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.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 675 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Stephen, and he writes:
“I love the Zipoli Pastorale...!!! Thank you... Zipoli is one of my favorite early Baroque composers!”
Vidas: I wrote to him, “Thanks Stephen! What other composers do you like?” And Stephen writes: “In a more contemporary "vein" I am fond of Dale Wood's music. There are passages in his work that require a legato technique especially with chords...Sometimes I am at a loss as to how best to play them...finger substitution..but which is best..that sort of challenge.
In answer to your question, what composers do I like ....Of course BACH, esp some of the Chorale Preludes. and I intensely care for the Eight Short Preludes and Fugues attributed to Bach but maybe not ?? I think his pupil Krebs may have had a hand in composing these??? I cannot prove that of course. but I love these pieces and I have always played them from the Wayne Leupold Edition...Sandra Soderland, editor. I prefer to follow her revelations as to style and registrations etc...all toes pedal!!!! I love them and find they never bore me....I studied them formally with Dr. Laura Ellis. Always from the Soderland Ed.! I never learned them any other way. so I was lucky :) Thank you and your wife/life partner for all you do to extend education to all who seek ....”
Vidas: And I wrote to him again, “Thanks Stephen! Yes, Wayne Leupold publishes great educational material. Current scholarship thinks these short preludes and fugues might have indeed been written by Krebs but there is no proof. So it's safe to say they were written by the Bach Circle.
You mentioned finger substitution being a challenge. It's just a matter of time spent and experience. Just continue to play easier pieces and little by little you can master more difficult ones as well. Fingers have muscle memory. And something more. They start to sense the best patterns after a while.
The first 20 years are difficult and then it's easy.”
Vidas: Stephen wrote back to me: “I just found a piece I had enjoyed and practiced several years ago...would like to share it with you ...I enjoy and care a lot for Marcel Dupre's work....This is one of the Seventy Nine Chorales Op. 28, he wrote for teaching purposes...I am guessing that you know them: XXVIII The Son of God is Come....very short and beautiful... And I wanted to share my a guiding principle in my organ study which I think is in agreement with yours: "It is only through playing a lot of easier pieces and being able to consolidate our progress at a manageable standard that we can go on to greater things" I want to play easier pieces well ..rather than difficult pieces badly! I find the ZIpoli can present some challenges… having the fingering at hand thanks to you...makes the task of learning it so much easier. Dupre marked all the fingering and pedaling in the Chorales. Happy Holidays: All of them!!!”
Vidas: So Ausra, this was a long message from Stephen, and primarily he loves Zipoli, “Pastorale.”
Ausra: Yes! And so what else can I add to this?
Vidas: What is your take about learning difficult things badly or easier things to the best of your ability?
Ausra: I think I would take a middle ground. I wouldn’t practice just easy and short things. Maybe you could work on a few of those and also at the same time learn something harder and longer.
Vidas: And why is that you feel this way?
Ausra: That way I think you would be well balanced, because if you will only learn small things, you might never go to that longer pieces.
Vidas: The next level.
Vidas: I might agree with you here, because you have to constantly challenge yourself, not too much, but also not too little. And this middle ground playing a variety of repertoire adds a little bit more possibility for your muscles and brain to work together.
Ausra: Yes, because you know, I don’t think that the length of the piece always determines its difficulty level. You might have quite a long piece but not as hard as maybe a short and really difficult miniature. But you always need to have short pieces and long pieces, because they develop different skills that you need, because when you are playing the long piece, it develops your concentration, which is very important for organ and any musician.
Vidas: I find that, just yesterday for example, I had this thought in my head that I can sight-read easier things than I can improvise. I can improvise more difficult things like Partitas and even Fugues. But I could not sight-read during a recital Partitas and Fugues. Why is that?
Ausra: Because they are more difficult, probably. More challenging!
Vidas: Yes, but why can I play spontaneously, not written on the page, but spontaneously in my mind—difficult things—while reading the score, I am slower. Not really slow, I can still play sight-reading pretty well mostly, probably better than most people, but comparing to what I can do without sheet, it’s less advanced.
