This week my biggest concern was preparing for our today's organ duet recital. Two things have been the most difficult to me - setting up registration changes with 2 assistants for symphonic poem by M.K. Ciurlionis "In the Forest" and a middle section of Sonata "Ad Patres" by B. Kutavicius.
"In the Forest" is created in such a way that in every page there are dynamic waves, going from pianissimo to fortissimo. In Svendborg International Organ Music Festival last July we had a Marcusen organ with added a robust combination action. Therefore we didn't even have to write anything on paper. Because this organ has a sequencer, on the score we only wrote numbers plus and minus signs for combinations 1 through 6, 1 being the softest and 6 being the loudest. So at any desired moment we could push the sequencer and the next or previous stop combination would be engaged.
But here in Vilnius we have a purely mechanical organ with a heavy stop action. Changing the stops ourselves for this piece is out of the question. And even an assistant could only draw no more than a couple of stops at a time. Moreover, if I wrote every stop change in the score, it simply would be a mess. Too many changes. So we are using the numbers 1 through 6 in the score and we have a separate sheet of paper for each assistant so that they would know what stop combination each number means.
On Wednesday we had a practice run with our assistants and at first they had a hard time because this system was new for them. But after a while they understood what we want and simply drew the stops at the required spaces from their head. I hope our last practice before today's recital will make the stop changes even more secure.
The other challenges I was dealing with this week concern the technical side of the middle section of "Ad Patres" sonata. Our organ at Vilnius University St John's church has a very difficult action on the Swell (the 2nd manual) because it is situated on two levels and there are two sets of springs for every key. This makes it really hard to press the keys. So in this particular section the left hand plays 2 constantly repeating notes in sixteenth note rhythms. For example, C-D-C-D-C-D-C-D etc. This repeats itself for a few pages and makes my left hand tense. Like a very long trill. Even my right hand which also has repeated motives consisting of a few notes which change over time can get tired fast when playing on this organ.
And then there is the next episode which has a running 16th note passage spread out within 10 measures and it repeats itself 13 times. My both hands are busy at this time and after a short while Ausra's right hand enters with the 3rd voice material for which is taken from my left hand part. The biggest challenge here is to play together strictly in time all the parts.
I say this is a challenge because after a while this minimal style and repetition leads us into a sort of trance but we still have to stay alert and know what we are doing. After the while a double pedal part with a theme in slow note values enters which in theory should help us stick together. In practice, it's another matter...
Ausra and I agree the version for solo organ of this piece is much easier to play than the duet version. But let's stay positive for tonight and remember that miracles sometimes do 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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