SOPP584: As you know I'm at a beginner/intermediate level, there's no way I can tackle a large Bach fugue
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
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V: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
A: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 584 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by John, and he writes:
“I'm wondering if you could help with selecting the next piece I should learn, and give a ranking to the difficulty of these pieces. As you know I'm at a beginner/intermediate level, there's no way I can tackle a large Bach fugue. I know I should learn some French repertoire, but that is also a challenge with finger technique and playing fast passages.
Let me know what you think.
- BWV 547 Prelude in C major (Prelude only)
- BWV 546 Prelude in C minor (Prelude only)
- BWV 578 The Little Fugue in G minor
- Fanfare by Lemmens
- Noel X by Daquin
Feel free to suggest any other pieces I should have in my next wish list!
I am also hoping to spend some time preparing a basic composition or improvisation for Easter, perhaps on the Hymn tune ‘Christ the Lord is risen today’.”
V: So, John from Australia is back with this question. Ausra, what do you think? 547 is this 9/8 “C Major Prelude,” a very difficult one.
A: Yes, it’s a difficult one. I would not start, probably, working on that right away.
V: 546 is C is “C Minor Prelude and Fugue,” probably also too difficult. It’s at the advanced level. 577, the “Gigue Fugue.” Oh, but he writes… 577 is the “Gigue Fugue,” but he writes the title as “The Little Fugue in G minor, which is actually 578.
A: I think this might work, probably!
V: Yes, 578 would work.
A: I think. Out of these three pieces by Bach, I would say that “This Little Fugue in G Minor” is the most manageable.
V: Yes. And of course, Lemmen’s “Fanfare” would work well, “Noel X” would work by Daquin, right?
A: Yes, if you have good finger technique, because it’s very playful! All these Noels by Daquin. The easy part is that they don’t have the pedal part, but the hard thing is all that French ornamentation, which is so rich and varied, and of course fast tempo.
V: That’s right. What can we suggest he could learn in addition to Bach, Lemmens and Daquin? Maybe some 20th Century music or 21st Century music, right?
A: If he likes it, because not everybody likes contemporary music or 20th Century music.
V: It depends on his occasion, of course—he is a liturgical organist, and in this question, he was preparing for Easter. As we are recording this podcast episode, we have passed Easter by a couple of weeks, and of course he has to look for other festivities, maybe Pentecost, right?
A: Yes, I think this is the one that is coming.
V: Maybe “Veni Creator” of some kind?
A: Sure, why not? And if he is really interested in French music, let’s say French Baroque music, maybe, he could look at the “Veni Creator” by De Grigny
V: Nicolas de Grigny!
A: It’s gorgeous! It’s very nice.
V: Do you think he could do it?
A: Well, probably, yes. Maybe not the entire set, but…
V: some parts
A: Yes, some parts
V: of the suites.
A: And it’s a wonderful piece, because if he would learn it, especially the opening section and the closing one, they are very well fitted, not only for Pentecost, but also for weddings! Because I don’t know how the Protestant churches do, but let’s say Catholics, they always sing this hymn to the Holy Ghost during the wedding ceremony.
V: In the beginning!
A: Yes, which is, of course, “Veni Creator.” So, I guess this would work very well, and I have played it myself for many, many weddings in the past, and nobody complained.
V: Nobody complained, yet!
A: Yes. But of course, if we are talking about Veni Creator, there are so many sets, so many compositions based on it.
V: Even I wrote two.
A: Yes, and I played one of them, so… and of course, the famous Duruflé variations, Prelude, Adagio, and Variations on Veni Creator.
V: Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a few Chorale Preludes based on this Lutheran version of the same Chorale.
A: Komm Heiliger Geist, yes.
V: Yes. And Dieterich Buxtehude wrote the same thing.
A: You know, when John asked about repertoire and he named these big pieces by J. S. Bach, I thought if he doesn’t feel like he’s ready to play a fugue by J. S. Bach, maybe he needs to play some free works by Dieterich Buxtehude, because I think his free works are easier than Bach’s, but still really substantial works, and it’s a good preparation for Bach’s music.
V: And you’re saying this from your own experience now!
A: Why now? I always knew Buxtehude!
V: But especially now, because you are in the middle of recording Buxtehude’s works!
A: Well, I’m at the beginning of it. Let’s face it, there are like five volumes and I am just doing the first volume right now.
A: But yes, if I will not fail, I might complete it in a year or so.
V: Wonderful pieces. I can hear them first hand. Your recording sessions… very colorful music.
A: So, and there are all kinds of Praeludium by Buxtehude, which also has this Stylus Phantasticus, famous for Northern Germans, where you have these free episodes alternating with sort of strictly counterpuntal episodes, sort of like fugal sections, but not as complicated as Bach’s fugues. They are shorter and easier.
V: Of course there are Passacaglia, Chaconnes…
A: Yes, and you know the Passacaglia is easier, because you have the same melody in the pedal all over again and again and again, so you don’t have to think so much about pedals, and it’s beautiful! Extremely beautiful.
V: This could be a starting composition for anybody who is interested in Buxtehude’s free works, right?
A: Yes, I think it’s very nice.
V: Because, not too many pedals, but the style by Buxtehude I think also is quite lively, but maybe moderately lively, and it’s a very famous piece, too!
A: Sure, and I’m sure that Bach knew it, because you can hear some remnants of it in Bach’s Passacaglia.
V: Yes, Bach’s Passacaglia has its own structure, nevertheless Buxtehude’s Passacaglia has four sections, and each of those sections are written in different keys: Tonic, third degree key, then dominant key, and then back to tonic, and each of those sections have seven variations each. And some scientists believe the number seven represents, back in the day as known, seven planets, so maybe cosmological significance.
A: But anyway, it’s a wonderful piece, too, I thought.
V: Wonderful. I should do the fingering and pedaling for this piece definitely in the future for people who are interested in learning it. So guys, 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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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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