Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 188, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Davie; he writes:
Dear Vidas and Ausra, Thank you for your emails. I have read your advice with great interest, and have watched your videos about focusing when playing. Even though I am now 77 years old, and have been playing the organ for about 60 of those years, I have found your help very refreshing, as it has reminded me of what my teachers tried to help me with years ago!!
I have always been a 'parish' organist - I have never reached the dizzy heights of playing in large churches or cathedrals, but I really enjoy daily practice (I have a digital 2-manual organ at home).
I would really love to do a public recital, but, up to now (with one brief exception, years ago) I have not had the confidence to try. My church, where I am assistant organist, is going to do a series of recitals to mark the church's 500th. anniversary, and I would like to be part of that.
Let me give you an example of what I think is my problem. I have been studying (for a long time!!) Bach's D minor Toccata and Fugue. The Toccata I can play reasonably well from memory. I have worked very hard on the fugue, but I find I make a couple of mistakes when I play it. I then go back to the places where the mistakes happened, and find that I can play those sections OK. Next time I play, the same thing happens, only the mistakes occur in a different part of the fugue, which, when I return to them, I can play well.
Perhaps many organists have this same problem. I seem to be able to cope with shorter works (eg. Lefebure-Wely's Sorties in Bb and Eb, some of Bach's Chorale Preludes and pieces like Vierne's 'Lied').
I would really appreciate your thoughts and advice on this problem. I thank you once again for your help. With all good wishes.
V: So, Ausra, the problem that David is facing is basically, really a common one. Remember our student from Unda Maris Studio, Vytautas right? He played D minor Toccata years ago. The Fugue was really a problem for him too.
A: Well, it’s you know, very natural, to have problems in the fugues, and not in the preludes or toccatas, because usually you know fugue is easy piece based on you know, counterpoint, and sometimes, as in Bach case, even very sophisticated counterpoint, and it’s hard to handle so it’s perfectly natural. And another you know problem that David has, he says that you know, that he makes mistakes in various places you know. One time he plays in one place and then another time in another place, and then he goes back to those places, he says that he can play them well. I think it’s also normal. That’s what happens during, during actual performance. But you know, the thing is before you public performance, you have to be able to play without mistakes for yourself.
V: A lot of times.
A: Yes, a lot of times.
V: In a row.
A: Yes, and it does not mean that during the actual performance he will play often without mistakes. Those mistakes still might happen. But the main thing is, you know, how you react to your mistakes. Do we disturb your playing, you know, so much as you lose the sense of the general flow of the piece, or you just keep going and you will not react to them.
V: Mmm, hmm. You’re absolutely right, Ausra. Remember we shared just a while ago your recording of Bach’s BWV 552 E Flat Major Prelude and Fugue, from Clavierubung III. And one place you missed on pedal note, right? How did you feel?
A: Yes, and now it’s so nice to discuss all my mistakes publicly. But that’s okay you know, and we learn. Yes, I hit a wrong note in the pedal, but…
V: How did you react to this feeling?
A: I just, you know, I immediately heard you know, what I did, but, but I just kept going and playing.
V: It didn’t disturb you?
A: Not at all.
V: So that’s a good accomplishment I think. You should be proud of this.
A: The last performance is not recording us today. If you would record us today you know, some, some, some people you know, make like five, six or even ten shots of one piece. And even, even going further, some people just you know, just cut off some of places of the music and then you know, sort of glue the other, take out from another example, and they make it perfect, piece, out of like ten recordings. So but, but, but, you know, this is not, not, not a goal, actually, and this is not what I seek with my playing. I think the live performance is always more excited and you know, I value it much more.
V: Sometimes, Ausra, we have incorrect way of understanding other recitalists skills, right? When people from around the world come to play in certain churches, right, and we can witness that in our church, either in our church, St. John’s church in Vilnius, or when we get the chance to hear them in other places, sometimes those people really play without mistakes, right?
V: Like, remember whenever we hear Ludger Lohmann play, he seems like taken from city.
A: But still, you know, now I remember that Ludger Lohmann gave a recital at St. John’s church on that organ. Remember that organ at that time was different because what I mean the action of the second manual was much easier than it is now. So, it was much easier for him to play than it is now on this particular organ.
V: We’re recording this conversation, oh, just a few days before Easter, and on, like, like a week from Easter, our friend and student John Higgins from Australia will be playing a recital here in Vilnius too. So when we meet him after the recital and maybe even before the recital, we’ll try to record the conversation with him and post it as a podcast to get his insights about his experience on this unfamiliar instrument, right?
V: That would be fascinating, right?
A: Yes, it should be, yes.
V: And Ausra, yes, Ludger Lohmann and other people, you know, those famous virtuosos, they play seemingly without mistakes, but we have to keep in mind, that those people who tour the world, they most certainly play the same pieces over and over again.
A: That’s true.
V: In different churches. So if you heard him play regular, right, Choral and Fantasia, I remember, he might have played this piece fifty times in public before that. So imagine if you would played fifty times E Flat Major, Prelude and Fugue; how would you feel? Of course much more secure. You would play like with your eyes closed, right?
A: Well, yes, I guess so.
V: Yes, so every time, you get a little breakthrough, a little bit of discovery about yourself, your instrument, your piece, after each public performance, and it gets better and better every time, I think. But those mistakes can still happen in, in, in various places. You cannot really prevent them.
A: I know, and you know, even organ, can, you know, something happen to the organ during the performance. And you will have to manage somehow to finish your recital.
V: Well exactly.
A: Remember we had that accident in Nida?
V: Yeah, one, one, one key stuck.
A: On your side of the organ because your were playing left part.
V: And I had to adjust my part, my texture, taking into account of this cipher which I could not really get rid of. Or maybe I could get rid of it, but then I had to be careful not to touch it again.
A: I know, and it happened at the beginning of the recital so you had to struggle all the way through.
V: Exactly, like, like for fifty more minutes.
A: That’s right.
V: Exactly! It’s fun, it’s part of the experience, this live thrill of performance. And we seek out those situations. If we would enjoy secure performance, right, we would just listen to a CD at home.
A: That’s true. But you know for David, I have a suggestion that he definitely has to play a public recital. Because you know, a university of 500 for his church, that’s a big university. And he is lucky to be able to witness it. So he definitely has to perform. What I would suggest you know, that he would give himself as many dress rehearsals as he can. I think it will help to overcome those mistakes, you know.
V: Like yesterday, like with Unda Maris Studio, we had a dress rehearsal, although our real organ recital will be just in two months. Now people can really assess their skills and their situation much better and maybe, you know, improve themselves over those two months.
V: Thanks guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love to helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!