SOPP336: I am unsure of how to register the organ to play Vierne's Final from Symphony No. 1
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!
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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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