Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 641 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by John, and he writes,
Dear Ausra, thanks so much for this superb recital! Sorry I couldn't join it live, I've been very busy traveling and catching up with family, Covid restrictions are returning in Australia so I am cherishing every moment with family.
Well done on the Bach, it sounded great, your articulation was so clear! How do you decide on a tempo for these Prelude & Fugues, do we have any historical indications or is it more based on how it sounds in the acoustic you play in?
And please thank Vidas from me for his lovely contributions also! I am so lucky to know you both as friends and my teacher, you are so inspirational!
Happy New Year to you and your family! Please stay safe and well!
Take care, John
V: Ausra, please give me John’s thanks!
A: I give you John’s thanks.
V: Thank you. And now over to you - entire question is dedicated to you.
A: Yes. It’s such a rare case, yes?
V: I’m free now, I can relax and sleep a little.
A: Well, let me just enlighten you a little bit on John’s question. Actually, this was his response to our last Christmas recital, where we both actually performed solo pieces, and also we both performed a duet - entire quartet by Josef Haydn. So if you haven’t listened, you can find it on my channel - on my YouTube channel. And since not I wasn’t alone who played Bach, I did the G Major Prelude and Fugue, BWV 541, and Vidas did the C Major Toccata, but it’s not original C Major Toccata, it’s actually original E Major Toccata, BWV 566, only transposed by Bach himself to the C Major key. And so Vidas did the C Major Toccata, which is actually E Major Toccata. (laughs) So the tempo issue is a question for us both. So how do you take tempo when you are working on Bach’s fugues and preludes?
V: It’s not fair. You are deflecting John’s question. He asked you first.
A: Well, okay. Then I may start about what I think in general about taking tempo. I think every person has different tempo for every piece that he or she plays, and I don’t think there is one correct answer to how to pick out the right tempo, because I don’t think there’s even such a thing as the right tempo or wrong tempo. I think for each person a different tempo is the right one. Because I like to take such, to pick up such a tempo that I would still be in control of the piece. Because very often when people want just to play faster, we lose the control of what is going on, and this is especially true with virtuosic pieces by J.S. Bach. And I have heard a recording of Koopman’s…
V: Ton Koopman.
A: Ton Koopman, yes, of the same same piece, G Major Prelude and Fugue and it was way, way much faster comparing to my recording. And it was fine. He plays everything really, really fast, too fast for my taste, for example. But who I am to criticize Ton Koopman, who is one of the top 10 performers of Baroque music in the world? And, well, how I choose tempo, I choose according to acoustics, according to the instrument that I’m playing on, because for example, on our Hauptwerk setup, we have truly soft keyboards. It’s really really very, very soft. And simply I very often cannot pick up the fast tempo, or as fast as I would like to, it to be, because the keyboard gives me no resistance, and if I would play it even on the faster tempo, it simply would just collapse, and because I still want to have an articulation. So I have to sort of sacrifice a little bit on the tempo.
V: You’re right. Our Hauptwerk setup is quite customized, right? And I bought those keyboards, Nektar keyboards - they’re extremely light touch. The real benefit is of course affordability of the price. They cost very little in comparison to, let’s say, tracker action keyboards. So, but of course it was the mechanical touch. But obviously it’s like with car - you won’t, you wouldn’t often buy a first car for yourself like a luxury car or the best car you could buy. You try it out on the cheaper side, more economic side. And then if you still continue to drive and you like luxury, then you might invest in something more comfortable. The same is with Hauptwerk. I believe we will invest into real mechanical touch, tracker action keyboards, on a later date.
A: Yes, and of course when choosing the tempo, you also need to listen to the acoustics, it’s so important. For example, Vidas’ mom just sent us our older recording from 2017. I will publish it on our YouTube channels pretty soon. It was arrangement that Vidas made out of J.S. Bach’s cantata, Ein Feste Burg. And I already have forgotten that we had performed it there. And she was present, and basically she recorded it from downstairs. And I was just simply surprised that I forgot how big the acoustics are at St. John’s, because I used to play upstairs, and listen to Vidas’ playing upstairs, and I am always upstairs. And now I could listen to our duet from downstairs, where Vidas’ mom recorded us, and acoustic was just so much larger than what we hear while being upstairs at the balcony.
V: Very true. We could hear to our playing, like through listeners’ ears.
A: Yes, and I always articulate a lot actually, and while listening it from downstairs, I could barely hear it. Of course it wasn’t like all the legato, but I think I could have articulated even much more.
V: But you know, the point about articulation, it’s a different topic of course, but the point is not to articulate, but the point is to play clearly - clearly for listeners, not for yourself. So, when you listen to this recording from downstairs, was it really unclear?
A: No, it was fine. It was still fine.
V: I think we managed to listen to the echo as well to what we’re hearing upstairs.
A: Yes, but as you said that articulation is not related with picking out the tempo, I think you are not right.
V: I didn’t say that.
A: You said that we are talking about different topic, and I think that articulation and tempo, picking out a tempo is very much connected.
V: Oh okay. But it’s a wider topic on articulation - not only for this podcast episode. That’s what I meant. So obviously, it’s good to consider your acoustics and your instrument, what kind of instrument you have when you choose the tempo. And of course, you could choose a different tempo tomorrow, if you’re comfortable with that. Don’t you think, Ausra?
A: Sure. I think in the future when I will perform it, for example at St. John’s, I will play it faster.
V: Yeah. It’s a different instrument, mechanical touch - you are much more in control, and you can do many more things.
