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 609 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Robert, and he writes,
Thank you so much for the video of you working on Vierne Final, sym 1. Within just the first 3 minutes I learned so much about how to practice properly, the key word here is properly. I, of course, practice (and I'm a slow learner but I get there) usually sections at a time and slowly but watching you slowly and what appears to me slight hesitation at certain points to read ahead. I may be misinterpreting what you're doing but it makes sense and allows for a much smoother transition from section to section until the full work is learned and brought up to speed.
I've listened to more than 3 minutes but not the complete video which I will do now. I can't wait to see what's ahead that I will learn. You are such a good human being and make the world a better place. Thank you.
Warm regards to you both,
A: What a nice letter to write. Thank you very much, Robert!
V: Of course, Robert refers to my recent video where I show my own practice method, how to master Vierne’s Final from the First Symphony in 11 steps. What do you think about my method, Ausra?
A: Well, I think it’s working obviously, because we see the results of your playing. But I don’t have so much patience as you do.
V: Oh, that’s strange. Because I always knew that I’m the impatient one.
A: Not in practicing the organ, obviously.
V: My mind is scattered all over the place, and I jump from one hobby to the next, faster than you can think of. But you are such a steadfast and very stable. Do you think you can’t spend like 30 minutes with one step or two?
A: Well it surely would be very hard.
V: Why? Can you share with us your hesitation?
A: Well, I’m not sure that I could play throughout the piece and stop, let’s say what you do, every other quarter note, or whatever.
V: It’s systematic, right? First I stop at every quarter note, then at every half note. Then every measure, two measures, four measures, one line, two lines, one page, two pages, four pages, eight pages, and so on. If the work is longer than 8 pages, then basically you need 11 steps.
A: Well, but you see, have you ever tried this method on a completely new piece to you?
V: Definitely. I learned Mendelssohn’s Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C Minor this way.
A: Because definitely this piece by Louis Vierne, this Final, is not a new piece for you. You are sort of repeating it.
V: Yes. You can trace it back in my YouTube channel. It’s one of the first pieces I put there. From back in 2006, I think. I brought the recording from University of Nebraska, Lincoln. It was one of my doctoral recitals, right?
A: Yes, I think so.
V: And I’m refreshing this symphony right now, working on every movement, and I think I haven’t done the tutorial on how to master the third movement yet - what it’s called - Cantabile, or something - or Siciliana maybe. But it’s in 6/8 meter. It’s a very nice, not very slow movement, but sort of moderate slow in tempo. And I also intend to do this in 10 steps, too.
A: But don’t you think that this method of learning might influence some people to not being able to play correctly in the right rhythm after practicing like this?
V: I see your point. At first, I stop at every quarter note.
V: Or, if the beat is let’s say eighth note, then I stop at every eighth note - even smaller segment. And then you think that people will have a hard time to practicing in the right rhythms, right?
A: Yes, that’s what I’m thinking. That’s why I like to practice slowly, but in a smooth sort of tempo.
V: That’s one way of looking at it, of course. But remember the second step is already largely in the first one. And stopping at half note values makes the quarter notes already at the right way, right?
A: But it takes so much time.
V: And we don’t have much time?
V: Doing what? (laughs)
A: Doing everything as well.
V: Such as?
A: Well, I’m not, I won’t start naming them all, because I do a lot in life.
V: And I don’t, of course, because I just play and think all day long.
A: Like Mary, yes? Or like Georgiana from Pride and Prejudice.
V: Yes, that was a great movie. I see your point, actually. And that’s where we are different, right? In this way, I am very methodical, but I’m not always practicing in this way. Only in certain pieces when I’m having difficulty. Or when my due date is approaching, deadline is approaching, and I know I don’t have a lot of time, and my method is faster than playing without a system, right? So it actually shortens the process if I do this methodically. But I can also understand why it’s hard for people to focus and stay focused for let’s say two weeks with this method and one piece. It takes about that. Because one step, it requires at least three correct repetitions in a row - each step. So it’s a little bit unrealistic to do one step every day. You know, step every day. I think you have to spend maybe three days per one step, don’t you think?
