Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 475 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And today, we would like to talk about our recent trip to Denmark to Svendborg and Copenhagen. In Svendborg, we played our organ duet recital, in the Svendborg International Organ Festival, so I thought it could be a nice opportunity to talk about it in greater detail. Right, Ausra?
V: So, Ausra, what was your overall experience about this trip?
A: About the trip, or about the concert?
V: Let’s start about the trip.
A: Well, it was a hard trip, because I was sick during the entire trip, so I had a very severe bacterial infection, and it just began during our trip at the beginning of this, so I had a fever while playing this recital, so it was basically a tough trip.
V: It was difficult, I think, to travel without antibiotics, and without a prescription, you cannot get it easily.
A: You cannot get it at all without a prescription, so…
V: Right. Even at home in Lithuania, it’s a tough time, sometimes, to get those. You have to go to the doctor. But if you are traveling abroad and you are a foreigner, you have to know the local rules, and it wasn’t easy to find out. But, luckily, we managed to call a doctor late at night, and had a phone consultation with him, and he prescribed antibiotics for Ausra, which started helping her, I think. Right?
A: But that was already after the recital, so it didn’t help me to perform.
V: So, talking about performance, what did you think about that organ, first of all?
A: I liked it very much, actually. I thought as a Marcussen, it was really nice.
V: It was an improved Marcussen from 2016. They did renovation on it and added additional manuals—swell manual plus additional combination action, I think, plus some other things, too, so that the organ wouldn’t sound so screamy.
A: Well, the more I travel and the more I try new instruments, actually, the more I probably dislike our organ at St. John’s’s Church, because it’s a clumsy and really difficult instrument to play. Despite all this beautiful church and all this wonderful acoustics, and despite some really nice organ stops, but in general it’s very hard to play it.
V: It needs, also, renovation, I think, about mechanics.
A: And you know, when you travel, for example, as we went to Alpe d’Huez or here in Svendborg, and you find these spectacular organs, well taken care of, and it’s just wonderful.
V: Exactly. What did you think about our program? I know it was a new one for you, and not a very easy one.
A: And I think it was new for you, too, or not?
V: It depends. Some of the pieces I played as a solo, maybe we should…
A: Oh, okay, I see, so I did the hard part, then. Yes? Learning all the new stuff!
V: Yes! Maybe we should list the pieces that we played, first. We played….
A: Of course, nobody will no them, because they are all Lithuanian.
V: We played an all Lithuanian program, and started with an arrangement of “Symphonic Poem in the Forest,” by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, a Lithuanian composer from the beginning of the century, end of the 19th century. And, I think that was the first time it was performed on the organ.
A: Yes, definitely.
V: I think my own impression was that I liked it, even when we practiced on our little home organ, and when we started playing it, it was such a wonderful experience in Svendborg.
A: Yes, true.
V: It sounded like an orchestra, really. Although, registration changes had to be done very cleverly and set up in advance, and it was very long—time consuming.
A: Yes, I think this rehearsal a day before a recital was the longest that I have had in my entire life!
V: Plus you were with fever.
V: And then we played, what…
A: “Reverie”, by Juozas Naujalis.
V: Romantic composer. It was also a transcription; originally, it was written for string quartet, and it was a nice relief from Čiurlionis’ “Symphonic Poem.” Then, we played two pieces, or two cycles, basically…
A: Well, one piece, and one cycle, to be exact.
V: Yes, by a contemporary Lithuanian composer, Kristina Vasiliauskaitė. One was her early work for organ—for double organ, basically, “Sounds of the Forest,” which we dubbed more like a train sound, because it reminded us of train tracks. And the other one was a cycle with four Lithuanian folk songs! Which one do you like more?
A: “Songs” of course!
A: “Song Cycle,” yes.
V: Her later style is more user friendly, although this modern sounding early piece was an interesting contrast, I think, too.
A: Yeah, and then we played the Sonata “Ad Patres” by Bronius Kutavičius.
V: Which was originally created for two organists and only later arranged for one organist.
A: And Vidas and I both have played this Sonata as soloists. Of course, I don’t think… Have you ever performed it? Ah yes, you performed once at Saint John’s Church, and I played it way back when I was still a student at the Academy of Music.
V: I think that my impression was that playing solo was easier.