A: Yes, but you know, the tempo is often the topic that arouses lots of discussions, and I think after hearing discussion by professionals, I am left with more questions than answers. Because you would need to hear how people discuss, for example, how to play the Fugue in E flat Major by J.S. Bach, and how to pick out the right tempo, and if you have to keep the same tempo through all the three fugues, or change it while going from one fugue to another one. And people start to discuss it, and we have different opinions. And basically, we start to argue, and there is I think no one right answer. Because we actually don’t have very strongly proved historical evidence about what the right tempo should be in a given piece.
V: It’s because in Bach’s days, those metronomes didn’t exist, modern metronomes at least. So what we have now, even editions with metronome markings, those were written in later. And they were subjective things, based on editors’ opinions. And today of course, with online music streaming, you can get 100 or 1,000 different recordings on the same piece. And you can compare and choose, and discover your favorites or least favorites this way. And this puts performer in a very unfortunate position, because you’re being judged against 100 other recordings. Remember you were playing Litanies by Alain, and how you were actually, how you were not, I wouldn’t say scared, but basically distracted with the recording of Marie-Claire Alain, right? She plays it very fast, and comments around her recording are extremely positive. And when you post something on the same theme, like Litanies, people who know this piece always compare your recording to Marie-Claire Alain’s recording. And you can compare yourself to Marie-Claire Alain, right? And you say, “Oh no, I played it in five minutes instead of four minutes” you see?
A: Yes, but you know, about this recording and this about others, I listened to Olivier Latry’s recording at Notre Dame de Paris, and I read people’s comments. Of course many of them were very positive, but I read such nonsense as basically that, “Well, look! He’s playing from the score, he hasn’t memorized it! Look, he’s using the assistant to do all that kind of stuff to help him.” And also very very constant complaints about comparing him to Marie-Claire Alain, and I just love his recording so much. I think it’s really musical. It’s very well done. It’s - actually if I would have to choose between Marie-Claire Alain and Olivier Latry’s performance of this piece, I would probably choose Olivier Latry’s performance, because musically, it was more convincing to me. Because, it’s just my opinion. You know, you can have other opinions. And after reading all these comments I just felt so good that people criticize Olivier Latry, but I just adore his performance. So, well, let them just criticize mine and do whatever. I really don’t care. Everybody has its own opinion, and it’s okay. But usually the most of your critics cannot play themselves. That’s almost a rule, with rare exceptions.
V: Yes. So, you’re so right. People who criticize rarely, rarely take the time and effort, make the effort of learning difficult music. And even if they do, they almost never share it with other people to criticize. So they feel safe behind the screen. Even behind anonymous user name, let’s say, of YouTube user - we don’t even know of other person’s real name. So that’s the reality of social media today, that you can get criticized by armchair critics - experts, so-called - who listen to hundreds of, thousands of recordings, you know, and they think they have the right to criticize everyone. They do, actually, because you give them the right. Because you share your work, and you’re not disabling comments like some people. You’re not afraid. But it doesn’t mean that it’s morally correct to criticize even if you have technical possibility to criticize, you see?
A: Well, so you know, from my critics, I just say - either I write it down or I just say in my mind - “Well, do it better!”
V: Yeah, obviously the best response is either to ignore or just to ask for their own rendition of the same piece.
A: Yes, and when I ask about their rendition, usually they just simply disappear.
V: Or they start to come up with some excuse: they don’t have keyboard, they don’t have something, you know. But they have the time to criticize. So obviously, let’s thank John for his great feedback.
A: Yes, it’s so nice to read and to know that people appreciate what you are doing. It really gives us support, and inspiration to go on and keep going and creating.
V: And if anybody else listening would like to support us even further, you can buy us some coffee. You can go to the “Buy me a coffee” page that I have set up. It’s buymeacoffee.com/organduo. And you can buy us some coffee. In return you will get, obviously, early access to these videos. And we will get to keep going.
A: Yes. And if we are returning back to John’s question about picking up a tempo, I think you need to look at the particular instrument, particular acoustics, maybe record yourself from upstairs or from downstairs, and then listen to yourself, how it sounds. But the most important thing is that you need to be comfortable while playing the certain piece, and to be able to control of what you are doing. Basically, your head needs to lead you, not your fingers.
V: Well said. So please guys, send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Last Sunday (February 9, 2020) Ausra and I played an organ duet recital at Olaus Petri church in Örebro, Sweden. I hope you will enjoy the recital video.
SOPP512: My dream as a long-time pianist/harpsichordist and new organist is to be an excellent performer of early music and hymnody
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 512 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Alex, and he writes:
My dream as a long-time pianist/harpsichordist and new organist is to be an excellent performer of early music and hymnody.
The three biggest obstacles:
1) Pedal technique
2) Lack of practice time due to graduate school (in choral conducting)
3) Physical limitations in my neck, back, and arms which keep me from being able to practice more than about 90 minutes per day.
Thank you for receiving feedback. I absolutely love all the content on your wonderful website. God’s blessings on your excellent musical endeavors!”
So, Ausra, Alex wants to be an excellent performer of early music and hymnody!
A: Well, that’s a nice dream.
V: But, so far, he lacks pedal technique,
A: Which is natural, because he played piano and harpsichord before now, so he’s a new organist, so that’s natural.
V: Two, lack of practice time, because he is in school,
A: Well, I think we all need more practice time, and we all lack time in general.
V: And then, he can’t practice for a longer period of time over 90 minutes.
A: Well, since his dream is to become an excellent performer of only early music, I would say that 90 minutes is plenty of time to practice on a regular basis, if you play only organ. But of course, if you have to divide this 90 minutes between all three of these instruments that he has, it’s not enough.
V: Piano, harpsichord, and organ.
V: Out of these three obstacles, I think pedal technique is the least important. Don’t you think?
A: Why do you think so?
V: Because, if you keep practicing, you will advance in your pedal technique with time.
A: True, if you will practice, which is the most important thing.
