Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: We’re starting Episode No. 160 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by John, and he writes:
Hi Vidas and Ausra,
How are you today?
I am quite excited I have almost finalised my program for April 7th and I am designing a poster/invite for the recital.
I wanted to ask a few questions:
1) is this score attached the correct one for the Lithuanian national anthem? I'm trying to learn some basics about your country. Does the piece end at the end of the score or does it repeat some of the phrases?
2) Could you please send me some photos of the stop jams on the St John's organ so I can be more familiar with the layout?
3) Does the St John's organ have a balanced swell pedal on the swell division or is it a trigger lever pedal off to the right hand side of the pedalboard?
4) How heavy is the mechanical action, I remember one of your podcasts was with an American organist and he said it was the heaviest he'd played.
So, how are you today, Ausra?
A: I’m fine.
V: What does that mean?
A: I just feel fine.
V: Do you feel better than yesterday?
A: Well, yes, I feel better. Because today is Saturday, and I don’t have to teach classes, so I’m very happy.
V: Exactly. Yesterday was quite a strenuous day for you, right? You played for diploma ceremonies.
A: Yes. And because I had to go to that ceremony right after five classes that I taught in school. It was a very busy and stressful day.
V: Yeah. We have to think about our planning for the upcoming Bach’s birthday recital, which also will be in the evening of Friday.
A: Yes, it will be hard, actually, to play a recital after a working day.
V: So, John writes those questions because he is coming to play a recital at St. John’s in April.
A: Yes, in April. I’m looking forward to finally meeting him in person!
V: Exactly. So this is really exciting. And we feel that we know him and his family well through, what, six years of interaction?
V: But never having actually, physically, met him.
V: So that will be the first time. We spoke with him on the podcast--at least I did--but, of course, we both read his emails and feedback he sends frequently. So we feel like we’re very much connected to his experience in Australia.
A: That’s true. So now, let’s help John to get an impression about what our organ is, and how he needs to prepare for his recital.
A: So, maybe we first will talk about the action.
V: Yes. But before that, he also asked you--or asked us--“Could you please send me some photos of the stop specification of the St. John’s organ, so that I can be more familiar with the layout.” Of course we can do that. The layout is very simple, if we can just say a few words, right, off the top of our heads. When you sit on the organ bench, you face the music rack; what do you see to the right hand side, Ausra? And to the left hand side?
A: Well, you see stop knobs. And there are like 4 rows on each side, of stop knobs.
A: Yes. They are all vertical; and sometimes it’s hard to pull them out, because they are sort of heavy mechanical wooden sticks.
A: With knobs at the end. So...And then, the principle is that the farther from your both sides are the pedal stops.
V: Mhmm. So, it’s a symmetrical layout, right?
V: The closest row to the organist is the Great.
A: Yes, the Great, or the first manual, actually, because on many organs in other countries you have the second manual is called the Great, but here the first manual is the Great.
V: Okay. What’s the next row, then?
A: Then you just keep moving up. So the second row is the second manual..
V: That’s the swell pedal. The swell box.
A: Swell box. And the swell box is located right in the center, in the middle of the pedalboard.
V: Between E and F notes.
V: Of the tenor octave.
A: Yes. And actually, it opens fairly easily.
V: It opens up when you…
A: Push down.
V: Push...just like accelerator pedal in a car. Right?
A: That’s true.
V: Because there are opposite systems sometimes--when you open the box, you have to press with your heel, not with your toe.
A: Yes. Then the third row on both sides is the third manual.
A: Which is sort of a little bit imitation of a Great, and actually the first and the third manuals, they are very well suited for Baroque music, for early music. And the second swell division is small--you know, suitable for Romantic music or later music.
V: And we have to remember that the third manual is positioned on the highest level of the organ…
A: Yes, it’s Oberwerk, basically, compared to German organs.
V: And the scaling of those principals in the Oberwerk is rather narrow. So we have to keep in mind when registering any kind of music, because normally, we double them--Principal plus Flute of the same pitch level.
V: And it’s a more rounded feeling. Even though it is Baroque-like.
A: Yes. And what else could we tell about our organ? That on the left side, louder stops are located.
