Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 341, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Bruce. And he writes:
I just came across your youtube of Estampie Retrove from the Robertsbridge Codex. Do you have sheet music to this? Preferably not in tablature; actually, regular manuscript and tablature would be fun.
V: Have you seen my prepared score of Estampie Retrove?
A: I have played from it, performed from it in the recital. Yes, I have seen it.
V: Mmm-hmm. Let’s open our Secrets Of Organ Playing store, and search for Estampie and we have two Estampies—one is Estampie Retrove, and second is Estampie, but a different version. So, Estampie Retrove is the oldest surviving organ piece. It’s from Robertsbridge Codex, which was compiled in the 14th Century, approximately in 1360, from the time of Boccacio and Decameron. This music is of Italian origin but preserved in the British library. It’s a piece only for manuals, because at that time, of course, organs mostly didn’t have any pedals.
A: True. It was just the beginning of development of that instrument. And in general of instrumental music.
A: Because vocal music always came first.
V: I’ve heard this piece performed by an early music ensemble—medieval ensemble in Vilnius during an early music festival Banchetto Musicale and they played it not on the organ, but on two instruments—organetto and some kind of string viol, the lower instrument, was a viol, and it played the lower part, and the other instrument was oganetto, like a Portative organ, very small, maybe two octaves wide of range, and it could be only played with one hand.
A: How did it sound? Do you liked it?
V: Yes. And I observed the keyboard. The keys were so small and tiny. You could not easily play it without experience, I think. I was fascinated. It was just before I had the score prepared. I knew this piece for a long time, but didn’t have fingering prepared. So the reason I prepared fingering was because, remember we needed some pieces from 14th Century in our organ demonstrations—‘Meet the King of Instruments’.
A: I remember it, yes.
V: And it seemed like a very good example. So then I notated the fingering and the part of our subscribers and students already were playing from it. So, if Bruce is interested, of course we can put a link in the written description, or if you are listening to the podcast, you could go to our Secrets of OrganPlaying store, on Shopify. The way to find it, it’s just to go to organduo.lt and click on Store. And then you will be taken to our Secrets of Organ Playing Store and you could search in the search bar for this, for the sheet music.
A: I remember it was fun to play this Estampie Retrove because usually I teach harmony on a daily basis, and I always preach that you shouldn’t be using that parallel fifths while harmonizing melody. And here I am harmony teacher playing all the solo piece, which is written entirely with parallel fifths. It was fun.
V: It would be a good dictation for students.
A: I enjoyed it very much.
V: Have you ever played for your kids this piece?
A: Sometimes, I just play like couple measures of it.
V: Mmm-mmm. Me too. And they react very strangely—what is that, right? I think I played a dictation like maybe eight measures or ten or twelve measures out of it. Let’s see—one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine measures until the first stop. But it was so uncommon for them. They didn’t know what to write, right? Because this music is so old, older than the oldest trees in Lithuania.
V: What’s the oldest tree in Lithuania?
A: I don’t think, maybe that Stelmužės ąžuolas or Stelmužė oak.
V: Oak, mmm-hmm. Is it from 15th Century or 16th Century?
A: It’s very, very old.
V: Older than this?
V: Seven hundred years old?
A: I’m not sure. I have to check it.
V: Let’s check it right now. Stelmužės ąžuolas. Oh, this is the oldest and the thickest…
V: Tree in Lithuania. One of the oldest oak tress in Europe. The oak is around 1500 years old. 1500 years!
V: It’s diameter is 3.5 meters, and 13 meters around the, next to the ground. Eight or nine grown up men have to go around this tree to reach, with hands. I wonder how many piglets and hedgehogs would you need.
A: Way too many, probably.
V: So that’s oak from maybe 6th Century or 5th Century. Nobody can tell for sure, right? But we didn’t have organ music from that time.
A: So, 1-0 - trees rule. Trees win against the organ.
V: Wonderful. Thank you guys for sending these questions. It’s so fascinating to sometimes dig up all the facts that we have forgotten and share it with you here.
A: Yes, it’s very nice.
V: And you hope, we hope you will enjoy playing Estampie Retrove. And actually I was surprised, because this is one of my more popular videos. Let’s check on Youtube, how many views does it have. Estampie.
A: When I was practicing this piece, getting ready for recital, I though ‘oh, it’s so easy. It’s not worth for practicing much’. But actually it’s not true. You need to put some work onto it. And after playing it for some times—because it keeps repeating itself—it affects you as some sort of meditation.
A: So it’s really worthwhile trying it.
V: The earliest organ music Estampie Retrove video, it was viewed 7004 times.
A: Still, I don’t think it’s a record. I remember us watching that movie, with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. And even like after that movie was shown for like three weeks, that one of the songs from that movie already had what like, millions and millions of views. So…
V: Do you know, that maybe I should do another podcast conversation with my top Youtube videos—a list of top ten. Not now, but maybe in the future because I’ve just opened Youtube channel and the list is interesting. Okay, in the future we’ll share it and discuss. Thank you guys. 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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