A: Yes. But usually, I’m really happy if I can play all my pieces that I’m working right now one time in a slow tempo each day. It’s already an accomplishment for me.
V: Twice would be better than once.
V: Now this how you, you’re practicing for example now, Franck’s A Minor Chorale, and Litanies by Jean Alain. And whenever you don’t have time to do it twice, then you feel a little bit, how would you say, unsatisfied.
A: Yes, because then the next day, it’s almost like repeating the same practice as I had yesterday. Sort of like, you look with new eyes at this same piece.
V: Yes. If you play it twice every day, then all things being equal, it will take twice as little of time.
A: Yes, but if you have to practice solo pieces and church pieces at the same time, then sometimes you just simply don’t have time or energy left to play such a big piece as let’s say Franck’s Chorale twice.
V: Joseph Kraus said, “That’s life in a big city.”
A: True, but it also hurts hands.
V: Can you tell us who Joseph Kraus is?
A: Yes. He was our theory professor at UNL when we were working on our doctoral program, and actually, we both worked as Vidas and I were both his T.A.
V: Teaching Assistants.
A: Yes, Teaching Assistants in the theory field, so. And this was a man with a sad face, which he draw at one of his assignment lists which was very hard, so this man was wearing that and the picture said, “That’s life in a big city.”
V: Yeah, if you are not rushing, if you’re not doing things more than you think you’re capable of doing, then probably you’re not living in a big city, right?
V: Where life is much slower.
A: And actually during the quarantine, we haven’t lived in the big city because we didn’t have to go to the city every morning and return home every evening. So we saved a lot of time, and we could practice more.
V: Do you feel refreshed because of that?
A: Well, yes and no, because today I was catching myself thinking how nice it would be to go to school back in September 1st, and it never happened to me before.
V: You want to go to school?
A: Yes, I want to go to school!
V: Basically to work.
V: And not to stay here and do online teaching.
V: That’s interesting. Hopefully, your wish will be granted in September.
A: Well, looking at the new numbers of corona situation right now, I doubt it. Maybe at the beginning of September, maybe October, but then, who knows? We might be staying at home.
V: And also, who knows what our government will decide, if they will announce the quarantine or not. Because if they announce the quarantine, that will hurt the economy, and we don’t want to do that too much.
A: Sure, it’s really scary. So I just hope the vaccine will be developed pretty soon, and all the intelligent people might get it.
V: With intelligent people, you mean people who believe in vaccines?
V: I see.
A: Who believe in progress.
V: And science.
V: And reason.
V: And that the earth is not flat.
A: Do you think there are still people who believe that, that the earth is flat?
V: Just Google "Earth is flat" and you'll see.
A: And that the stork brought you?
V: Just Google, “Earth is flat,” and you will be surprised. Um, I think there is a movement, growing movement of people, who believe that earth is flat, people never went to the moon, and so on.
A: I remember that old movie about one African guy, very nice guy who, I don’t remember what was the name of his tribe, but he found a bottle from Coca Cola…
A: And he was travelling to find the edge of the earth to throw that bottle down, and actually found it.
V: Like a cliff.
A: Yes. And he was very happy.
V: Oh yeah. It’s, it was one of the bush people.
A: I think so.
V: In Kalahari.
V: Great. So guys, we hope this conversation was useful to you. Please keep sending us your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Today I'm going to show you how to master Vierne's Final from his Symphony No. 1. I will be playing on Caen sample set by Sonus Paradisi of Hauptwerk VPO.
Score with fingering and pedaling:
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Secrets of Organ Playing - When You Practice, Miracles Happen!
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 336, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Denham. And he writes:
My dear Vidas,
I hope you and Ausra are doing well.
My name is Denham and I live in Sri Lanka and I am about to start learning the First Final from Louis Vierne’s No.1 for Christmas this year.
I’m hoping to learn one page a week in order to master it well. The question that is in my mind is I am unsure of how to register the organ to play it. Please are you able to provide some insight into this? As in can you please help me with the registration?
