Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 333, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Lukasz. And he starts with his questions, with a quote from our previous podcast conversation about performing the Dorian Toccata by Bach, where Ausra, says:
..."A: Well, unless you would use the 5th and 4th finger to make the trill.
V: “Oh, that’s...that’s torture!”
A: “It is! Or maybe you could play those 16th notes with your left hand"… So Lukasz later writes:
I think it is not a torture, it is a necessity for Bach. Try to play Goldberg's without 5th and 4th trills in right ... and left hand... agree, at start it is difficult, but for Bach - in my opinion - necessary, same like playing parallel sixths legato in one hand - same right and left hand. I also considered these things as too difficult, something just from art of circus and not really needed for organ. Until the time I've start to work with Goldberg's variations—which I loved and when I started to play it I went crazy about it. But by the way, it completely overturned my manual technique. More—I practiced it on SINGLE!!! manual organ!!! Yes—I have been working on them for a long time, I will say honestly, I will work on them until the end of my life. (By the way, many musicians - including Glenn Gould - say and I confirm it—that as you start to play Goldberg Variations—it will stay with you for the rest of your life.) This is really amazing music—not just for listening—but especially for playing. It changes a lot—also playing the ornaments and long trills by 4 and 5 fingers appears to be not a torture :)
Have a nice weekend
A: You know what I suggest to Lukasz to do? To come to St. John’s church in Vilnius and try to play a trill with 5th and 4th finger and I am probably sure that he would just break his two fingers, and he could not perform at all. And another thought that I thought about while reading his question was that Goldberg variations really doesn’t work for organ. Definitely it’s a piece that should be played on the harpsichord, and I’m positive about it.
A: So, and another thing, Glen Gould of course that wonderful performance of Glen Gould and all his Bach performance, but I don’t like his Bach’s recordings so well. So, that’s a matter of taste. And now I let you to talk about what you think about it.
V: Uh-huh. I would recommend, when you say for Lukasz to come to our church to play, but not only to play in general, but to play the trill between E and F in the first manual.
A: (Laughs). Then you really would die.
V: Between the 4th and the 5th finger.
A: You would break them—that’s for sure.
V: Right. That’s question. Because those two keys are stuck a little bit inside of the action, and I cannot reach it. I have to get some big, professional help, and I haven’t gotten it yet. So, those two keys are more difficult to depress than others, and other keys are not easy to depress also, So…
V: So in general, it’s really difficult instrument.
A: Well for example, if you are playing Goldberg’s variation, that actually I had played this piece while working on my doctorate at Lincoln, because I was taking harpsichord all the years that I studyed in the United States. So, yes. On the harpsichord, to play trills with the 4th and 5th finger is very easy…
A: ...and really comfortable. So, it depends on which keys you are playing on.
V: It’s comfortable to play on the third manual of St. John’s church too.
V: It’s easy enough. Mmm-hmm. So maybe things can get adjusted because we have three manuals and in Goldberg’s variations, he usually needs two. And not in all the variations. So you can jump from manual to manual sometimes, and play on two manuals.
A: But I would really leave this piece for the harpsichord because it doesn’t have the pedal. And to play such a massive piece, really, is one of the most powerful piece that is written by J. S. Bach, and to play it on the organ and not use pedal, it just doesn’t seem worthwhile.
V: What about The Art of Fugue? It’s also seem to playable on the harpsichord and we heard it played by Peter Dixon. And it could be played with the pedal on the organ too.
A: Well, that’s another story. I like it both ways.
A: That fugue. That same thing—it works well on both instruments, but not Goldberg’s variations.
V: Mmm-hmm. And Glen Gould seems to…
A: He did it on the piano.
V: ...on the piano, with one manual. Or are there any two manual pianos around?
A: I don’t know about all kinds of experimental instruments.
V: I’m quite sure that somewhere there would be even three manuals.
A: Sure you could find anywhere, nowadays, yes.
V: Yes. But, and I remembered to an instrument museum in Vermillion and we saw some strange keyboard layout, with eighteen keys per octave or something, and it’s very strange…
A: More like experimental keyboards.
V: You need to spend like three years while learning to play such an instrument and then you will have a hard time playing the normal instrument.
A: That’s right.
V: Right? So, do you think that strong 4th and 5th finger is a good help for an organist?
A: Yes, it is.
A: Definitely, it is.
V: Mmm-hmm. Our conversation is not to prove that we don’t consider it’s importance for organists, right? Definitely try to strengthen your little finger and the fourth finger, on both hands, also.
A: For me, it’s just amazing that somebody just picks up on one line and tries to make the whole story out of it.
A: Taking it out of the context, from the context.
V: Maybe because that resonated to him a lot, because he… You know this, when you listen to some conversation or read an article, and suddenly a paragraph or two lines stick to you because you have personal experience about that line, so that’s what happened I think.
V: Good! And then, what kind of exercises could you suggest, Ausra, to strengthen 4th and 5th finger? Or are there any in your baggage of tricks, that you use everyday, before breakfast?
A: Well, (laughs) you know, you got me. Do you have any special exercises?
V: For a 4th and the 5th finger?
A: Yes. I think actually that...
V: Sure. Hanon
A: Hanon, yes.
V: The, even the first part, which is relatively easy, works on those two fingers also sometimes. Because, unless you strengthen those fingers, you cannot proceed to the second part. And unless those strengthen those fingers even more, you cannot proceed to the third part. So I guess for people who are interested in strengthening all fingers, and especially those weak fingers, could take a look at all three parts of Hanon, Pianist Virtuoso.
A: Yes, and now I thought that I will definitely draw a comics about this thing—playing trills with the 4th and 5th finger.
A: And since my main hero of the comic is a pig (laughs), which surely has what?
V: Fingers. Long and short, or short and long.
A: So, it will be fun.
V: Mmm-hmm. And the second hero character is what? Hedgehog!
A: That’s right.
V: How many fingers does he have?
A: I don’t know, maybe four.
V: When I draw Spikey the hedgehog, I don’t draw fingers at all, just little paws. So it wold be like...
A: So you can play it still with both paws…
V: Mmm-hmm. Yeah. We will definitely post some visual material for you too. Because some of those comics are quite funny, we hear from our readers, from other blogs that we write. But not for organists. Sometimes you might get amused also.
A: True. True.
V: Alright, guys. Thank you so much for staying with us through those difficult, sometimes, conversations. And we hope you get things that are useful to you. Obviously Lukasz got interesting things from the previous conversation when he was quoting us. And that resonated with him and he produced a nice question. So please keep sending us your thoughtful questions. And we love helping you grow. 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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