V: And, the physical limitation in his body prevents him from practicing for a longer period, but as you say, it’s quite enough for early music to practice that much, with breaks, probably, too.
A: Yes! And, you know, if you have some sort of physical limitations, it means that you need to find time some how to improve your body’s state.
A: And maybe to strengthen your muscles, which, in the long term, would allow you to practice for longer periods of time.
V: Why do you think people lack practice time while they are in school? Because being in school is one of the best times in life, I would think.
A: Well, I don’t know what his position is, what else he does, if he only studies, or he has a part time job somewhere, or he works on campus, so it’s hard to tell, but yes, I remember my study years, and I haven’t practiced so much now as I had during my studies.
V: Me, too, because when you graduate, all kinds of life things get in the way, and not only things, but problems, challenges… you have to think about feeding yourself and your family, perhaps, so you have to find a stream of revenue—preferably several—in order to feel secure, and this occupies a lot of brain space. A lot of thinking goes into this, and a lot of energy.
A: So, I guess while being a student is an excellent opportunity to build up good organ technique. You will appreciate it later.
V: Yes, whatever you build up right now will become the foundation for you later on. Can you advance after school?
A: Yes, you can, but you will need to double your efforts to achieve that.
V: Because school is designed to help people stay motivated and keep on track with deadlines and due dates and exams. Basically, all the thinking is done for you—all the curriculum—so you just have to follow the path. It’s not the most realistic path, of course, in life. When you graduate, you become sort of on your own. You no longer have the support of professors and other students. You might have support, but you have to seek it out actively in other ways.
A: And the worse thing is that so many people nowadays work in something else, not in the field of expertise.
V: Yes. So their profession becomes like a hobby to them.
A: I know! Like for example, how my parents hired one man who did some work at their house
V: With metal?
A: With metal, yes. And he actually graduated...his major is architecture. But he doesn’t do anything like that, because he wasn’t able to find a job according to his profession. I hear many cases like his.
V: Right. I think just yesterday, I was in my church in the morning, preparing to record a sample with experiments in organ sound, how two Timpani pipes sound, and how the organ sound is disappearing when you turn off the organ blower while still holding the chord. We were doing this together with one artist from the art academy—it’s part of our collaboration between the university and the art academy—and I asked her, she’s an instructor at the art academy, and I asked her, “What about other students at the academy? Are they building their portfolios while they are still in school, or are they waiting to get their diploma?” What I’m referring to is, of course, if they are putting their work online, where people can find them, therefore their reputation would grow over time if they kept posting and uploading. You know what I mean, right Ausra?
V: And it appears that this instructor, this artist, says that most of them are waiting! Just maybe 1% of them are doing something with their work, and putting them online, outside of what is required. You know?
A: They are waiting for a miracle after studies. I remember when we came back from the United States and wrote to our professors, Quentin Faulkner and George Ritchie, that we only received a position teaching at Čiurlionis National School of Arts in the Music Theory department, that Quentin Faulkner wrote us back that it would be a dream job for most Americans who graduated from the university in Fine and Performing Arts, and at that moment, I thought, “Wow, I have a Doctoral Degree in Organ Performance, and I have to satisfy myself with teaching basically in the arts school, which is not even at the university level, it’s more like at the high school level, a specialized school. But now, after teaching there for 14 years, I understand what he meant. And seeing life around myself and meeting other people who work doing, let’s say, not what they have studied, I feel that I’m really lucky.
V: Me, too. Even though I no longer teach at school. Maybe that’s why I’m lucky. Alright guys, please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
SOPP510: My main challenges are accuracy in all parts, especially pedals and keeping correct tempo throughout
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 510, of Secrets Of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jay, who is on the team to transcribe our podcast conversations so we really appreciate his work every week. And he writes:
Accuracy in all parts, especially pedals, keeping correct tempo throughout.
V: So basically this is his answer when I ask him what is his main challenges. What are some things that he is challenging, what is he frustrated with, right? Things that are keeping him from reaching his goals. Let’s talk about accuracy, Ausra, or accuracy in all parts.
A: Yes. I always envy organists who can play without any kind of mistakes.
V: Always envy, or not so much anymore?
A: Not so much anymore, but of course there are organists that played without any mistakes, even the smallest ones, that you can always record their concerts and put them on CD’s. But that’s a rare case. Often you might not hear mistake because you don’t know that piece very well or you are not focused enough while listening to the piece, and you might miss it. Because, for instance, there are sometimes these moments when you are playing yourself, and you think that something’s very wrong, but then you listen to recording and it seems okay.
V: I did this. Remember my first organ CD with Giedrius Gelgotas, the flutist. I played D Minor Toccata.
A: Yes, I remember that, but it wasn’t a case. You played it and you thought it...
V: It was okay…
A: was okay, and I thought so too. And then we listened to the recording. We heard the mistake…
V: In the first page.
V: And I didn’t repeat this page. Therefore, my sound engineer had a very difficult time in eliminating this mistake. But he did it, I think.
A: Yes, he did it. So, do you think accuracy is the most important goal, the final goal, of each organist or not?
V: Accuracy, probably, is important for beginners, very much, because they are just starting out and struggling to play without mistakes. And if they make too many mistakes, the quality of the perception of the piece, or the performance gets distorted in your listeners ears, in your listeners minds. Therefore, it’s good to aim to play with accuracy and it’s good to aim to master the piece with this kind of accuracy, right?
A: Yes. I think it’s very important to play as accurate as possible. But I don’t think it’s the only goal, or the most important goal. I guess the most important goal is of course to play as accurate as possible but I think that even more important is to keep steady tempo throughout the piece, even if you made a mistake. And that’s what happens with the beginners, especially, we make a mistake, we got all stressed out and we stop keeping tempo. Or we stop...