I’d be more than grateful to you. And I am willing to pay you for your trouble!
Thank you so much
V: So, Ausra, what do you think? Would Vierne’s Symphony No. 1, especially the Final, sound well in Sri Lanka?
A: Yes, I think everybody would just love it.
A: It’s one of my most favorite organ pieces.
V: What kind of organ would you need for that?
A: Well, when ideal, French symphonic.
A: Not French classical.
V: Dom Bedos?
A: No, no, no, no.
V: Clicquot, no?
A: No. Cavaillé-Coll
A: But anyway, I think any instrument which is large enough would do for this kind of piece.
V: It’s written for three manual instrument, but…
A: You could do it, I think, on two manuals too.
V: Could you do it on two, with couplers? What kind of stops you would need for minimum to have? Principles, probably…
A: Principle chorus of course, reeds.
A: I think reeds are very important in French music, in general.
V: Mixtures. Mixtures in both manuals and pedals, reeds in every manual.
V: Trumpets. Even if you have a Posaune in the pedals, that would be great.
A: So when we perform this kind of piece the larger organ you have, the better it is.
V: Mmm-hmm. And we’re looking now at the score, and by the way, I have created the fingering and pedaling for that if you want to master this piece faster, you know, without spending too much time and too many hours while working out correct and efficient fingering and pedaling. So now looking at the score, the first registration is given in French, GPR. What does it mean, GPR, Ausra?
A: Well, this is the three manuals.
V: Mmm-hmm. G is like Grand Orgue.
A: Yes. Positif and Récit.
V: Récit is like Swell…
V: Positif is like choir in English or..
V: American system. And Grand Orgue is like Great.
A: True. And for the beginning, for the opening of this piece you need to couple all those manuals together.
V: Because it’s written GPR—it’s together.
A: Yes. So if you have three manuals, then couple them all together. If you have only two then couple those two together.
V: And in all those manuals, you need Fonds, which is foundations, which is stops of 16, 8 and 4 pitch level, right? So that’s Principle, Flutes of that pitch level. And Anches in French means…
V: Of 16, 8 and 4 too. 16, 8 and 4 foot level. 16 probably Bombarde, 8’ Trumpet, 4’ Clarion, if you have one.
V: I think 4’ is not necessarily used, right? We don’t use it too often in our church.
A: Yes, because it doesn’t sound very nice in our church, but it might.
V: On the French instrument.
V: And in the pedals—before we talk about the pedals, we probably need to have mutations too, right? Anches.
A: Obviously, yes.
V: Anches in French, is system involves both reeds and mutations, which means Mixtures also, and a 5th, 2 2/3 at least for that.
A: Would you add also a Tierce if you would have at, or not?
V: A Tierce would sound more like a Cornet. You have to check. Those, some Tierce’s are powerful, some more like a Flute—you have to check for balance. What about the pedals, Ausra?
A: Well, also lots of stops. You need again, all those foundations, and the score even requires 32’.
A: Not every organ has it, but if you have it so it add. So 32’ Foundation stops, 16’, 8’ and 4’ foot.
V: And Mutations and Reeds—16, 8 and 4 too.
V: Mmm-hmm. And GPR is in the manuals which means three manuals coupled, which means the first, second to the Great, then Récit to the Great, and Récit to the Choir as well.
A: That’s right. Not every organ also has that kind of coupler but if yours does, so you need to use it.
A: And you also need to couple I guess, the manuals to pedals.
V: Yes, all three of them if you have. So it starts very powerfully with three Forte, dynamic level, and then it diminishes. You change manuals from time to time, R is Récit, or Swell in this case. And then when it’s softer, then you only need the foundation stops on the Great, and on the Positif, which is without the Reeds and Mutations.
V: Mmm-hmm. So like this. And most of the time you could do French music like this, with like setting combinations in advance and just pushing the buttons.
A: So, if you have combinations, you know, pistons, in your organ, please use them. It will make things easier.
