Anches in French and what’s Fonds and Anches in French. Do you know what does Fonds mean in French?
Ausra: That means the main stops; that’s principals and flutes, actually.
Vidas: They’re positioned in Cavaille-Coll organ, I think on the left-hand side of that manual, right? So in Cavaille-Coll’s organs they had horizontal layout of the stops, stop knobs; and on the left-hand side they had, probably, the foundations: 16’, 8’, 4’, all those principals and flutes together--and strings as well, in that order. What was on the right-hand side?
Ausra: I think that was reeds.
Vidas: What’s left, right? Mixtures, mutations...
Ausra: Yes, mixtures and reeds, and imitations. That’s right.
Vidas: So every manual had this layout, and the Positif, Récit, and Grand Orgue also had the same principals, but maybe different kind of reeds, right? Maybe positif had what they call Clarinet, maybe Récit had Hautbois, and Trompette Harmonique; but also the Grand Orgue--had trumpets 16’, 8’, and 4’, right? And I think Positiv and Récit also had those trumpets. So in every manual, you could have 16’, 8’, and 4’ basically, a reed chorus on the big Cavaille-Coll organ in general.
Ausra: Yes, and I think it’s easier to register French music, probably, than Bach, let’s say; because the French composers were quite good at notating, adding in the score what they want. So nowadays, you have so many editions where you simply just have to follow directions and register accordingly. But of course, sometimes it’s hard if you have to adjust from let’s say, a French style organ to a German style organ. That might be a tricky part.
Vidas: Probably a German style organ doesn’t have a lot of foundations, right?
Vidas: Maybe they have 8’ principal and 8’ flute, and that’s it. You have to have more.
Ausra: The German mixtures, they are sort of...screamier than French mixtures.
Vidas: What would you do in this case, if you have a Neo-Baroque organ in the German tradition, but you had to play in let’s say, Franck or Vierne.
Ausra: That’s a hard choice!
Vidas: But you don’t necessarily have to play French music
Vidas: On that instrument.
Ausra: That’s what I’d do, probably. I wouldn’t choose to play French music on such an instrument, but if I would have to do it, I probably would avoid mixtures at all.
Ausra: Because they sound very bad, in French music on a German organ.
Vidas: Or, avoid 16’ stop in the manual, but play everything one octave lower.
Ausra: If that’s possible, yes; that’s a very good solution.
Vidas: You see, the LH part has to go not lower than the tenor C because when you transfer everything one octave lower, then the bass C becomes your lowest note. So if anything goes lower than C, then it’s a little bit too low.
So guys, I hope this was useful. Do you think, Ausra, people can start practicing and registering pieces according to our suggestions, now?
Ausra: I hope so.
Vidas: And if you have more questions, please send the to us when you subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt, if you haven’t done so already, and simply reply to our messages that you receive from us. All right! We love helping you grow as an organist. And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
#AskVidasAndAusra 70: How to use pistons and stops to flow through pieces and mark them well in the score
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 70 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Matt, and he writes that his challenge is with registration flow and marking: “How to use pistons and stops to flow through pieces and mark them well in the score.” So as I understand, Ausra, this is a question about practicing registration changes and basically how you mark registration changes! Oh! That’s very simple.
Ausra: Yes, that’s how I think about it.
Vidas: Okay. What’s the system you learned in Lithuania?
Ausra: Well, in Lithuania, we would just mark stops by numbers.
Ausra: Never stop names, but only numbers.
Vidas: And what’s the system you learned in America?
Ausra: Well, we would write the stop names down. Or just numbers of combinations, because if you would have the piston system.
Vidas: At the exact place in music, you write an abbreviation of the stop: let’s say Principal 8’ would be P8, right?
Vidas: Or flute would be F4. Of that manual. You have to indicate the number of the manual, either with abbreviated letters, like Great would be GT, or Swell, SW; or Choir would be CH, right? Or simply by writing what number of the manual: 1, 2, or 3.
Ausra: Yes. And if you have to change it in a particular spot, you just write it in that particular spot. If you have time to change stops or to omit some stops, you just indicate that it’s a free action.