A: in the middle of performance and might [want] to repeat it again and they make mistake at the same spot again, and, I have heard such performance.
V: Or they freeze and don’t know what to do.
V: Yeah. This kind of situation is the worse I think, for listeners.
A: True, because if you occasionally make a mistake—who doesn’t—we are no computers or robots. But if you will give a steady tempo then nobody will notice. Or maybe just a few professionals, but not the general audience.
V: Do you think people mess up more pedal parts or manual parts?
A: Well, I never thought about it. Never counted…
A: if I have heard more mistakes in the pedals or made myself, in the manual part. But I guess pedal part is still a challenge for many organists.
A: For beginners. But I guess if we would just relax and let it go, I think we would do [a] better job. I think it’s all mostly mental.
V: Yeah. And it also, I was going to say, depends on peoples ability to multitask, right? Because when you play the organ, you have to be able to do many things at once—play with your right hand, play with the left hand, play with the right feet, foot, and play with the left foot, at the same time. Sometimes really together, all those four parts. Sometimes in alternation. And this requires coordination of your various body parts. And beginners and people with less experience on the organ bench or less experience with different kind of instruments, usually get distracted while doing this kind of assignment of playing different parts together. And if they mess up someplace, in someplace, they can’t pickup from the same place seamlessly. They have to stop and start again. But I think that that’s very natural. And after a while, experience, if you don’t stop yourself from practicing over the years, practicing and playing in public, playing on different instruments, if you keep advancing, I think your experience will teach you all things that you need to know. And it will not be very challenging to pick up the music without stopping and keep going, just keep going, right?
A: Yes. It’s very important. And another thought that came to my mind while reading Jay’s question about keeping the correct tempo throughout the piece, that if it’s difficult for you to keep that tempo throughout the piece…
A: that maybe you picked up the wrong tempo.
V: Or the wrong piece.
A: Well, that’s [a] possibility too, but let’s not go into to selecting repertoire.
A: but maybe, it’s not the right tempo for you. Maybe it’s the right tempo for that piece, but maybe you still have to work on some difficult spots, and to strengthen your abilities, technical abilities to play it.
V: Quite often, the most challenging episode comes, not at the beginning, but towards the middle or towards even the end of the piece.
A: Well, it’s often the cadences that we are talking about…
A: in Bach’s music.
V: So even if this cadence is the first cadence that you meet in Bach’s music, it’s not in the first measure.
V: It’s after a few measures. And if you start at the concert tempo and it goes smoothly, like for three, four, six measures, and then you encounter a cadence and then you slip, right? You first have to think about this cadence and be able to play it at the comfortable tempo fluently. And then, pick this tempo for the beginning of the piece.
A: Yes. And sometimes I found out for myself, that if I pick up a new piece that I don’t know, then everything is just fine. But if I decide to learn some well known organ piece that I have heard many, many time, I sit down on the organ bench, and I want to play it in the right tempo, as I hear it in my mind.
A: And then it’s really [a] problem. Because you cannot pickup right away very difficult song, organ piece, and play it in a concert tempo.
V: No, not yet.
A: So I find it’s challenging sometimes, to slow me down.
V: Well, you have to, you want to have immediate results, right?
A: Yes, but it’s impossible I think, for anybody. If somebody tells the other way, maybe we just exaggerating their skills.
V: Even Bach was known to stop for several times while say, creating a piece on the harpsichord, while visiting his friend. This was documented in one of his letters. And then after that he exclaimed that it’s not possible to sight-read everything.
V: Mmm-hmm. So guys, don’t worry. Even Bach was a human being, even if it’s hard to believe. Thank 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!
SOPP402: When I play faster it just sounds rushed, irregular and without any real feeling
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 402 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ariane, and she writes:
I started with week 3 of my hymn improvisation course and tried to play my current organ pieces at a faster tempo (which I saw on YouTube- St. Sulpice...). But when I play faster it just sounds rushed, irregular and without any real feeling.
V: Let’s discuss, Ausra, first, those Hymn Improvisation Course exercises that she is working on in week three, because the first four weeks is created like note against note counterpoint, so against one note of the chorale, the student has to add one note of the counterpoint, and vice versa, and they switch, bass-soprano, soprano-bass. Does this sound reasonable for four weeks in a row?
A: Yes, I think that’s very good for starters.
V: I think there is no need to rush, because of course, you could do each week, one more difficult set—two notes against note, one note or three notes against one—but that would be, I think, too fast.
A: Especially if you are a beginner, because usually exercises like this are done in the written form before playing them and practicing them, so…
V: So, she’s in week three, and next week, she will get a set of exercises, too, and then in week 5, we will start practicing improvising the second voice in 8th notes, for the selected hymn tunes, which means two notes against one. And that will be another level. I think by that time, she will have some fluency over the first level, note against note, and she will be ready to jump in and get started with 8th notes.
A: Yes, if you go step by step, then yes.
V: It could be even a nice introduction for your hymn of the day when you are introducing your hymn, you can play with two voices and improvising the lower part, or improvising the upper part, but just note against note in church.
A: Yes, it’s possible, although, maybe you don’t want to play an entire hymn as an introduction. It might be too long.
V: To make it sound more appealing, you can add more gravity to the registration. Maybe, I would say, Organo Pleno with Principal Chorus and Mixtures. That’s sounds sometimes convincing.
A: Well, that’s possible, yes, especially if it’s an opening hymn.
V: And then, Ariane has, I think, a problem of playing faster, her pieces, because she looked at YouTube recordings of her piece, and played at St. Sulpice, and she probably felt that she could also try out at a faster tempo, but she writes “The playing sounds rushed, irregular, and without any feeling.” Why is this, Ausra?