V: What does it mean Piano here, sometimes when Vierne uses?
A: Well it means Piano—soft.
V: No, but I mean, Piano, does it mean you need to have less stops, or you have to close the Swell box?
A: Well, usually you have to close the Swell box because now we are looking at one line where you play on the Récit, and it says diminuendo and then there is that Piano sign. It means that when you have diminuendo, you start to close the Swell box.
A: Until you have Piano. So you have actually to use quite a lot of swells, swell pedals.
V: Because you those bubbles—crescendo and decrescendo a lot.
A: So I guess in music like this, your left foot really needs to work on the pedal board…
A: And your right foot really needs to work with the swell box—swell pedal.
V: Yes. And then, in the further up episode, the left hand starts to play on the Great, with manuals coupled, GPR, right, and then again Piano Subito. Subito means sudden.
A: Sudden, yes. Sudden change.
V: Closing of the box. Right. And then gradually poco a poco crescendo, opening the swell box.
A: And I think gradually all the former registration comes.
V: Mmm-hmm. Remember that in the beginning you need the reeds of the Grand, of the Great, and of the Choir. But in the middle you don’t need those reeds, only foundations. And then, and then recapitulation and Tierce...
A: When you add, that…
V: When you first add…
A: Reeds, in the Positif
V: And then…
A: And then, in the Great.
V: And, also, the reeds…
A: In the pedal.
V: In the pedals.
A: Because that opening theme comes back.
A: With all its power in the pedal board.
V: Yes, and I think this continues until the very end, like this, without any extra adding of stops. Well sometimes if people play Neo-baroque organs, very sharp sounding, Mixtures, it’s very high, very high textures sometimes, makes squeaky sounds. Not French at all.
A: And sometimes you have to omit something if you are not playing on the French organ, so always you have to listen to the result, what comes out from your organ.
V: Check if any of those episodes have a note lower than tenor C, like B and below. If it doesn’t, I think it could be played one octave lower this way. But without 16’ in the manuals, because then your music sound like with 16’. That’s very suitable for organs which don’t have a lot of foundation stops.
V: But too many mutations and sharp mixtures. Then your mixtures would sound lower and much more powerfully.
A: And that’s also the case with Neo-baroque organs.
V: Mmm-hmm. I think you could do this, this way. I’ve played this Final like that before. So that’s our registration and some of the stop changes solutions for this piece. We hope you will find it useful. And of course, check out our score with fingering and pedaling. It will save you many, many hours, at least, and will help you start practicing the most efficient way, right away.
Thank you guys so for sending these questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
Would you like to learn to play the famous Final from Symphony No. 1 by Louis Vierne?
You can do it much faster with my fingering and pedaling.
I've recorded this piece as part of my DMA recital while doing my doctorate at UNL on the excellent French symphonic style Bedient organ at St Paul's United Methodist church in Lincoln, NE.
Regretfully, I didn't write in fingering at that time, just the pedaling. Therefore, a few days ago I started working on the fingering part and yesterday evening finally I finished it.
50 % discount is valid until December 6. Free for Total Organist students. PDF score (14 pages). Advanced Level.
Vidas: Let's start episode 35 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Robert. He writes:
"Vidas and Ausra, I have a question for both of you. I am working on Vierne’s Symphony no. 1, movement 6 “the Finale”. What would be the most effective, fastest way to play the last part confidently? I am challenged a bit by the triplets moving against the theme in the pedals towards the end of the piece. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. Thank you also for what you do for the organ. It is encouraging and uplifting as a full-time church musician to receive an email each day from you. You're making a difference in this world. All the best, Robert."
So, Ausra, you remember this last episode of this symphony, right?
Ausra: Yes, I remember this episode actually, it's a beautiful sonata by Louis Vierne. I think you should answer this question very well because you have played this piece.
Vidas: In my experience, Finale was complex not because of the manual finger work, right? Manual passages. In my experience the difficult spots were coordinating hands and feet, especially in the secondary theme. Primary theme was okay, but the secondary theme was kind of tricky where you have canon between one hand and the pedals. So, that was for me. When Robert says the last episode with the triplets ... recapitulation, I think?