V: More principal…
A: Yes, more principals, mixtures, and you know, loud reeds, and…
V: With the exception of Bombarde.
A: Yes, and Unda Maris is on the left side, too. Yes, on the left side which is [? 8:37]...
V: And..go ahead.
A: And on the right side we have like, string stops, and flutes; softer reeds, like Oboe on the Swell division..
V: Vox Humana…
A: Vox Humana, and of course, with the exception of Bombarde, as you talked about.
V: Bombarde is on the Great. So here on this organ we have 16’ stops on every division.
A: Yes, so you basically can have a pleno on each single manual. Of course, we have manual couplers, too; but basically, you don’t have to use them.
A: I actually don’t think any of those couplers are really needed for this instrument. But of course you can use them, if you need them. We have pedal couplers, and manual couplers.
V: Yesterday evening, I just had a chat with an organist who will be playing a recital tonight, and he is going to play a lot of Romantic pieces, including Sonata by Roethke, on this organ; and he loves to play with couplers. And he, you know...not complained, but was sort of a little bit worried that the action then becomes extremely heavy.
A: Well, don’t play such repertoire on this instrument. It’s highly unsuited for Roethke’s Sonata, or for, I don’t know, Vierne’s Symphony.
V: It could be done. But…
A: But the result won’t be...will not be satisfying.
V: Unless you just love a big sound.
A: Because especially, you know, the Swell division is very heavy.
V: Yes, because…
A: And you cannot play Sonata by Roethke without Swell divisions. So...I wouldn’t play music like this.
V: The tempo must be slower then, because of the acoustics, also: 5 seconds of reverberation.
A: I think, like, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Liszt, sounds nice on our organ; but probably not the pieces beyond that--not like Roethke or Vierne. Or Franck…
V: Yeah, early Romantic music works well, because of the Kirnberger III temperament, of course.
A: Yeah, so you know, for anybody who selects pieces for our organ, I would suggest that three accidentals are, you know, the most--the top of accidentals that you choose in your pieces.
V: To get the best result.
V: You can play anything on this organ--even Volumina by Ligeti. But...but, you know, will you like the result? Will your listeners enjoy the result? It depends, right? If you compare this organ with a real Romantic organ, where you could play, you know, German Romantic or French Romantic music extremely well, then this organ is more suited for the Baroque organ. But if you compare St. John’s organ with a neo-Baroque instrument--like we have several of those in Vilnius--then of course our instrument is superior to these neo-Baroque organs, even for Romantic music.
A: That’s true, because we have nice flutes, and nice string stops. So you can, you know, do a lot of things, but...but probably not Reubke.
V: Well...the actual advice would be to probably see and exploit the best qualities of the instrument first; and then go ahead and maybe play some music that you enjoy the most, you know, in addition to that. Because you have to play what you enjoy, right?
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: Especially if you enjoy Romantic music, and you would only have to play, imagine, just the Baroque or earlier music on this instrument. You would suffer, you would be frustrated. But if you play a part of the program Romantic music, and part of it Baroque music, that would be like, a win-win situation! Right?
A: That’s true.
V: What about modern music, Ausra? Does it work here well?
A: Yes, it works well.
V: Better than Romantic?
A: Yes, I would say that it works better than Romantic.
V: So that’s the reason I keep improvising in a modern style; and it works well for me. Of course, when I improvise, I choose the layout of the stops and the stops themselves that work for my music. I adjust; I don’t force, I don’t put my music ahead of the instrument. I always listen to how it sounds, what the instrument wants. I suggest you do the same, when you play this instrument.
V: Allright. So, another question John had was about English-speaking listeners...and, um, will we have tourists in April?
A: Some, we might; not, probably, as many as we wish for, but some might attend the recital. And you know, if John wants to speak English, to introduce his program to the audience, that’s very nice; and then Vidas can translate it. We’ve had those cases in our past
A: And Vidas was a wonderful translator.
V: We have a microphone right in the organ balcony, and we can take turns, right--John and myself.
V: And I can introduce him in Lithuanian, and then he can play and talk, and I can translate. So guys, I hope some of these remarks were useful to you. This is not all of these questions that John sent, but since our time is limited, we’re going to discuss the rest of them in the next podcast conversation. So stay tuned for the update! Okay, 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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