Ausra: And to make it clearer, some people in their score add colored stickers--to grab your attention, that you would not miss it.
Vidas: Maybe if the stop changes happen on one side--on the left side, let’s say--you could use one color stickers....
Vidas: And on the right side, you could use another color.
Ausra: Yes, that’s an excellent idea.
Vidas: It would be more helpful for your assistant.
Vidas: What else? We have seen people do registration indications on a separate sheet of paper, right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s also useful sometimes.
Vidas: That’s how we do our beginning registration, right?
Vidas: In order to keep our scores relatively clean, we write beginning registrations for each piece in our performance--
Ausra: Or each movement of a piece, if you have a few movements.
Vidas: True. So that means that by the end of the movement or the piece, you have to press either “cancel” on the combination system organ, or mechanically, basically, disengage all those stops, right?
Vidas: There is another system which works interestingly--I found it interesting to use on a relatively small instrument or medium-size instrument. I’ve seen European organists do that, especially when they have little time to prepare, and their assistant is not used to the layout of the stops: so on a separate sheet of paper, they would write numbers--from 1 to, let’s say, 10--how many stops are on one side of one manual. Let’s say--at St. John’s Church, let’s say, on the left hand side, for the Great, there are twelve stops; so you could write 1-2-3-4-5-6-7...up until 12. Twelve is a rather large number to notice on the layout of the organ; but maybe up to 6 works well, especially if it’s a horizontal layout, not vertical. What do you think, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, that might work. [If you have a small organist and it’s a large organ, I don’t think it would work.
Vidas: So then, let’s say if you have to add something for the pedals, and your pedals are only 6 on the left side, you would write “+3,” right? And your assistant would count 1-2-3, and draw that number 3. It doesn’t have to be the exact number 3 marked on the stop knob, yes? The number could be quite different--it could be even 23!--but the position in the pedal ranks would be 3. And that’s how they will easily find the right stop knob. But that only works for relatively small instruments. So...abbreviation of stops like P8 or F4 would be good for occasions when you have to literally know what kind of stop you are using--for your assistant, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, that’s true.
Vidas: What’s the problem with numbers?
Ausra: Well, for example for me, if I’m using numbers, I never know what kind of stop I’m adding; so I just prefer writing stop names. That will be easier for me.
Vidas: If you write or “+14,” or “+17” or “+24,” your assistant will not know exactly what kind of stop you would prefer, what you meant. Maybe you made a mistake--maybe you wrote 12 instead of 13; maybe you meant 23 instead of 13.
Vidas: You don’t know. And they don’t know. But when you write P8, it’s very obvious you need Principal 8 for that manual.
Ausra: Definitely. So I prefer this system.
Vidas: Yeah. It basically forces your assistant, also, to think a little bit, what stops they are drawing.
Ausra: I know, but in most cases assistants simply don’t care so much what to add, and it might be easier for them just to look at the numbers.
Vidas: Especially if they’re used to that system.
Vidas: So you have to probably decide for yourself, what to use.
Ausra: Yes, maybe try one system, and then another system, and see which one works better for you!
Vidas: Or sometimes, we don’t use anything--we don’t write stops at all, right?
Vidas: When does that happen?
Ausra: Well, it happens sometimes, especially when you have to try a new organ, and you don’t have time at all. Then you just improvise a registration on the spot.
Vidas: That’s a good exercise, right? Improvise your registration.
Ausra: Yes, that’s a good practice of organ registration.
Vidas: That’s how, actually, organists back in the day did, when they improvised a lot in public. People down in the church would hear it like it’s a real composition. Like it’s a written-down composition: a very specific, detailed composition. But organists would improvise a very detailed plan for this piece, and registration changes would be quite extensive, too.
Vidas: And that means you would simplify things. You will draw the stop that you could do, yourself--not necessarily everything at once, but just a few things.
So, guys, thank you so much for listening! Please send us more of your questions. We hope to help you grow as organists. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 66 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And this question was sent by William. And he writes, “My question is I started working on the first sonata of Mendelssohn. How is it to be articulated. Detached or legato? The fast passages are very difficult to keep smooth at tempo. Also who has ideas on how to register this opening movement. I am working from score from 1920's. I think there has to be some thought on playing these great works of Mendelssohn!"
