Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 209, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by John, from Australia. When he got back from his European trip, and he visited us and played the recital at our church, Vilnius University, St. John’s Church. And upon returning he sends this question, feedback basically. And I’d like to read an excerpt from his letter because his feedback about his own playing is so fascinating. Let me, let me find the suitable place to start:
Dear Vidas and Ausra,
I am still buzzing with excitement from my trip, my pilgrimage to see the master!
I think it is only just starting to sink in now, the enormity of meeting you and playing an international recital. It felt so easy being with you, because even though it was the first time we’ve met face to face, we’ve been friends for more than seven years.
I listened to most of my recital last night, and it was incredible reliving the experience.
I remember a football coach once said, “things are never as good as they seem, and things are never as bad as they seem”.
I think honestly that there is lots of opportunity for improvement, you have been very kind with the words you have said, but I want to get better. I can understand how you thought when was I going to crash! I was fortunate to somehow “save” it a few times, maybe muscle memory saved me. I felt like it was “so near yet so far”, some pieces were sounding so great and then, woops, messed up there! Ha ha!
But the context is I had only been in your amazing country for 18 hours before the recital with about 4 hours practice!
So on the plane coming home I wrote a list:
What went well:
My research and preparation
- Registration selections/preparation
- Repertoire selection sounded good on the organ
- Story telling about the pieces
- Pedal solo in BWV 557
- Ich ruf zu dir (I think I played without mistakes!)
- The crowd applause was amazing, sent shivers up my spine! It must have meant a lot to them, as I felt the emotion.
- Having a go at two improvisations
- Preparing for heavy action by doing Hanon exercises with manuals coupled
- I made you and Ausra proud
- That people would like me to come back, surely that’s a sign of success
What didn’t go well:
- Pedal work, I didn’t adjust to flat parallel pedal board, esp in improvisations
- I hesitated in several pieces
- I needed to look at the keys and pedals because I didn’t feel comfortable
- Took a while to get “in the zone” at the start of the recital
- Shaking hands
- My weaknesses were exposed, with my finger technique and lack of accuracy
- Weak spots in my pieces were exposed, especially in Bach Fugues
- Need to work on jumping between manuals (using the 3rd manual was a challenge)
- Needed to articulate between notes more in a highly reverberant acoustic, and larger gaps / breathing of music between phrases
Overall, my biggest lesson was, more SLOW practice required.
What do you think? As your student, what would you like to see me working on in the next 2 years?
V: So, Ausra, what do you think about his feedback?
A: I think it’s very, you know, deep, and I don’t think I would do better for myself, you know, if I would have to analyze my own recital. He has such a great analytical thinking about everything. And I think he, you know, he thought of, each single detail of his performance. This I think, is very amazing.
V: Yeah. This is really exciting to, to, to read this through and I hope people who are listening to this also understand how much thinking went into after the recital experience.
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: And before too, you see what his preparation was. For example, he asked me to, to send a specification of the, of the organ which is normal, but then I had to take lots of pictures with the layout of the stop list, stop knobs, actually. And he would practice using those stop knobs in advance, and choosing the stops correctly, which actually almost worked.
A: Yes. He only needed to do a few corrections. And the entire program which I found also amazing.
V: Probably, the most tricky thing for him was the pedal board which was flat parallel pedal board, German style, and he was more used to the, I don’t know, maybe radiating pedalboard.
V: But it takes a while to get this experience.
A: I know. If he would have a few days, you know, to practice on that organ, I think he would be just okay.
V: Uh, huh.
A: With it.
V: Because normally people arrive a couple of days before,,,
A: And get two more practices on each, on this organ. So, he asks, what he should be practicing now, in the next two years. Maybe next two years is a very long time to think ahead, but let’s say, in the next few months, for his next maybe performance in public. Let me, let me, while you think Ausra, let me, let me say a few suggestions: I think it would be nice for him to continue to improvise. Every practice session he could start with, I don’t know, maybe, a few minutes of improvisation as a warm-up. And then, he should choose at least three pieces from different periods of organ compositions. Let’s say, maybe four pieces, yes? One piece would be a Baroque piece, early Baroque, maybe 17th Century. Then one piece would be Bach, one piece would be a Romantic work, and one piece could be a modern composition—Twenty or Twenty First Century. What do you think?
A: Yes. I think that’s a perfect suggestion. Because I think he needs to build a repertoire to standard, to expand it. And I would definitely suggest him to play some of the modern German music.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: Buxtehude, perhaps.
V: Chorale based.
A: Yes. Or some free works as well. He, Buxtehude wrote so many nice praeludiums.
V: Exactly. Um, and if he does this he little by little can expand his repertoire while not putting many hours actually, per day, because he doesn’t have that possibility to practice for hours, because he has a family to take care of and a very demanding job. And other things to do too, besides organ. But learning three or four pieces a little bit at a time, is doable.
A: I also thought, you know, about playing some French Noels because I know that he’s preparing for lessons in carols.
V: You’re right.
A: I think this would be a nice occasion to play French Noels so he could easily pick up something from, let’s say,,,
V: Probably, D’Aquin...
A: Or Balbastre...
V: Or Dandrieu...
V: Those few.
A: And it’s nice about those, you know Noel-based variations that you don’t have to play them, the whole set of variations. You can just stop after any of them, so…
V: Right. You, you can perform partially.
V: That work.
V: Exactly. And for people who are in John’s situation, this is a very good advice: Start expanding your repertoire a little, and also, remember to repeat your old pieces from time to time.
V: So that your repertoire would grow really. So that you’re not only working on the new stuff but basically expanding, really expanding your bag of tricks, so to say.
A: That’s right.
V: Excellent. So we really hope that John can, can find, let’s say Bach’s piece. He started playing a few preludes and fugues from the Eight Little Preludes and Fugues collection. Now he can take one step further, right? Maybe like the fugue BWV 578 in G minor, or a shorter but not very long intermediate level of preludes and fugues (BWV 533 or BWV 549). What do you think?
A: Yes. It would be I think, a great idea.
V: Or a chorale from, from Orgelbuchlein, other than Ich ruf zu dir.
A: True, and since, you know, as we gave him, you know our CD’s.
A: And he wrote that he liked, you know Schmucke Dich by J.S. Bach. I think it might be still be too hard for him to play at the moment, but if he really likes that kind of style, he could even try the Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659.
V: From the same collection…
V: of Eighteen Great Chorales.
A: Because it’s, it’s less demanding than Schmucke dich. Nevertheless it’s very beautiful. And it has this nice ornamental soprano voice.
V: And it will work for lessons in carols, I think.
A: Yes Because, it’s you know, based on advent, on advent chorale. So…
V: So things like that would be very suitable for John to take one step further, expand his repertoire, and make the pieces a little more complex now.
V: But not too complex. Just,,,
V: A few steps further. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!