A: I think so, too. It’s a tough piece to play together, because it’s sort of a minimalistic style, and it’s very serious in character. It’s based on a cycle of funeral symphony paintings by Čiurlionis.
A: So, it’s not an easy piece to manage, even psychologically.
V: Now, we played two of my own pieces. One was the piece that we played once before, Fantasia on the Themes by Čiurlionis created by me,
A: At least in this one, we could relax a little bit. Yes?
V: Yes, this was…
A: ...but of course, if you can call relaxation when the key changes like every eight measures or each four measures… so… but at least we have played it before performing it, probably played it before.
V: And then, we finished our program with my arrangement for organ duet of Veni Creator Spiritus. It was originally opus 3, but I added a second organ part, and basically, it became like a new piece. When we practiced it at home, it sounded really convincing as a duet piece. It didn’t sound like a solo piece.
V: I mean, both organists had enough to do on their own.
A: More than enough, I think.
V: Did it sound okay in Svendborg?
A: You know, I can’t say how it sounded in Svendborg. I hardly remember what I was playing and how I was feeling.
V: I guess we’ll let our audience decide. And, we finished our program with an encore, because people seemed to like our playing, and...
A: Yes, we received standing ovations!
V: Yes, and they demanded more, so we gave one more piece for them. It was a choral piece by the composer of Juozas Naujalis’ age, Juozas Gudavičius, a well known Lithuanian anthem called, “Kur giria žaliuoja” or in English it would be, “Where the Forest Is Growing” probably. And it is famous because it is sung in every massive song festival in Lithuania. And it’s so beautiful that it could be our national anthem, basically.
A: Yeah, it would be better than what our anthem is now.
V: It has two stanzas, or verses. We only played the first one, because it didn’t have text, obviously, but next time, I would prefer two, because it’s so lovely.
A: Well, I think it’s always better to do less than too much.
V: Yes, I would play less than 10 stanzas. But two, I think, is okay.
A: I think moderation in life is one of the most necessary things, but not everybody can understand it, of course.
V: No, not everybody. So this was our experience at Svendborg. In general, the weather was sort of good for us.
A: Well, in general the weather was very changing rapidly and quite dramatically, because when we arrived, it was almost 30 ºC, and then during the next day, it began to change, and then the third and the fourth day were quite cold, actually, with rain and wind!
V: And what did you think about Denmark in general? And Copenhagen?
A: Well it’s a very clean and nice country, sort of a little bit boring. I found people quite cold,
V: But friendly...
V: ...and helpful
A: ...well, yes…
V: ...in most cases.
A: ...well, yes. But sort of, you know, nobody is in a hurry…
A: Yes. And all those bicycles! You need to be really careful to not get killed by one of them.
V: And now e-scooters zooming besides them, too! So, it’s tough to cross the street in Denmark. But a nice country to live in, I think.
A: Yes. Did you get any adrenaline during the recital or before or after?
V: At first, I was a little bit worried that you might not make it to the recital, and I would have to play your part, too, alone!
A: How do you manage that!
V: I don’t know. The night before, I was sort of, before I went to sleep, I was thinking, “What could I do to play the same exact program, but with my own two hands and feet.”
A: I guess that’s impossible in most of the cases.
V: Maybe I should have improvised a little bit and played some music here and there.
A: Yes, and have four extra legs like an octopus, yes?
V: Yes! Good that you managed to play. Saved me lots of nerves.
A: Yes, but you know, it damaged my health a lot.
V: Exactly. Did you feel adrenaline when you played, Ausra?
A: No, not at all! And it was strange, because usually I get some adrenaline, either before or during or after recital. Because I remember when we played in d’Huez, we did all duets, but you did one improvisation, and actually, I got adrenaline during your improvisation, because I was playing the “Brandenburg Concerto” after that, and my hands were shaking. But in Svendborg, no, because I guess because of the fever, all my adrenaline was gone, so…
V: I know what was different. In Svendborg, you didn’t have to fight that fly!
A: But you know, in d'Huez, I fought that fly after most of the rehearsal already down on the floor, and I could play how I wanted.
V: Right, but the feeling of the battle still was there with you.
A: Do you think so? It might be.
V: So guys, this was our experience. We hope you have enjoyed the recording, and if you haven’t listened to it yet, we will try to share it in this conversation, too. Alright, please send us more of your 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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