Hmm, interesting question! Have you played a few pieces by Mendelssohn, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I definitely have.
Vidas: Me too. So, I think we can talk about articulation first, and then about registration: general ideas about articulation, about registering Mendelssohn’s pieces; because remember, he wrote that preface.
Vidas: Great. So, articulation: Do you think that in the mid-19th century, when Mendelssohn created these pieces, articulate legato was already out of fashion, or…?
Ausra: I think it was getting definitely out of fashion, and I think that legato was the main way to articulate music--to play music.
Vidas: So, yeah, of course, in different places, you would discover some remnants of Baroque articulation, for sure, even in those places; because in even village organs, instruments would have mechanical action and Baroque specification--they would still be tuned in meantone sometimes, right?
Vidas: Meantone temperament. Remember, we recently heard Professor Pieter van Dijk from the Netherlands, play a piece by Romantic Dutch composer Jan Alber van Eycken--who was actually a student of Mendelssohn--
Vidas: --And sometimes he articulated this piece with articulate legato.
Ausra: Yes, that’s true, but still, you know, the main way to play it is legato. You use that “articulate legato” or you know, non legato only to emphasize the structure of a piece, when the score advises it.
Vidas: So...all the notes should be slurred, except in certain places, right?
Ausra: Yes, like repeated notes, of course you have to shorten them.
Vidas: And staccato notes?
Ausra: Yes. And ends of phrases, and the beginning of a new phrase, you have to take a break, to show the structure.
Vidas: Or unison voices, when one voice overlaps with another and makes a unison interval, like C in one voice and C in another voice; you have to shorten the previous note also, so that it would be possible to hear that two voices sounding and not one.
Vidas: And there is an exact amount of rest you have to make, right? In these cases?
Ausra: Yes. Usually you have to shorten it by half of its value.
Vidas: So if the note is an 8th note value, so you make it a 16th note, and 16th note rests.
Ausra: Yes. And it’s fairly hard, especially if you have, for example, more than one voice in one hand; and you have to keep one voice smoothly legato, and another voice detached; so that’s a challenge. You have to make sure you play with the right finger; and, of course, you have to use a lot of finger substitution. That’s the way to do it. It takes time. It’s a really hard thing to do.
Vidas: And then, if you have, for example, triple meter, when the notes don’t divide exactly in half--so then it’s kind of tricky, right? You have to calculate what’s the unit value--what’s the most common, fastest rhythmical value in this piece, right? Maybe 16th note, maybe 8th note if it’s a slower piece. So then, it means that you should make a rest between repeated notes, between staccato notes, with the exact rest that unit value has. In this case, 16th note, or 8th note. So that would be very precise articulation. And your playing would be much, much clearer, this way.
Vidas: So Ausra, now let’s talk about registration. Mendelssohn himself wrote the preface for the six sonatas, and he wrote registration suggestions, right? First of all, do you remember, those pieces should be played with 16’ in the pedal, or not?
Ausra: Yes, they have to have 16’...
Vidas: Always, except when composers notate differently, right?
Ausra: Yes, so always use 16’, except when, you know, it’s written in the score not to do it.
Vidas: Then, Mendelssohn gradually explains the dynamic signs: pianissimo, piano, mezzoforte, forte, and fortissimo, I believe.
Ausra: So basically five levels.
Vidas: Five levels, yes. You can add a couple more, like mezzopiano, if you want; but the general feeling would be the same. So, what is pianissimo? In Mendelssohn’s terms, it would be very very simple, right? Just the softest stop on the organ.
Ausra: Yes. Probably 8’ flute.
Vidas: Or a string.
Ausra: Or a string, yes. Strings became, I think, more and more common in those days.
Vidas: Then piano would be a couple of those soft stops, combined.
Vidas: Then he goes to mezzoforte, right? So...But we could talk about mezzopiano. Mezzopiano probably would mean, maybe, combined few soft stops but not only at the 8’ level but…
Ausra: At the 4’ level.