A: Well, there might be different reasons. First of all, she did not mention what she thought about that YouTube recording at St. Sulpice, but I guess she might have liked it, because after she listened to it, she tried to play faster, and then it sounded bad for her. So, what that might mean, my guess as a professional musician, could be that she simply is not ready to play faster.
V: You know what I wrote to her on Basecamp is that slow practice leads to fast progress, I think.
A: It makes sense, of course.
V: I like playing pieces very slowly for a long time without rushing. And if I need to rush, I know there is something wrong with my planning. Right? If I’m still playing slowly, and my recital is three days from now, I know there is something wrong with my preparation and scheduling and planning in advance, because as I say, it has to be ready, for concert tempo, two months in advance, I think. That’s a safe zone. Don’t you think?
A: True. And in general, I think that picking up the tempo is very individual for each person. Because what works for one could not work for another, and for different reasons, and not only because of ability to play, but also because of the temperament, too. For example, when I heard for the first time how Joris Verdin plays Franck, well, it sounded really impressive! I was basically very much surprised, and some pieces it works pretty well, like in the Finale piece, for example, I think that that tempo worked pretty well, and no ritenuto at the end, but some pieces sounded just ridiculous for my taste.
V: And you have to remind our listeners, for which reasons Joris Verdin is famous.
A: Actually, for playing Franck very fast.
V: Because his theory is that the metronome markings of the day for the 19th century were meant for 19th century metronomes, and those were made a little bit differently, and therefore, the tempi should have been faster. And Franck would sound more virtuosic, then!
A: Well, yes, but why I wouldn’t play as fast, is because Franck’s harmonies are incredibly rich and incredibly beautiful. And, when you are playing them so fast, you basically don’t have time to enjoy them, to listen into them. But it’s a matter of taste, too.
V: Right. Sometimes you need to lean on dissonances, as our former professor Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra said, and….
A: Well, you know, Americans very often talk about dissonances, and I have heard in Europe, that somebody laughs at Americans, because they always lean on the dissonances, and sort of exaggerate the role of dissonance in music, but the more I live, the more I agree with the Americans, that it’s really very important to lean on dissonances, because why are all suspensions written on the strong beats? It means something to you.
V: Right. So, when I’m going to play today, I’m going to lean on dissonances even more. You will hear it!
A: Okay! I’m looking forward to it!
V: And, you know, I’m playing Ad Patres Sonata by Brunius Kutavičius in preparation of my Notre Dame recital in the summer, and you know, this piece is entirely made of dissonances.
A: Well, but that’s another story! It’s a modern composition in minimalistic style, so that’s completely another story. What I was talking about is music written in a common period.
V: I will still lean on dissonances, you will hear it!
A: Good luck with that! Then your sonata will take forever to play!
V: Yes. Thank you guys for sending wonderful questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen!
SOPP378: I find it quite challenging to bring out the melody of BWV 613 and other similar compositions by Bach in the Orgelbüchlein
Before we go to the podcast for today, I'd like to remind our listeners that there are less than 24 hours left to participate in Secrets of Organ Playing Contest Week 3. The details are here.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 378, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And this question was sent by May. And, May writes:
I was working on BWV 605 and BWV 613 yesterday. I find it quite challenging to bring out the melody of BWV 613 and other similar compositions by Bach in the Orgelbüchlein (for example, BWV 606, 623, 630 etc).
V: So Ausra, we have just checked what those pieces are, right? And it appears that they all have some things in common.
A: Sure! They all have quite a thick texture. Most of them are written for organo pleno registration, and are played on one manual with the pedals. And usually the cantus firmus or the choral tune is in the soprano, but it’s not alone on the soprano clef.
V: Mmm-hmm. Not to be played on a separate manual?
A: That’s right. It’s not like ornamented choral, for example, like Schmucke Dich or something like this. Well, since in organ, we doesn’t have the capability of playing louder and softer on the same manual at the same time, unless it’s divided keyboard but it’s another matter completely. It’s not a piano but you could sort of put more emphasis on that solo voice—upper voice. So what can we do actually to articulate everything as it should be? And since in most of these cases that the hymn melody is written in a longer note value, and in the upper voice, you will still be able to hear it. And there is no other way to project it, only to articulate everything and listen to that upper voice...
A: Maybe try to sing it. Because we listen from recording. Obviously it’s not so profound as in the, let’s say ornamented choral version, but you can still hear it quite clearly.
V: Mmm-mmm. And the way this constructed is that the lower three voices basically talk to each other, imitate themselves, based on one particular figure, and that figure could be based on some rhetorical symbol, or on the choral motive, from the choral, from the excerpt of the choral. And so the bottom three voices—sometimes the inner two voices, like alto and tenor—imitate themselves, and the pedals have something else because they usually are moving in slower note values. But not always. Sometimes all three parts in the bottom, they imitate themselves while soprano plays the tune in larger note values. And from time to time, joins in imitations with the lower three parts too.
A: So I guess that cantus firmus might not be heard as good as it should, if you will not articulate other voices, that have smaller note values.
A: This is very important. Because if you will play everything legato, or almost legato, then yes, definitely will not be able to hear the melody.
V: Mmm-hmm. So just observe the general rules of baroque articulation, which we call articulate legato…
A: Or ornamented touch, probably, too.
V: Yes. This is how it was called back in the day. And what we mean probably is to try to play the top notes with one finger—top melody with one finger—as legato as possible, but not connected, obviously, and not to choppy. Make it sing. And then, imitate the same thing, same articulation with normal fingering, with fingers that you use in the piece. And then you will have ideal articulation, and this is how you will bring out the melody.
A: Yes, and don’t forget that rules that you are applying for top voice, you need to apply for other voices as well.
