SOPP657: I hear from respected organists that these trio sonatas are some of the most difficult music to play, and you executed it perfectly!
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!
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 657 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by John, and he writes,
Dear Vidas, wow this is so beautiful! I hear from respected organists that these trio sonatas are some of the most difficult music to play, and you executed it perfectly! Thank you for such an enjoyable experience, and also for setting such a great example for me, your student!
Take care, John
V: John from Australia is our Total Organist student, and he writes about my video of the third part from Trio Sonata no. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach, BWV 525. Have you heard me practice, Ausra?
A: Sure, of course! Because you are practicing at our home, so I have no way to avoid hearing your practice.
V: Sometimes, well just a second. Do you hear, Ausra, what’s happening?
A: Yes, I hear. I hope people won’t think that I’m licking you. It’s our dog! Actually my brother’s dog.
V: Yes, her name is Yoshke, and she’s sitting on our lap now. I wish we would record video because it’s so funny. She’s licking my finger now. She wants to be part of our team. (laughs)
A: Yes. Maybe she should transcribe some podcasts, or do something other than...
V: To help out Laurie and David.
V: (laughs) Excellent. So can you wait, Yoshke, while we finish?
A: No, she loves you too much. She cannot wait.
V: All right guys. I wish you could see us. All right, keep her in place Ausra please and I will continue talking.
A: Okay, I’ll try but I can’t promise.
V: Okay. So John is basically commenting on my video of third part from Trio Sonata No. 1, and his comment is about how difficult these trio sonatas are, some of the most difficult music to play basically. Do you agree, Ausra?
A: Yes, I agree. But since Wilhelm Friedemann played all six of these trio sonatas at a very young age, I think it’s manageable to do it.
V: Recently I heard a famous YouTube organist, Balint Karosi, play all six of them in a practice session for I think three and a half hours on his pedal clavichord from home. So I was very intrigued how a person can play six of them in one session. And it sounded almost like a concert, except he would stop and comment himself what he did, what he didn’t do. He was obviously already at a high level when he was playing that. So then I got envious and started practicing trio sonatas on my own too.
A: Out of thin air?
V: I wanted to become Lithuanian Balint Karosi.
A: Well, you might someday, although I doubt it.
V: And trio sonatas always give me trouble. Whenever I would play them I would never be able to play them cleanly like in a recording. Except now, so maybe I’m improving.
A: So you’re making progress. And you know, for me actually, I never found it hard to play trio sonatas. Because they have only three voices and usually whom I’m struggling is with thick texture.
V: Mm hm.
A: And when they have only three voices, I’m perfectly able to control them.
V: Oh, we have Yoshke again. (laughs) She’s very sweet dog.
A: She’s thinking that we’re talking with her now.
V: Yes, because we are actually using our voices the same kind of tone we use to calm her, and we’re petting her, so yeah, that would be fun, to see you play trio sonatas, Ausra. Would you like one day to play...what’s your favorite Trio Sonata?
A: I don’t know. I have played three out of them: the G major, C major, and E minor. And I think I did well on C major and G major, and E minor wasn’t so successful at that time. But if we are talking about trio textures, these six sonatas are not the only pieces by J.S. Bach that are written in trio style. There are many of chorale works that are written in the trio style as well. For example, Allein Gott in G major from the third part of Clavierübung, and also Allein Gott in A Major from miscellaneous chorale works.
V: From Leipzig.
A: Yes, from Leipzig, and from Leipzig there is another famous trio in G Major, I believe it’s...
V: Which is, is it in three or four parts, with cantus firmus, ornamented cantus firmus in the tenor?
A: Well, you know it has been awhile since I played it, but I did it on one of my doctoral recitals.
V: Maybe four, four voice texture.
A: I think so.
V: But a lot of other baroque composers wrote a lot of trios, easier that Johann Sebastian Bach obviously. And the thing with J.S. Bach is because he writes like three different instruments basically: violin, flute, and cello.
A: And actually, that’s what I’m always thinking when I’m playing trio sonatas by J.S. Bach. I think it’s good to imagine that you are playing three different instruments at the same time. It might help you with registration as well. Because you know, sometimes people omit 16 foot stop in the pedal, and I think it’s a mistake, because if you won’t add the 16 foot stop in the pedal, you won’t get that cello effect.
V: If you omit it.
A: Yes, if you omit it.
V: So in reality, it’s like four instruments - cello and the violone, 16 foot range.
A: Yes, because you know the lower range never projects as well as for example the treble range. So I think we need to reinforce a little bit the pedal part.
V: With other composers, usually they make dialogues and duets between two other parts, and leave the bass sort of less intricate, less obbligato. And with Bach, all three parts can really be interchangeable, and imitate each other. So basically, soprano melody can become the bass. And therefore, that’s what makes it much more complex. Do you have advice Ausra, for people who want to learn trio sonatas?
A: Well, I should advise for you to start with the number 1, because it’s the easiest one.
V: But not start with the first movement - start with the second movement. It’s slow movement, therefore it’s easier.
A: Well, but you won’t get the real feeling of the trio really well playing just the second movement, because it’s slow.
V: This week I’m struggling with the second trio sonata. And actually I recorded the second movement first. Because it’s easier than the first or the third movement. So I think, I think I did well. But I would have spent a lot of time struggling with the first movement, let’s say. Now I can concentrate on the first movement without worrying about the second movement because it’s already done. Right, Yoshke? Right?
A: Yes, she shakes her head for everything....
A: ...that we say.
V: I wonder why. She wants maybe a cookie?
V: Cookie. Or some salami. (laughs)
A: Yes, she is very spoiled dog. If she eats cheese, it’s only bleu cheese; if it’s the sausage, it should be the Spanish sausage. So…
V: Wonderful. Would you agree, Ausra, with my recommendations?
A: Sure. I would definitely agree. But yes, if you want to prove that you are capable of playing organ, I think playing trios is very important.
V: (laughs). Now I wanted to take a photo of us. Of us three.
A: And Yoshke left. She just escaped.
V: Escaped, okay.
A: She doesn’t like pictures to be taken.
V: Okay. So guys, try out your hands and feet (squeaking sound) on trio sonatas. Now Yoshke wants to play with her toy. Rubber toy. Rubber ball, which makes squeaking sound.
A: She is so funny.
A: But definitely learning the trios is a very important part for professional organists, so if you want to become a professional you definitely have to play trios.
V: But maybe not trio sonata at first. Maybe practice chorale preludes in trio texture, like Ausra said before. Those are easier.
A: Do you think those are easier? I don’t think so.
V: A little bit easier. Because one part might have a cantus firmus.
A: Yes. True.
V: And if you have a cantus firmus, then it is slower than the rest. And that makes it easier. If you feel that trio sonatas are too difficult for you, you can check out my left hand training or two part training. Because they are based on trio sonatas. So like a preparation exercises in all of the major and minor keys. They are wonderful way of grow yourself into the skill required to play trio sonatas. And of course, check out the Trio Sonata No. 1 practice score with fingering and pedaling if you want to play it too. All of this is available of course, without additional cost, for our Total Organist students. Agreed? Yoshke? Yes?
A: She asked you to play with her, so…
V: Okay, so we better play. Okay, thank you guys for listening. We hope this was useful to you. 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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