Vidas: I think what's happening is that probably he needs to work on his manual technique more. Maybe Hanon exercises. Remember, Ausra, Vierne writes in the exposition of the first theme you have double arpeggios. Broken chords with sixteenth notes, sixth in one interval, and sixth in another. Sort of tricky configuration. In order to get this right you have to play a lot of scales with double-sixth.
Sixth intervals in each hand, that will help you. That would be too difficult at first, then maybe you start with double-thirds first. So, Hanon has this good menu of exercises, collection on this. First part, second part, and later the advanced third part where you will find the scales with double-thirds and double-sixths.
But the recapitulation is easier actually because these broken chords are broken into triplets. You have I think only first interval is a double interval and then two notes running loosely as a passage. It's easier actually. Faster notes, but not double intervals like in the beginning. What would you think in this case Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I would suggest that you would really have to practice probably just right hand and pedal, and then left hand and pedal. And place like this because if you have coordination problem that might help.
Vidas: But you are talking about the secondary theme where you have canons. I suspect canons might be also problem for him, too. What about the last episode with the triplets?
Ausra: Just practice slowly at the beginning until you feel comfortable while playing slow, and only then you will speed it up.
Vidas: It seems that people sometimes don't have enough patience. They think that they play too slow, and they think that public performance should be very fast. It does, it has to be fast but it has to be gradual process. You don't get better overnight, I think. Sometimes, if the challenge is too much, do you think Robert might benefit from taking easier toccatas first? Boellmann, Gigout...
Ausra: Well that might be a possibility too. Even maybe Widor's staccato is easier or not? What do you think?
Vidas: It depends. If you can play staccato chords easier than triplets, then it's easier. But maybe Boellmann for starters?
Ausra: Yes, Boellmann. It's a very good place to start.
Vidas: I don't know if Robert has played this staccato or not, but it wouldn't hurt to practice easier toccatas first and then play more advanced finale movements by Vierne and Widor from symphonies. But, definitely do not rush and play really, really slowly. Enjoy this process, and know that with every practice session you are really getting better, but you might not even notice that.
Ausra: And work on some exercises, you know it will definitely help.
Vidas: Exactly. So guys, I hope this episode was useful to you.
Ausra and I were really glad that, for example, Robert is finding our daily emails so helpful. If you want more advice please subscribe at at our blog, www.organduo.lt. Just like Robert you will get a lot of benefits from getting daily advice and inspiration.
And when you subscribe, please send us your questions. We love helping you grow. But don't forget to practice. Because when you practice-
Ausra: Miracles happen.
So you like Louis Vierne's Final from his 1st Organ Symphony but feel that the technical requirements are so much above your current level of abilities?
You can play the hand parts very slowly but inaccurately, the pedals remain a mystery to you and putting it all together - it simply goes over your head. You love listening to this piece but seem to have stuck in choosing the right articulation - which notes should be detached and which - played legato.
What to do? Can you still learn this fabulous piece, can I give you some magical words of advice which would help solve all your technical and mental challenges you would meet in the Final?
Yes, but probably not the way you expect.
You see, if this is the first piece of Vierne you have ever practiced which is quite likely, then I would recommend mastering first some of the easiest and slower compositions of the same composer.
But you might say, that you love only the Final so much that it's not worth the time and effort to learn the easier pieces. In other words, you dream of playing the Final and nothing else.
But I think it's worth it, if you're serious. If you're learning the organ playing just to show off, then of course you want some flashy sounding fast and loud toccatas to impress others.
However, there's no one to impress, really but yourself because nobody cares.
Therefore, I recommend you take up 8-10 easier pieces before attempting to play this Final, from Messe Basse, Op. 30, Allegretto, 24 Pieces en Style Libre, Op. 31, and ALL other movements from the Symphony No. 1. All of these compositions can be found here.
Practice and master these pieces. And perform them in public to know just what it takes to get ready for this Final.
[HT to Andrew}
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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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