V: Yes. Sometimes we observe our students make this mistake—that they pay attention to the soprano only, and middle voices and even the pedals get slurred to much.
A: And that way you will really lose the sense of the melody.
V: And the best way I know to solve this problem, is probably to start working on solo voices first, not jumping to four part texture right away. Start practicing soprano, alto, tenor and pedals separately, and then work on two part combinations, once you are ready. And then three part combinations after that. And after fourteen combinations you will have reached the level when you can play all four parts correctly with desired articulation and understanding what’s going on in the middle parts as well.
A: That’s right!
V: Great question, right, that May sends. And please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
SOPP285: How should I play Bach on smaller church organs in buildings that have flat acoustics?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 285 of #Secrets of Organ Playing podcast. This question was sent by John, and he writes:
I’ve almost learnt In dulci jubilo by Bach, your training videos have been so helpful thank you! It seemed a really daunting piece to learn, but its coming together quicker than I expected, all the sight reading has helped me and your teaching has really helped me improve.
My question is how should I play this piece on smaller church organs in buildings that have flat acoustics. When I played my recital on St Johns organ in Vilnius, it was an incredible eye opening experience to play on a large mechanical organ in a huge acoustic. I came to realize how articulate legato suddenly made sense playing on an instrument closer to Bach’s time in a resonant acoustic.
When I listen to other professionals play this piece in large churches or cathedrals, I can hear some parts get lost in the blend of legato.
But when I play it in our church, I’m worried it sounds a bit too staccato and the gaps between the longer notes sounds a little disjointed.
Can you give some advice about playing Bach in flat acoustics? Should I try to play more legato? Did Bach ever use finger substitutions? Would I have to play it faster in flat acoustics?
So Ausra, what do you think?
A: Well, yes, you need to adjust articulation depending on the acoustics where you are playing in. But even if you are playing in dead acoustics, you don’t have to play Bach legato; that’s a basic rule. And of course, if you will play it staccato it sounds funny and unnatural.
V: Remember, Ausra, by the way, that I’ve been the one who would play early music works too detached in our student days.
A: Yes, I remember that.
V: Many people made fun of me!
A: Yes, I remember that. But as I told a few days ago in one of our podcasts: usually first of all, you play everything legato, then you play everything too detached, too staccato; and then finally you realize how it should be played, and you play in the right way.
V: Mhm. Do you think that John is progressing to the second stage?
A: Yes, I think so.
V: Where he’s playing too detached?
A: But anyway, you don’t have to play legato. To answer his question if Bach ever used finger substitutions...so, I think that he didn’t use finger substitutions, because obviously he didn’t play legato, so he didn’t need to use finger substitutions.
V: But we shouldn’t be 110% certain about that, because there are some very thick textures at the end of, let’s say, the 3rd Kyrie from Clavierubung by J.S. Bach.
A: Well I’ve played it, and I didn’t use finger substitutions. You don’t need it. But...well, and even if you would do it, very rarely, occasionally…
V: As an exception.
A: As an exception only, and not as a basic rule.
V: For example, if the top note is held throughout let’s say 4 measures, right, and beneath that you have three or four other notes in chordal texture, changing...what do you do? Sometimes with this top note you sometimes have to change from 4 to 5.
A: Well, yes, there are places like this.
V: That’s what I’m talking about.
A: But what John I think meant about finger substitutions wasn’t about places like this. And another thing that he writes, that he heard some recording of, you know, a cathedral’s organ, where he could hear the blend of legato. Well, that’s an acoustical trick, because I’m pretty sure that organist didn’t play legato.
V: Depending on where the microphones are positioned, right?
V: And depending on what kind of an organist is playing, too. You would hear different sounds. Of course, an organist might play legato. There are probably hundreds of people who still play legato--
A: But if you would play legato in a large acoustics Bach’s music, then you wouldn't hear a legato, but you would hear a mess!
A: And if you hear legato, it meant that the organist articulated.
V: Right. So when you listen to the recording, try to see if you hear the beginning and ending of each note. Or just the beginning. If the beginning and ending are blended, then it’s a little bit too much--too legato. But if it’s almost together, then it’s okay.
A: Yes. And as you know, about tempo, that’s right, as John mentioned himself: in a dry acoustic, you need to play faster.
A: That’s obvious. You need to do it, because otherwise, if you will play too staccato and in a slow tempo, everybody will get bored.
V: Mhm, right. John later asked another question about speeding up the tempo--how to get better at playing at a faster tempo. But maybe we could talk about that in later podcast episode.
A: Sure, sure.
V: 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.
AVA237: I’m trying to speed up the Toccata from the Suite Gothique by Leon Boellmann
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start Episode 237 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Jeremy, and he writes:
I’m trying to speed up the Toccata from the Suite Gothique by Leon Boellmann. I am planning on playing the entire work for church in two or three weeks: Chorale and Minuet for Prelude, Prayer for Offertory, and Toccata as Postlude. I've played the Prayer a couple times as preludes or offertories over the past year.
I've got the Toccata up to 100 to the quarter note. Any tips on speeding it up?
V: So, this is one of the most popular toccatas for organ, right Ausra?
A: It is! And probably one of the least complicated.
V: People who want to start paying French toccatas probably would need to practice this, first.
A: Yes, this is a good good piece for starters. So, how would you speed it up?
V: My classical method of learning the piece, or any type of organ composition, up to speed is this: At first, I learn the music, if I cannot do this all parts together, then I do parts separately and then do combinations of 2 lines, and then three parts all together. How does it sound so far?
