Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 502 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Terry, and I asked him about his “8 Little Prelude and Fugues” practice. So, he writes:
Thanks for asking. The pedals are not second nature to me yet, unlike, say, doing scales on a piano. I made great progress with your pedal challenge courses but I need to get in some sort of regular pedal practice like doing my daily Hanson exercises, which I have not sorted out yet. I am also unsure of registration and tempo. Finally, remembering to practice articulate legato in both hands and pedals requires focus. Your fingering and pedaling suggestions, however, are a great time saver, although I do make some changes that seem to work better for me. In any event, practicing these works is a great joy with only a year under my belt. One other thing: it is hard for me to figure out a gradual progression of compositions to practice within your guidance of beginning, intermediate, and advanced groupings. I also stated with the “Orgelbuchlein” compositions, so I started with BWV 599 and will go from there. A small confession: I started with the Widor Toccata as my first piece, quite foolishly, although it was a thrill and I stayed with it through memorization. Maybe I will actually be ready for it with appropriate technique in a few years, but at age 71 I can’t wait too long. Playing these works of the masters is tantamount to coming in direct contact with the Divine, before I pass through earthly bonds and come, hopefully, face to face.
All the best,
A: What a nice letter!
V: It is! Even though Terry is 71 years old, he still strives to improve, which is really nice.
V: More people should challenge themselves at this age.
A: That’s right.
V: I think when he writes that he can’t wait too long because he is 71, and he started playing from Widor’s Toccata as his dream right away, I think people should understand that dreams can change! They can adapt.
A: That’s right, and being 71, you could think that you are only 71, because you never know how much longer you will live! Maybe you still have quite many years ahead of you. Nobody knows, actually.
V: Yes. So better, probably, not to postpone your dream, but to live it today. Right?
A: Well, I didn’t mean that, but I meant that being 71, you might still have a lot of time ahead of you. That’s what I meant.
V: And be able to master Widor’s Toccata later.
A: True. Actually, and this episode about Widor’s Toccata reminded me about that new girl that we have in our studio this year,
A: In our Unda Maris studio, who is desperate to play “D Minor Toccata” by J. S. Bach, and this is the only one organ piece that she recognizes. But she has never had any formal musical training whatsoever, and basically what she does is she plays for a church here in Vilnius, but basically she plays everything by ear. So what she hears, she plays that, somehow.
V: I told her to discover more organ compositions beyond “D Minor Toccata.”
A: And I was convincing her that it would be beneficial to play “8 Little Preludes and Fugues,” but it doesn’t seem that my ideas and thoughts touch her.
V: I was not so progressive with her. I just recommended “6 Short Trios” by Lemmens. And, she played the right hand part of the first trio together with 4 other ladies quite nicely, so I thought they could master the first trio within several weeks, I think. But she still wants to play “D Minor Toccata” now. Who knows? Maybe she can play in her own time, but now I hope she will study Lemmens, as well.
A: I think when you pick up a piece that is much too difficult for you, you might ruin the piece forever. So, it’s better to go step by step. At least that’s my opinion.
V: Right. So from those “8 Little Preludes and Fugues” that Terry is working on, the easiest one is probably not the first one! Not C Major.
V: And obviously, the gradation should also take into account the fugues. The fugues are much more difficult than the preludes because of the polyphonic writing.
A: Could you learn the preludes first and then do the fugues after that?
V: That’s how my Bach’s Mastery course: “Bach Organ Mastery Level 1” course is constructed. First we learn “8 Little Preludes,” and then we learn 8” Little Fugues.” But we’re not starting with the “C Major Prelude,” we are starting, I think, from either F Major or G Minor, I don’t remember now, but those two are the easiest ones.
A: Well, but I started with G Minor, and the pedal part wasn’t so easy for me at the beginning.
V: That’s why always….
A: Although, the tempo was slow, so…
V: Yeah, it has more voices than three, that’s why I recommend easier pieces like trios—short trios like exercises of 8 measures long—like Lemmens, maybe.
A: But when you are talking registration of these preludes and fugues, if you have no idea how else to register them, you can just play them using Organo Pleno, I think.
V: And Organo Pleno is full Principal Chorus with mixtures.
A: That’s right. And if you find it too much, you could just play with principal 8’, 4’, and 2’, and maybe some with just principal 8’ and 4’.
V: Yeah, basically use principals, depending on the character. If it’s a solemn character and bright tempo, then maybe use mixtures. If it’s a slow movement and a meditative character, maybe one principal would be enough.
A: That’s right.
V: And register the pedals accordingly. You don’t need always to play with Posaune. Posaune fits well with mixtures with the hands, but if you only play it with one principal in the hands, maybe you only need 16’ and 8’ in the pedals.
V: Excellent. Then Terry asks about “Orgelbüchlein” gradation. Obviously, 599 is the first one, Nun Kommt der Heiden Heiland,” but the easiest one is…
A: Probably “Ich Ruf’ Zu Dir.”
V: Probably, yeah, with a trio texture. And there are a few more like that, not with trio texture, with four voices, but which are less difficult to play than “Nun Komm”. They are at the beginning of the collection, too, but not right at the beginning.
A: Plus I think that “Orgelbüchlein” was maybe written according to the liturgical year, but not according to the difficulty of pieces.
V: No, no. That was intended as a collection of all the ways you could play the chorale for the liturgical year, and Bach didn’t even finish it.
V: So postpone, Terry, the “Widor Toccata,” until you are ready for this, and have fun with the Bach pieces—easier Bach pieces first. And, if you are interested in the gradation of those “8 Little Preludes,” take a look at my “Bach Organ Mastery Level 1” course, and you will start from the easiest prelude, go through the more difficult ones, and then graduate from the easiest fugue through the most difficult fugue. And of course, this program is available without additional cost, like anything else we create, for Total Organist students. Thanks, guys, this was Vidas,
A: And Ausra,
V: 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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