Vidas: At the 4’ level, too. What else? In mezzoforte, can you engage already some of the louder stops? Maybe principals...
Ausra: I think yes, you could try; it depends on your organ, but yes, you could definitely try.
Vidas: Forte for Mendelssohn means full organ without some of the loudest stops. Basically, this means without reeds?
Ausra: I would say so, yes.
Vidas: Without strong reeds.
Ausra: Because you already have to use mixtures, I guess, for forte; but not reeds.
Vidas: And fortissimo means simply, full organ with reeds.
Vidas: And with couplers, if you want to. So that’s the basic idea, how to register Mendelssohn; but not only Mendelssohn, right?
Ausra: Yes, you can do, I think, the same in Liszt pieces. Schumann probably.
Vidas: To some extent, Brahms.
Vidas: Maybe even Reger, right?
Vidas: Maybe even Reger. Although, Reger requires a special pedal, Walze they call it, like Rollschweller. It’s like a crescendo pedal, basically.
Vidas: You gradually add stops by moving this pedal. That’s a later idea than mechanical action organs that Mendelssohn and Liszt played, right? We talk about, basically, Ladegast organs which were built in the mid-19th century; and maybe, to some extent, the earliest Walker organs, too.
Vidas: Excellent. So guys, please try to adapt those ideas into your situation. Maybe your organ that you have available, it will be different, you have to make compromises; but the general idea will be the same.
Thanks guys, we hope this was useful to you. And please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow as an organist. And...this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
#AskVidasAndAusra 63: When do you usually register a piece: before or after you learn to play all the notes?
Vidas: And let’s start Episode 63 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Kae, who is helping, actually, to transcribe our podcasts for us. And she’s very helpful, and a very accurate transcriber. So thank you so much, Kae, for doing this.
And now, back to her question. She asks, “When do you usually register a piece: before or after you learn to play all the notes? I think registering a piece can be the most fun part of preparing a performance, but maybe it should be saved for last? If my piece is very loud, I will usually practice using softer registration, but this means I get used to the quieter sound and start to prefer it. I don't know. What is your opinion? Thank you for all your work, it's wonderful to read all of your posts. I especially like your new podcast feature with text instead of just audio.” She’s wonderful, right? Because without her help, it wouldn’t be possible!
Ausra: Yes, and an excellent question, actually, a very interesting question.
Vidas: Let’s start with how we do it. It’s not necessarily the only way, because some people advise to analyze the piece, and know how the piece is put together right away, and even to figure out the registration just before you learn the notes. And some of them do the notes first, and decide on the registration later. So how do you do it, Ausra?
Ausra: Well, usually, I learn the music first, actually.
Vidas: But while learning notes, don’t you sometimes think, “Oh, in my upcoming performance on this particular instrument, I’m going to use this combination. Or that combination. Or manual change--I will go the third manual instead of the fourth manual or eighth manual instead of the ninth manual:).”
Ausra: Of course. I always keep that in mind, because otherwise I would not know how to play. But for example, as Kae mentioned, if it’s a loud piece and she practiced it on soft stops, and she will get used to that sound and she will prefer it--I would still suggest to play Organo Pleno pieces on softer stops during just regular practice. Not always, not all the time, but most of the time. Because otherwise, you could just hurt your ears, and that wouldn’t be good. But while playing even on the 8’ flute, you can still imagine you’re playing Organo Pleno. Because then even your touch will be different--a little bit different.
Ausra: But I often register the final version of the piece when I’m on the actual organ on which I will be performing that piece.
Vidas: Do you sometimes register on the table in your head?
Ausra: Yes, I do that sometimes.
Vidas: To save time?
Ausra: Yes, and then I just have to adjust some things when I get to a real organ. Because you are in sort of a luxury situation if you know the instrument on which you’re performing in advance, and I mean, in a practical way, that you have played it. But most often--for concert organists--you can only imagine what you will get! Of course, you see the specification lists, but you still cannot hear the actual sound until you get to the organ; and most of the time, you have one or two rehearsals, sometimes even almost no rehearsal before your actual performance. Life is life. So, you sort of do your imaginary registration; and then you do the real one, when you get to the real instrument.
