Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 207 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by Ahra. And she writes:
My name is Ahra Yoo. I am an organist
in Korea. My recital is coming up in Germany, and the organ has short octave. I have never been played on short octave organ and I read your article about ‘CDE Octave’
Could you recommend any appropriate pieces for this organ? I am in trouble to make a program. It will be very helpful any of your advice.
So. It’s wonderful that people from various countries are trying to play on historical organs, right Ausra?
A: Yes, that’s wonderful.
V: And it might be surprising for Ahra, because in Korea, they might have replicas, but not historical organs
A: Yes, not originals, yes.
V: Mhmm. So, what do you need to recommend to Ahra, in this situation? What is C-D-E and short octave?
A: Well, yes...You know, it doesn’t matter what kind of repertoire you will select--you will still not be able to avoid the short octave; so you will really have to learn how to play it. So of course, the earlier the music you will select, the better it will work.
V: Until the 18th century, probably.
A: Yes. Don’t play Bach with the short octave; it might not work.
A: And also, the fewer accidentals the pieces will have, the easier you will adapt to that particular organ. So I would say: because your recital will be in Germany, play German music.
V: And look at the pieces that you want to play, and circle all the short octave notes. If it’s C-D-E, this means that there isn’t C♯ or D♯ in the bass octave.
A: That’s right.
V: If it’s C-D-E-F-G-A, then it means there are no accidentals of C♯, D♯, F♯, and G♯. Even more limited. And whatever you do, you need to adjust your fingering this way.
A: Yes, that’s right. And you know, what I did when I knew that I would have to perform on an organ with a short octave? Of course I circled the notes that belonged to the short octave, as the first step, as Vidas mentioned; and then, while practicing my organ that I had as a practice instrument, I would play it that way, imagining that it is with the short octave.
V: Even though it sounds--
A: Yes, it sounds horrible that way. But in that case, you will build up your muscle memory, which is very important for us as keyboardists.
V: Uh-huh. C-D-E organ short octave has a layout that C is where normal D is, and D is where normal D♯ is. So the lowest note is D. And you depress it, and it sounds C. And in another version, if it’s C-D-E-F-G-A, then the lowest note is still C but it looks like E. And then D is where F♯ should be, E is where G♯ should be, F is where F [should be], G is where G [should be], and A is where A [should be].
A: So anyway, you will have fun!
V: It’s really fun, but very confusing for the first time.
A: Yes, it is.
V: So take Ausra’s advice, and play on your normal modern keyboard, pretending that it is a short octave.
A: Okay. Now let’s talk a little bit more about the repertoire. What would you play on such an instrument?
V: You already suggested to avoid most of Bach’s works, right? Maybe some early Bach works would still be ok.
A: Maybe something written in C Major.
V: Mhm. Or G Major, or F Major. Those 3 keys in major, or d minor, in minor key. That would be probably the best solution for starters. And in general, if you look at earlier music from the 17th century, I think most of this music would still be composed with just 1 accidental, or even less.
A: Yes. And remember that short octave might be in the pedal as well.
V: Definitely. I think the most common version of short octave is: in the pedals, C-D-E, and in the manuals, C-D-E-F-G-A. But in her case, I’m not sure. Maybe C-D-E is in the manuals, too.
A: Yes, I don’t know exactly how it is. So I would play probably some Scheidemann on such an instrument; I think it would work well.
V: Yeah. She could look at Scheidemann, and Scheidt, and Sweelinck, probably, too.
V: “Tabulatura Nova” by Scheidt. And any piece in Tabulatura Nova could be played by manuals only.
A: That’s right. And if you would need more manual pieces, you could also play some Pachelbel; I think he would work well, also.
V: Yes. Pachelbel...What else?
A: Some Buxtehude, probably?
V: Easier Buxtehude.
A: Yes, easier pieces. Also Bach’s pieces too.
V: I made a big mistake for my first try on the mean-tone temperament organ with split keys and short octave...choosing a piece in E Major.
