Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 350, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Leon. And he writes:
Two recent developments have made me feel ready for my first Bach Prelude and/or Fugue.
Last week I learned about the great but shunned French organist Charles Quef. I tried his little fugue and was able to do it slightly less than half speed with fewer than three mistakes per system. After that, I wrote to my contrebombarde friend who played a Quef/Fauré piece, which Bach pieces he'd suggest. He was very busy with Armistice 100th anniversary uploads, so I asked him to wait to answer. Got it today.
And this week, I returned to trying the Dupré 79 Chorales, which I had not done since April. I was able to sight-read from where I'd been stuck for many months at #69, to #55 to find one that would require more than a little work.
So, based on that, which of David E. Lamb's suggestions would you support, or offer others?
Fugue in G Major, BWV 576 (might not be Bach)
Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor, BWV 537
Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 535
Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 545 (NOBODY plays the pedal trills in the Prelude)
He added that the G minor is seldom played; the C major a lot; the C minor being popular, but still not played that often.
I know I have not been able to afford your course to deserve this kind of answer, but I'm hoping for your grace.
V: So, Ausra, I think BWV 535 in G minor is being played right now by Totile in our Unda Maris organ studio. And I’ve been hearing her play at least for couple of months now and she’s making good progress. It’s not an easy fugue. Prelude is virtuosic but rather straight forward. But fugue deserves more attention. What about C major BWV 545? I think any piece that is on this list could be suitable, right Ausra?
A: Yes. But in general, speaking all of these pieces are already quite advanced.
A: Don’t you think so?
A: And if I would, I don’t know what Leon played before by J.S. Bach…
V: What kind of prelude and fugue.
V: But he says…
A: For my first.
V: This is his first.
A: Mmm-hmm. If I would be his teacher, I would suggest for him to start with Eight Little Preludes and Fugues.
V: And to play a fugue.
A: Yes. To play a fugue, and then start working on somebody from this list. In general, out of this list, I think that maybe that when Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor would be probably a good start for…
V: Mmm-hmm. This piece gives a solid impression, but it’s not very technically challenging.
A: True. True. So if I would be Leon I would start with this Fantasia.
V: If he absolutely protests of playing Eight Little Preludes and Fugues.
A: Yes. Because from my eyes of educator…
A: I think that those Eight Preludes and Fugues, they are so good for us as a guide to develop the Baroque technique, modern(?) technique and to get ready to play Bach.
V: Luckily we have some organ students who understand this. And remember Regina in our organ studio. She has a goal, this year, to play the missing two, I think, preludes and fugues, and then by the end of this year she will have played all eight.
A: Because each of that cycle, each piece of that cycle, it works on some different Baroque issue—either figure in the manuals or in the bass and it’s really very useful.
V: It has such a nice variety of techniques, right?
A: True. And actually those, some of those fugues, they are quite complex and not as easy as seem at first.
V: For keyboard we could compare the two-part inventions and then later three part sinfonias, which every pianist should play.
A: True. And it’s like, if you are a pianist, you will never start to play Bach from the Well Tempered Clavier. You will have to do some smaller works first—two-part inventions, then three parts, and just after that, you would go to the Well Tempered Clavier.
V: Have you played any of the inventions and sinfonias before, Ausra?
A: Of course.
V: Everybody has.
A: Of course. Of course, that’s a tradition. And even you will not start with inventions right away. Before playing inventions, you will have to do something like minuets, for example from Anna Magdalena or Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Clavier book.
V: Or short preludes…
V: They have little preludes too.
V: In William Friedemann’s clavier bücklein. Mmm-hmm. So those two-part inventions and three part sinfonias are very helpful for organists too.
A: That’s true.
V: By the way, I’ve been spending a whole lot of time this week on the organ bench in our church, recording in a slow practice tempo, those two-part inventions. And as of time of this recording, there are only two left, or four, maybe two days left. Because I tried to record two of them every day. And then our team of transcribers can prepare the scores with fingering so that people who want to advance their technique faster, then, without help of guiding, guidance, could take advantage of them.
A: True. It’s good to have these inventions ready because they quite are suited, quite well suited for organ too. Not much better suited than for example Well Tempered Clavier.
V: Yes. After I finish two-part inventions, I think I will start playing three-part sinfonias too.
V: That’s the next step. Excellent. So that’s what, maybe, Leon could play also, some inventions and sinfonias, also. I don’t know if he has played all of the them. It’s really basic foundation when you have played them all. You don’t have to memorize all of them, but spend at least a few weeks with each of them. Then you have the foundations to move on to the more difficult works of Bach.
A: That’s right.
V: And any other composer too.
A: That’s right.
V: Thank you guys for listening, and thank you guys for paying attention to what we are saying and applying our tips in your practice. This really helps. Sometimes our advice works on us, sometimes it works on others too. But you never know until you try it.
A: So you just need to try it and see if it will work.
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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