Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 256, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jeremy. And he writes:
My Boellmann’s Suite Gothique performance at church went alright. Everything felt comfortable before the service, but some wrong notes crept in during the service, particularly in the Minuet. The Priere went really well. One small mistake that is bothering me occurred at the transition into the g minor section. A parishioner did approach me afterwards and thanked me, which was really nice.
V: So Ausra, Jeremy is on our team who transcribes fingering and pedaling for us.
V. And therefore, he is also a Total Organist student. So, at one point, he wrote that he is going to play entire Boëllmann Suite Gothique. And then I asked him to be sure to give his experience to me so later that I can discuss with you the feedback that he received from people and in general his experience from playing at church. So you see, he played really well, except some small mistake, right? I think he’s talking about mistake in Toccata where the transition into the g minor section is. But this is a wonderful piece to start toccata’s in general, right?
A. Yes, I think we talked about it a few times ago.
V. So because nobody was listening, let’s talk about it again. And this toccata is particularly fun to play because it has such a comfortable finger position, right?
A. That’s true.
V. And fun pedal, double pedal octave part at the end.
A. Yes, that’s right. That’s very typical of French music in general—that they love to add double pedal at the end of the piece.
V. Know what I think? This toccata might be a good model to improvise your own toccatas.
A. That’s true. Because I’m not especially fond of this particular toccata, because the theme for myself is not a nice theme. And if I would be a church organist, I would probably not perform it at the church. This toccata is most suited for a horror movie or something like this.
V. What makes you think that?
A. The theme itself sounds for me like this.
V. And what exactly sounds horrible to you.
A. Minor key,
V. Okay. What else?
A. Accompaniment in the hands too. It’s quite scary.
V. Exactly. And then there is one more thing that I’m thinking about. Do you know what it is? In the pedals.
A. Yes, I know what you mean. I don’t know how to express it.
V. In the middle of this theme there is a G flat.
A. I know, that G flat, yes.
V. Diminished fifth, and it sounds especially—I wouldn’t say ugly but it sounds strange.
A. Well, so I think it’s a nice piece, but not for church service maybe.
V. Mmm-hmm. What if somebody played it in a major key?
A. Try it and see how you like it.
V. (Laughs). Maybe it would be better. So Jeremy, I don’t know if Jeremy likes to transpose but that one might be a nice exercise in transposition, to transpose this toccata into the key that is maybe a related to C minor, maybe E flat Major.
A. Anyway this toccata has a strong character.
V. Yes. Once you hear it you will not forget it.
A. That’s right.
V. So, but of course the Prière; the Prière is most, one of the few beautiful pieces. Suitable for church too.
A. That’s right. It’s very nice. Very very nice.
V. Is it more suitable for Communion or Offertory?
A. I think it could work both ways.
V. Depending on how much time you have, right?
A. That’s right.
V. What makes the Prière so beautiful, in your opinion, Ausra?
A. Well, nice melody, beautiful harmony, nice soft character.
V. Legato touch.
A. That’s right but most of the things in Boëllmann should be played legato because that’s his style.
V. What about registration? Do you like the strings?
A. Yes. That’s true.
V. What kind of an organ would suit best, except of course, organs in Paris?
A. So why I cannot choose French symphonic instruments for this piece?
V. Because the majority of people don’t live in Paris.
A. Well, but they still can organ with string stops.
V. Strings, right?
A. That’s right.
V. Okay. What if you don’t have strings or even maybe one string, like you’re playing Neo Baroque organ for example?
A. Well then you have to replace strings with flutes.
V. Mmm-hmm. The more foundation stops, the better.
A. That’s right.
V. The more stops with the same pitch level, the better.
A. Yes. So if you have only one string, add couple of flutes to that string, and it should work just fine.
V. Couple the manuals.
A. Yes, that’s (a) possibility too.
V. We have created the fingering both the Prière and the Toccata too. Not yet for the Menuet. Menuet, do you like menuet?
A. Yes, but I like Prière more. What about you?
V. I don’t particularly. I think Menuet actually sounds better than the introduction of the Suite Gothique. Introduction Choral, it’s called. In the beginning, sort of Menuet, is just the regular chordal piece, but then it grows into something more with more of the elegant Scherzo texture. It becomes really nice. So Ausra, do you have any recommendations for Jeremy, if he wanted to play the next French symphonic work by, I don’t know, 19th Century or 20th Century composers?
A. Well there are so much Romantic or Modern repertoire, if we are talking about 19th Century not 20th Century French music, so he could choose any of them.
V. Talking about a difficulty level, right? You have so many difficult pieces. And Toccata, for example, is rather easy to play, right? What would be the next step?
A. Well, if he also wants nice, French, and not too hard music, he might consider Langlais Suite Médiévale—Medieval Suite.
A. I think this is also nice setting of the pieces.
V. I haven’t thought about it. Good suggestion. And it’s a 20th Century modal language. Maybe Jeremy is not used to that, so that would be a good introduction.
A. Well, try it and see if you like it.
A. If you will not like it, you may go back to an earlier age, let’s say try some Widor.
V. Widor. Exactly. Like Vierne Symphony would be too difficult, I think.
A. Yes, it’s too difficult yet.
V. Unless, he played some of the movements from the Fantastic pieces.
A. Oh yes! You could find some easier, more even in the symphonies, but if you would compare Vierne Symphony with Boëllmann Toccata, then of course the difference would be too great.
V. Dubois and Gigout Toccata’s would be rather doable.
A. Yes and we talked them a few times.
V. Mmm-hmm. Okay guys. Thank you so much for listening. We hope this was useful to you to get general ideas (for) what you can do after you master Boëllmann Suite Gothique, and what makes it suitable or not so suitable for church services. 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!
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Thank you very much Vidas!
My biggest challenge is still to be patient and not rush ahead in a piece before I have mastered it bit by bit. I know this is a very bad habit and the reason why I never can play without making mistakes. I am trying to find the discipline!
Practising just one piece does get a bit boring so in addition to BWV 639 I have now also started working on BWV 731. I have practised this in the past but with different fingering, I am now relearning it with yours.
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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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