A: Hahaha that’s a horrible mistake!
V: And you? You did something else in C Major.
A: Yes, Yes. I actually played in e minor.
V: E minor?
A: Which is also not as good selection for mean-tone temperament and split-key action...but that’s what we did!
V: Hopefully Ara will not have to deal with split keys just yet; but some time in the future, she might.
A: But I think pieces by Buxtehude--such as Chorale fantasy, Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern--I think would work quite well on an instrument like this.
A: And it has almost not pedal parts. This would also make life easier. I think some pieces by Böhm would work well on such an instrument. Don’t you think so?
V: Yeah. So you could choose between those authors Pachelbel, Böhm, Scheidemann, Scheidt, Buxtehude…
V: And Sweelinck. Those 6.
V: What else? Maybe some early Bach, right...
V: If you really like playing Bach. Do really think, Ausra, that modern music created in the 21st century would still work on an organ with short octave?
A: Yes, I think some of it might work. But you’d need to make a selection very carefully.
V: Or even improvise. You could improvise.
A: Yes, that’s right. And you know, I thought also of another composer that would work, I think, very well on such an instrument: that’s Muffat.
V: Georg Muffat?
A: Georg Muffat, yes. His “Apparatus musico-organisticus.”
A: It consists of many toccatas. There are, I think, like 4 volumes of it; and you could select quite nice pieces. They are not too hard, and sort of sectional.
V: Mhmm. They’re a little bit Italian-influenced, or French-influenced as well. Do you think Italian music would sound good on this organ, too?
A: I think so, yes.
V: Something like Fiore Musicale, by...
A: And maybe some Fröhberger, too, if you like him.
V: So in general, 17th century music would work well…
A: Yes, yes--I think that 17th century music…
V: Except for French music.
A: Oh yes, that’s right! French music wouldn’t work!
V: Mhm...Spanish, maybe?
A: I...wouldn’t risk it.
V: Early Spanish. Renaissance Spanish...
A: Yes, that’s true, that’s true, yes yes.
V: But not 18th century Spanish.
A: But still, because you are going to Germany, you want to honor German composers first.
V: Right. Play some Korean music, too. That would be nice, I think--to bring your own cultural flavor to Europe. People will appreciate it. Lots of Korean music is written in pentatonic, so you just to be careful with accidentals; but if anything happens, you could still play in C Major without the fourth or the seventh scale degree
A: Yes, if it will sound good…
V: Without F or B. Or improvise something in pentatonic, and say it’s an original Korean melody! Nice. Wonderful. Thank you, guys, for listening. We hope this was useful to you. Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
CDE short octave
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
Vidas and I are preparing to perform in Sweden this summer. We will be playing an instrument from Sweelinck's time.
It stands in Stockholm's German St Gertrude church (the Duben organ) and has all kinds of features of old organs: mean-tone temperament, split keys, high-pitched tuning, and short octave.
A short octave in this case are the 3 diatonical keys in the bass octave - C, D, and E. This means music with C# and D# in this octave cannot be played.
So we chose our repertoire very carefully, avoiding pieces with more than 1 accidental.
But it's still a challenge to master the new layout of this type of keyboard. In the above picture you can see how a similar keyboard with CDE short octave looks like.
It works this way:
The lowest note which looks like E is actually C.
D looks like F#.
E looks like G#.
F looks like F. Great!
F# is the additional semitone on top of the 1st sharp.
G is G. Great!
G# is the additional semitone on top of the 2nd sharp.
From A everything looks normal again.
You might already feel that adjusting to this short octave will take some time and will require some special fingering.
It takes more than that. We will be circling with pencil all our notes in the bass octave of our scores which would require re-positioning. And then we will be practicing on the modern organ or piano the way it would work on the old organ in Stockholm.
The result will not be pleasant (when we need C, we'll play E; when we need D, we'll play F# etc.).
But this is the only way to get used to the short octave on the target organ and shorten the time needed to adjust.
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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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