A: Yes, it sounds good! The other thing that I’m thinking, is that because as was mentioned in the question, that there is not so much time left, actually. I don’t know if he will be able to push up the tempo a lot. But I’m thinking about the theme of this toccata, and for me, it seems that if he would compare various toccatas, this one is not as fast as some others, I would say. Definitely not as fast as, for example, Duruflé’s toccata from the suite.
V: Right. I remember playing this piece when I was a student in the early stages at the academy of music in Vilnius. So, I presume that Jeremy, by now, can play the piece with all parts together. And he writes that he can do that about 100 beats per minute. So that’s good. So, if you can do, let’s say slowly, but all parts together, then the next stage that I suggest is to start playing at the concert tempo, whatever it is in your opinion, maybe 120, maybe not too fast, I think 120 is probably maximum, I would suggest, for people who have not played for decades, and many many instruments before—with not too much experience.
V: So, play this piece in a concert tempo, but only a shortest fragment imaginable. Maybe one quarter note, one beat, at the concert tempo, and then stop. And then, you have to look and imagine what’s ahead one beat further. And then you prepare for that beat, and then play it also, very very fast. And then stop again at the next beat. And so you do, several times, the entire piece, but while stopping every beat. What do you think, Ausra?
A: Yes! This is exactly your method, how you work. Not exactly my method, but it could work, I think, very well.
V: What would you have suggested, Ausra?
A: As I always have taught, a hundred times, I would work in combinations, I would find the places where I would place accents, correctly, and definitely I would sing the melody in the bass. This would help me.
V: My method is for very patient people, right?
A: True. And I don’t have such patience.
V: Then, I would play a longer fragment—maybe two beats, and then stop. And then four beats, so basically one measure. Then two measures at a time. Then maybe an entire line, then two lines. Then one page, then two pages, then four pages, and then the entire piece, I believe.
A: True. I think that’s also nice if you don’t have access to the organ all the time. If you have access to the piano. For this particular Toccata, it’s nice to play the hand parts, manual part on the piano, and then really to sing that bass.
V: Hmm. Right.
A: It would work, I think, Nicely.
V: What’s the reason people cannot play fast.
A: Well, lack of, probably, muscle strength in the fingers.
V: Finger independence?
A: Finger independence, coordination problem between hand and feet. It could also be some inner problems, like being afraid of a fast tempo, too. Some people are afraid of fast tempos. So, it could also be a little bit psychological. Because a fast tempo, we often think that it’s something very hard, and I think that this thought gives us more of a struggle.
V: I see.
A: Don’t you think so?
V: Right. I agree with you, because speed is a very relative thing.
A: True. And also, I think if you would listen to YouTube recordings, in many of those, there is such a fast tempo, if we are talking about toccatas or some other virtuosic pieces. But not everybody has to play at the same tempo, because if you are technically very capable, then yes, play it very fast—as fast as you can. But if you are making mistakes, if you are not ready yet, then you would sound comic, and you will just make people laugh at you.
V: So, I think Jeremy can play 100 beats per minute in a stable tempo without making too many mistakes.
A: Because, you know, sometimes when an organist is not ready to play in as fast a tempo as he or she wants, and he or she tries to do it, it sounds comic.
A: So, you need to take such a tempo that you could still be able to control things.
V: Also, people who can’t play fast usually don’t practice much on the piano. Maybe I’m wrong, but it could be that Jeremy has an electronic organ at home.
A: Could be also. You know, electronic organ doesn’t help so much.
V: Unless they have some keyboard with resistance, Right?
V: Which is quite rare. A recent innovation, I think.
A: Because it’s hard to develop your finger muscles while playing electronic keyboard.
V: Remember our friend Paulus, who works in St. Joseph’s parish, here in Vilnius? He actually complains sometimes that he has to play an Allen digital organ.
A: Isn’t this Johannus?
V: Yeah, Johannus, Yeah. But still, digital and very easy to depress keys, and then he has to play sometimes on mechanical action organs like at Saint John’s church or the cathedral. And whenever he comes over, he is very much stressed out about the strength needed. Right? So a real organ with real resistance is, I think, a beautiful thing. So I think people should spend as much time as possible playing on real instruments plus piano, too, because it’s a real thing.
A: Yes. I agree.
V: And then their technique will develop much faster, and getting up to speed will not be that big of a problem. Yeah?
V: So, guys, please apply our tips in your practice. We certainly know they work for us, and we hope it will work for you, too. And please send more of your questions. We love helping you grow. 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 227 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by David, and before that, I asked him what challenges is he facing when preparing for a wedding. And he wrote:
Fortunately, I have 5 years to practice for this. My biggest hurdle was actually covered in one of your recent podcasts where Jan was mentioning she might be practicing to quickly the speed of the piece. I have the same problem as I want to capture the artistic interpretation immediately, but am starting to realize it's more important to get the correct fingering and pedaling down first and perfect that and then focus on interpretation.
V: So Ausra, practicing the piece too fast—is this a common problem for organists?
A: Yes, it’s a very common problem, especially for beginners.
V: And even not for beginners. I think a lot of people sort of want to get the general feeling of the piece too fast and too quickly.
A: But you know what I mean when I’m telling that about beginners, because people who practice organ for more years, we know the trouble that causes that fast practice at the beginning. And simply, we don’t want to experience it again. Don’t you think so?
V: It makes sense. What you mean, probably, is when you slow down considerably, you have to postpone the sense of gratification.
A: That’s true.
V: Because you have to be extremely patient.
A: True, and you know, I think all experienced organists have had this thing when we learn a piece very fast and we learn something not correct. Maybe a fingering wasn’t right or something, or text wasn’t correct.
V: What about you, Ausra, are you a patient person?
A: Well, not really.
V: So, do you practice your pieces too fast?
A: Well, I think this is the only one case in life when I try to be patient and to learn in the slow tempo first, because the pain of undergoing, undertaking the piece and relearning it is much worse than practicing the piece in a slow tempo first.