Ausra: Well, because when you are improvising, you are composing your own music. You are the master of your mind! But if you’re sight-reading somebody else’s Partitas or Fugues, let’s say, then you are reading another person’s mind, which is always a harder thing.
Vidas: Yeah. It’s a little bit… seems unconnected to Stephen’s idea, it’s what Dupré wrote. Right? That only thought playing a lot of easier pieces and being able to consolidate our progress at a manageable standard that we can go on to greater things. So I guess in my case, sight-reading easier pieces and then gradually including more difficult stuff, probably, I will be able to improve my sight-reading as well!
Ausra: I think so, too!
Vidas: Over time.
Ausra: Yes, and what also think is really important is that you wouldn’t stay at each stage for too long, for example. That you wouldn’t become just an organist who plays short easy pieces forever. You really need to find that spot or that time when you need to jump to another level.
Vidas: And that might be how soon?
Ausra: Well, you know, when you feel comfortable at doing something, it means you need to jump up to the next level.
Vidas: I would agree here with you. I see some other organists on YouTube, for example, playing only easy pieces—really well, or relatively well, right, but never advancing to the next level. For months, or even years!
Ausra: Well, and that’s understandable, because when you love to push me, yes, to record something every day, then what do you think, I can like record a substantial piece every day, then I would sleep eat and do other things.
Vidas: Oh, I know! I’m not talking about you. Why are you talking about yourself?
Ausra: But maybe somebody who records only short pieces has also such a supportive…
Vidas: You just created this….
Ausra: ...wife or husband that pushes all the time, and in order to survive somebody, you know, picks up the standard collection and records it every day!
Vidas: Do you know many organists who have partners who are organists and who pushes them to record?
Ausra: I don’t know, but there are some. I know at least one!
Vidas: I highly doubt it. Yeah.. I think, you just recorded your demonstration of Groningen Martinikerk, and that was a rather advanced piece, Chaconne and Prelude. Right? Quite virtuosic piece.
Ausra: Well, Chaconne is pretty easy actually. Of course, you have to understand the style of it. But Prelude, yes. You have to have good finger technique to play it.
Vidas: Are you saying that you are challenging yourself enough these days?
Ausra: Yes, because I have just simply too many things to do, to play, too many ideas and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do now and what to leave for the next week, and how to organize the work, because there are simply too many things that I need to play and to do.
Vidas: Me too! I also started live streaming, “On the Bench with Vidas” series, and I have really so many ideas to play constantly. New music and old music and hymns and improvisations and even theater organ repertoire. So yeah, I’m constantly challenging myself. Probably more than most people. So, I guess for Stephen also, it could be good to have this middle ground. I’m still trying to find my rhythm of what’s working for me, not to over extend myself, and not to be too relaxed. When I’m too relaxed, I’m bored with organ playing.
Ausra: And then you start to push me! Yes? To get more excitement.
Vidas: No, and then I plan the next thing, and next thing, and next thing, and then it’s too much and I quit!
Ausra: Yes, that’s what you often do. I realized when I told you to play some more difficult repertoire, like for example that beautiful A-Major trio by J. S. Bach, “Allein Gott,” suddenly you jumped to Wurlitzer and started to play Jazz!
Vidas: Or when James Flores and I decided to master, “Carillon de Westminster” by Louis Vierne together by Valentine’s Day, at first I was so energetic and enthusiastic about it, but now I’m not so sure that…
Ausra: Yes, you will never be able to do it, because you don’t practice, because you did so many other pieces in that time instead of practicing Vierne, so I knew right away that you would not finish it.
Vidas: Really. But I will finish by this Summer for sure.
Ausra: Yes, that you might do.
Vidas: Can you believe it?
Vidas: Okay. So guys, lets practice intelligently. Maybe smarter, not harder. That would be a good solution. Right?
Ausra: Yes. Don’t repeat our mistakes.
Vidas: Or repeat them and then laugh at yourself also, like we are laughing at ourselves. Alright, thank you guys for sending these questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
Ausra: 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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