SOPP610: “Can finger substitutions be used in slow baroque music, such as Kyrie by Cabezon?"
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.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 610 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Joanna, and she writes:
“Dear Vidas, can finger substitutions be used in slow baroque music, such as Kyrie by Cabezon? Or is it best to stick to articulated fingering even in relatively slow passages?”
V: What do you think, Ausra?
A: I don’t think you need finger substitutions when playing the music mentioned before. You know, either it’s slow or it’s fast, it doesn’t matter. Baroque is Baroque.
V: Well, sometimes Baroque music is really advanced, right, and very thick texture. And then you might end up needing finger substitutions in advanced keys with more than three sharps or flats. Right?
A: But still, as I understand finger substitution is mostly used for laying legato, which is needed to play Romantic and Modern music. And because in Baroque music you very rarely play legato, in exceptional cases, therefore there is no need for finger substitutions. That’s my opinion.
V: I agree. The composer has to explicitly state that the piece has to be performed, or parts of the piece have to be performed, legato, and not the editor, but the composer. Right, Ausra?
A: Yes, because if you would look at 19th century or beginning of 20th century editions of Baroque music, you would find legato everywhere. But it doesn’t mean that you need to use those editions.
V: Yes. So Joanna mentions a piece by Cabezón, Antonio Cabezón, a Renaissance Spanish composer, and his music is quite polyphonic in nature, a little bit similar to Sweelinck’s, I believe. Right?
A: Yes, but still, I don’t believe his music should be played legato.
V: Yeah, definitely, because he doesn’t use... any advanced piece in those days, the temperament was obviously mean tone, and mean tone temperament accommodated only simple keys with no more than two accidentals, probably. Three would be a stretch. But two sharps and flats might be appropriate. Two flats are more commonly seen than two sharps. Right, Ausra?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: So, yeah. I would also avoid finger substitution here as well. If this Kyrie, for example, has four parts, right, for example, what’s the best way, Ausra, to discover the ideal articulation? How do you know that you are articulating correctly?
A: Well, first of all I look at the meter, because, well, in order to understand early music, you need to look at the meter and then to decide how many strong beats per measure there are, and then that also helps me to articulate.
V: And obviously this articulation helps you in choosing fingering as well!
A: Yes, that’s right! Because usually, you try to use good fingers on the strong beats and not-good fingers on the weak beats.
V: What do you mean “good fingers?” Are there any bad fingers? Can you cut them off then if they are bad?
A: No, but look at all those angels playing Portatives, or Saint Cicilia playing the organ. Have you noticed how unnatural their fingers look? Because they use paired fingering very often.
V: Meaning that they played with the longest fingers only. Right? 2 and 3 and 4 but not 1 and 5.
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: That’s absolutely correct, Ausra. I’m glad that Joanna mentioned this, because we can now take a look a little bit deeply at the issue of fingering, because it’s related to finger substitutions, and it’s related to articulation. Right? You said that this legato touch requires sometimes finger substitutions if the texture is very thick. Right?
A: Yes, very often, actually, it requires finger substitutions, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to do that. And you even have to slide with one finger to play legato.
V: Exactly. From a white key to another white key, or from a black key to another white key.
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: Finger glissandos, it’s called.
A: Yes, finger glissandos.
V: But this is for later music. And for earlier music, we use detached articulation, which doesn’t require finger substitution, even in thick passages.
A: That’s right! You know, people often forget that they are playing early music, and they still paint the shape with the wrists, which is also not the correct way, probably, while doing that. They forget to shift the entire hand!
V: To move one hand from one position to another.
A: Yes! Yes, that’s right.
V: It’s the same with pedaling, too! We don’t use that feet crossing. We shift both feet together.
A: Yes, if we can, we do. If not, then not!
V: Ausra is not so convinced about this principle, I see from her expression.
A: Well, I don’t know where you have found that holding feet together. I think holding feet together works for later music; for modern music. In Baroque music, you don’t pedal like that, keeping both feet together and ankles together as you like, because when you are pedaling the Baroque music, this is very important to feel the weight of your leg and to put the weight actually on your hip.
V: I’m not referring to Baroque music in general. I’m probably thinking about specific passages where the pedal line forms a scale like passage step-wise motion, and you inevitably have to play with alternate toe pedaling: left-right-left-right or right-left-right-left. And what you see happens, I see people sometimes cross one foot behind another. That’s what I’m trying to avoid in these passages. Not in general, but if you then shift both feet together, then you don’t cross them. Does it make sense, Ausra?
A: Well, I’m not thinking about that, but I have never crossed my legs while playing Bach’s music.
V: I will have to look at the pedal camera when you record videos on YouTube!
A: Okay, do that!
V: Shall we look together with you on the big screen?
A: Maybe not!
A: You are not my teacher, you know?
V: No, I am not?
V: Then who’s your teacher?
A: I don’t have any right now! I am teaching myself.
A: Yes, that’s right!
V: Me, too! Can you be my teacher then?
V: Why not?
A: I think you’re already clever enough to manage on your own.
V: It’s good to have a teacher and listen to your teacher, and your teacher tells you what to do. You just follow directions and you continue progressing. Right?
A: Yes, but sometime you still finish your studies and you have to move on your own.
V: I don’t want to finish my studies. I want to be a student all…
A: It would cost you a lot. Tuitions are expensive!
V: Tuition. Yeah. I will take a second mortgage.
V: So yeah. Joanna, it’s the first question that someone asked about Cabezón. Somehow, people don’t play Cabezón’s that often.
A: Yes, that’s right. He’s not so popular comparing to, let’s say, Bach. But I think his music is worth playing because it’s so polyphonic and so complex.
V: And Cabezón was one of the first Spanish composers that came to prominence. The first really well known organ composers, probably the earliest one. And nowadays, his edition is readily available online, and people could start playing his variations. It’s called “Diferencias.”
A: Yes, that’s right. Although I don’t think I would play Cabezón on a modern instrument. Don’t you think so, too?
V: Yes, it doesn’t make sense, because if the tuning is modern, like equal temperament, it doesn’t make sense. The colors are not there. But we have a Hauptwerk sample from Spain, I think a “de Palma” model, which we might download sometime and start using it. Would you like to try Cabezón on that?
A: Yes, I think it would be interesting to try it.
V: And later Spanish music, 17th century as well. Francisco Correa de Arauxo, Aguilera de Heredia (I don’t think I’m pronouncing their names correctly, but…) Pablo Bruno was my favorite. They created Tientos, Versets, things like that. And there are a lot of little gems to be found in those relatively little-played masterworks.
A: That’s right.
V: Okay guys, thank you Joanna for this question. Thank you everyone who is submitting questions, please do that more often. We like 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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