V: You know what I think is that I think you have experienced the moment of perfection when playing a nicely prepared piece without mistakes in front of the public, and you feel good about this feeling. So then you remember this feeling, how you felt in front of other people when playing at the high level. So, if you want to rush and play too fast right at the beginning, then you remind yourself, too, that if you do this now, you will not be able to prepare that piece at the high level.
A: Yes, that’s one of the reasons. Another, if you play in the fast tempo right at the beginning, you will not notice many wonderful things in that piece. You will not notice compositional techniques, all those subtleties that the learned musician has to understand and to notice.
V: It’s like if you play the piece too fast when practicing, then you’re constantly on the edge—your nerves are tensed, you’re stressed actually, right?
V: You never know if you make a mistake or not. You’re basically shaking. It’s like driving a car at too fast a speed.
A: That’s right. Because you know, it’s really a very good comparison with this, about the car.
V: Thank you.
A: Because you know, if you will drive a car too fast, maybe everything will be fine. Yes. If you are lucky. But, think about some unexpected things that might happen. Your tire might explode, you know, or somebody might run in the way right in front of your car, and then you will be toast.
V: Like a hedgehog, right?
A: Yes or a person, too, or a bicycle or something.
V: A piglet.
A: Yes. I doubt a pig would cross my road, but hedgehogs, yes! And in the evening we have those a lot.
V: Plus, if you drive too fast, you will never experience the beauty of the scenery.
A: True. And I think the same with learning a new piece of music. So, and then you will be able, you can play it fast, but not in the beginning.
V: What would you say to people who are criticizing a little bit this kind of approach and say, “Ok, if I play too slow all the time, considerably slower than I just want, and practice at the tempo which I could control, how on earth could I play fast in the concert tempo later on?”
A: Well, for me it was never a problem to play fast. The problem was to play slow, actually. Because, when you are learning a new piece, you know if you are doing everything step by step in sort of a correct way, or you know put your mind in what you are doing, too, not only your fingers,
A: Mindfully, yes, that’s right, that’s a very good word. Mindfully. Then, you know, that speed will come up. You will not even notice that you finally will be playing at the concert tempo.
V: Because you will be ready.
A: Sure. But if you will play at too fast a tempo when you are not ready yet, you will constantly make mistakes and you will play sloppy, probably.
V: I think it depends a lot on muscle memory, too. When you play very slowly, your muscles get developed better. Do you remember working out at the gym in our classes? They always do slow exercises, not fast moving exercises, because to move slower is much harder.
A: That’s true, yes.
V: Right? So if you do this with organ, you play it at the slow speed, and little by little your finger and your mind starts to think that this is the normal speed—it’s not too fast for you, so they will gradually pick up the tempo actually. You’ll want to play a little bit faster then, and still be in control and still can understand and appreciate the beauty of the details, right? In a few weeks you will speed up the tempo even a little bit more, when you’re ready. Right?
V: And that’s how you pick up the tempo up to the concert speed. By practicing at your tempo which is under your control.
A: That’s right.
V: Very naturally. Ausra, are there any exceptions for this, where you have to do some extra work to get up to speed?
A: Well, yes. There might be some spots where you have to exercise more, to practice more.
V: And isolate those, right?
A: Isolate those
V: Isolate those spots and first play them extremely slowly!
V: Maybe even not all voices together—in combinations and solo parts. What else? Maybe you could make it like an exercise. Transpose half steps or whole steps upwards and downwards through the entire range of the keyboard, right? And once you do that up and down, up and down, you will learn this fragment—this maybe measure or two. What do you think about it?
A: Yes. Yes, I think this might be helpful. Although, I’m not sure about the fingering. Because you might not be able to apply the same fingering while surfing through differing keys.
V: You’re right. But also, think about Hanon exercise; It’s written all in C major. But, in the preface, Charles-Louis Hanon writes that he recommends transposing, for example, to C# major, and playing it with the same fingering.
A: Well, it makes some sense, because if you practice always only in C major, then you will become very good only in C major. And all the accidentals will definitely kill you.
V: Yeah, but you will keep the same fingering in C# major as well.
A: But that’s a very bizarre way, you know, I see his point, but it does not always work in real pieces.
V: It’s like forcing your fingers to do what they are not meant to do. It’s very good for maybe very chromatic music and modern music to do this from time to time, just to see if it’s possible.
A: Yes, but you know if you have a very thick texture, oh my gosh, what kind of bizarre things with your fingering you’d do!
V: Mhm. I think people who cannot play up to speed are not ready for it, right? They’d have to choose easier pieces!
A: Could be, and I think the Hanon exercises would be very beneficial for those performers to improve these skills, to strengthen their finger muscles.
V: You’re right. And also, people who criticize slow speed practice I think have never mastered this piece in this way before. I think they think they would wish to try it, but they find some reason not to do it. And before they even try it, or before they mastered it, maybe the did it for a page or two, and it felt really hard, and then they complained… but if they persevere and do it from the beginning until the end for several weeks or even months, they will start noticing benefits.
A: Yes. I’m positive about it.
V: Excellent. Thank you guys for these wonderful questions. We love helping you grow and we need more of them, actually. Please send them today. And your questions can be about what you’re currently struggling with organ playing. Just think about what you are playing right now, and what would you like to achieve in three to six months with that piece or with organ playing in general, and what specifically stops you from achieving that—why are you not at this level yet? So write to us, and we will be glad to answer your questions on the podcast.
A: Yes. We are waiting for it… looking forward to it.
V: So, do it now, we are still waiting. Have you done it yet? Not yet? Maybe now! Ok...Thank you guys, this was Vidas,
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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!
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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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