Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 280, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ana Marija. And she writes:
I am going to play a recital with my violinist friend on historical short octave organ (with no pedals, 8 stops). But we have some trouble finding repertoire, that is suitable for this organ. For the solo organ part, I will be playing some music by Byrd, Tomkins, Sweelinck, Frescobaldi and Froberger. Do you have any other idea? But mainly, we have a hard time finding pieces for violin and short octave organ. We would really appreciate if you could help us with any suggestion!:)
Thank you for your wonderful work and help:)
V: Do you think, Ausra, that playing above mentioned composers such as Byrd, Tompkins, Sweelinck, Frescobaldi, and Froberger, would work on that old organ?
A: I’m sure it will work. Definitely.
V: What else could you play for organ solo?
A: Well, I think there is more music that you could do, because these all composers mentioned, except of course Froberger and Frescobaldi, come from Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. So anything in those two big volumes would fit, for historical with short octave.
V: And Frescobaldi wrote, what Fiori musicali, probably, suitable without pedals.
A: Yes, but of course you could also play something from Tabulatura nova by Samuel Scheidt. I think that will work also.
V: That’s right.
A: Because it’s also only for manuals.
V: If you take Tabulatura nova, could you play the three lower parts with the keyboard, like on an organ and let the violinist play the upper part?
A: Yes. That’s one of the possibilities that you could digest some pieces from Tabulatura nova for violin and organ.
V: Hmm-hmm. That’s the easiest probably solution. Three volumes, plenty of music to choose from. But we also found a couple of suitable collections to work on, the Spanish Cancionero de Pallacio from the Renaissance period, from mid 1470’s until the beginning of 16th Century. Basically it has music of vocal polyphony for three or four parts. So you could easily play the three or two lower parts on the organ, and let the violinist play the upper part, with perhaps diminutions.
A: Yes. Because if you would just play throughout, straight through, without adding any ornaments and diminutions, it might sound boring. So you have to improvise a little bit.
V: Because it’s vocal music and the entire interest is done by voices with text and if you can’t hear text while playing instrumental music, then you have to add something.
A: Sure. And I think that some of French chansons or Italian canzonas would work in the same way—that violin would play the upper part with some diminutions and the organ would accompany playing other voice.
V: Definitely. Madrigals.
A: Yes. Madrigals too. So French chansones and Italian madrigals.
V: What about motets? Religious Latin music?
A: Well, you could do them too, but I don’t think it would sound probably as good as madrigals and chanson.
V: Imagine you’re an organist those motets on one organ. You would play diminutions, like Scheidemann did from the motets by Orlando de Lassus, for example, or Hans Leo Hassler. So you would need your right hand to be playing solo passages a lot, and the left hand and pedals if you have pedals, the lower parts.
A: Well, but in this case we have no pedals. We have short octave, so I wouldn’t do motets, for this particular concert.
V: Yes. With pedals you can do even up to six parts on the solo organ. But without the pedals, I guess three or four parts would be maximum.
A: But anyway, in this case you will have adjust somehow because you won’t find original compositions specifically written for organ with short octave and solo violin.
V: We can give links to these collections we’re talking about in the description of the conversation in the transcript, so that people can click and visit the scores in public domain.
A: So nice you can use them freely.
V: Yeah. And what about Michael Praetorius, dances from Terpsichore collection from 1612?
A: I think it should work too. At least some of those pieces.
V: Mmm-hmm. They’e very fun to play. We listened to CD of this collection and we’ve been to some of the concerts of early music ensembles playing Michael Praetorius.
A: That’s right.
V: Wonderful music if you have the right instruments. So violin and organ could play some of these too.
A: Definitely, yes. So you just need to check this collection and then to decide what to do with it.
V: Right. And there are additions with original notation, with various clefs, but for people who don’t like various clefs, there are modern additions.
A: That’s right.
V: Okay. So what are the closing remarks, the general ideas for people for searching for suitable repertoire like that, for ensemble music, chamber music form 17th or 16th Century?
A: Well that’s all the time you will have to adjust somehow. Probably you won’t find the original that would suit you right away, so that’s the beauty of this kind of music.
V: Have you played with a violinist, Ausra?
A: Yes, I had.
V: A good violinist?
A: No, I haven’t.
V: Only a bad one.
A: Yes (laughs).
V: But you played later music.
A: Yes, I played Bach.
A: Sonata for violin and organ or harpsichord.
V: Before this conversation started, we were discussing with Ausra some ideas, and Ausra thought if Bach would be suitable, for Bach’s violin sonatas would be suitable for this kind of arrangement on the short-octave organ and we concluded that no, probably.
A: No, no.
V: Why, Ausra.
A: Well, Bach’s music is too complex for such kind of instrument and this kind of instrument needs earlier repertoire.
V: And by complex, you mean, chromaticism's.
V: In the left hand part.
A: That’s right.
V: In the bass octave. And we have to remember, that short octave doesn’t have accidentals.
A: That’s right.
V: No C sharp, no D sharp, no F sharp, no G sharp, only B flat I think.
A: So it limits your variety of your repertoire.
V: Right. Some of the 17th Century and even 18th Century organs have sort of version of short octave, but without C sharp, or without C sharp and D sharp, so you could have accidentals starting from F sharp. Then some of the later music would be possible to play but I guess this is not the case with this small organ without pedals.
A: Definitely, yes.
V: Thank you guys for writing those wonderful questions. Please send us more of your challenges. 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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