Vidas: And the more experience you have with pipe organs, then the more closer to reality your mental preparation will be.
Vidas: Although there are exceptions, right? You discover that, let’s say, this principal is not loud enough; or this flute is not making sound that you want.
Vidas: So you need another combination. Or when the reed is out of tune...
Ausra: Yes, sure. And especially when you are learning pieces where you have to use two manuals at the same time, try various combinations when you practice on your home organ or your school organ. Because otherwise, it might be very hard for you to switch--to change the manuals, for example. Imagine you’re playing a Trio Sonata by Bach. And you always play the right hand on the second manual and the left hand on the first manual. And when you go to the real organ where you will be performing this piece, you see that it has to be the other way around--left on the top manual, and the right on the lower manual. It might be a problem for you to do that.
Ausra: So practice all these combinations. And of course, if you have access, regular access, to the organ where you will be performing that repertoire, then it might be a good idea to register pieces right away, and to practice in that way.
Vidas: And talking about trio sonatas, and this kind of texture--make sure you practice also dropping one octave lower one part…
Ausra: Yes, because you might need that, too, and register.
Vidas: Dropping probably the left hand part an octave lower, because otherwise you get Cross-relations between hands. But 8’ stop sometimes is not as beautiful as 4’ stop; so you should choose 4’ registration...but then you need to drop one octave lower, your lower voice.
Ausra: But as Kae mentioned in her question, registration--registering her piece is really the most fun part of organ playing, because each time you can explore and find new colors. And it’s sort of strange for me, but some organists keep the registration. For example, they perform a recital in one place, and they write down that registration and try to keep it for the rest of their life! I don’t like doing that, because if I will come back to that instrument, let’s say after 10 years, it doesn’t mean that I will register it in the same way; because maybe my taste will have changed in that time…
Vidas: Or your level might have grown, too.
Ausra: Yes. So I would suggest each time you would do your own new registration.
Vidas: For example, right now as we’re recording this, we’re mentally preparing for our upcoming performance in Paslek, Poland on the Andreas Hildebrand organ from 1717. So that was Bach’s day and age--a Baroque organ. And we’re practicing sometimes at home, sometimes at St. John’s church here in Vilnius...but always mentally thinking about Poland, now.
Vidas: That’s how we save time; that’s how we save energy and prepare for the real situation. It doesn’t mean that we will be 100% right, but we will have a starting point from which to begin practicing and rehearsing in Poland.
Ausra: Yes. And another important thing is that you always have to choose your repertoire for a particular organ. It just amazes me how sometimes organists try to play all kinds of repertoire on one instrument. I mean it’s good if you are in the United States, and you have sort of “universal organ” on which you can play any kind of music; but in that type of instrument I don’t think that any music will sound equally well. But still it’s possible to register and to play it. And otherwise if you’re playing on a historical organ, or a replica of a historical organ, you have to choose your repertoire right. Because you cannot play any piece of music on any instrument; that’s just impossible.
Vidas: Nevertheless, for example, a lot of organizations prefer to have an eclectic instrument, and I just read the guidelines for AGO composers’ competition (you can compose organ music and receive a prize if you’re selected). So they want this music to be performed on any type of instrument. Mechanical, electromechanical, Baroque, Romantic. They’re saying, “You should write a piece which will fit any type of organ.” That’s kind of silly, right?
Ausra: Yes, I could not agree more.
Vidas: But that’s life, right? That’s their requirement. So sometimes, you have to make those hard decisions, if you want to have the most opportunities in life (at least at first, when you don’t have so many opportunities). But always think about the target organ when you will be performing in public, and that way your registration work will become very efficient.
Vidas: Thanks, guys! I hope this was useful to you. And please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. Okay! This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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.
PS Our first e-book "Is It Possible to Learn to Play the Organ When You Are 56 Years Old" is available here for a low introductory price of $2.99 until August 9. If you have already read it, we would appreciate if you left a rating and review.
DON'T MISS A THING! FREE UPDATES BY EMAIL.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Our Hauptwerk Setup: