Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 364, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. Today we would like to talk a little bit about the recital that we witnessed before Christmas. Our friend Paulius played short, half-an hour recital at Vilnius Cathedral.
A: Actually, it lasted 25 minutes.
V: 25 minutes.
V: Okay. And it was a big deal for him because it was Vilnius Cathedral—a big place, and many people came, and it was organized as a Christmas organ series by National Association of Organists in Lithuania, and Paulius played one of the recitals, last Saturday. First of all Ausra, what do you think about this? Did Paulius make a good progress, considering your last experience of him playing the organ?
A: Do you want me to be honest or do you want me to tell that he did the progress?
V: Do you think that these two things are mutually exclusive?
A: I don’t know. Well, anyway, let’s start our talk with what you told me a night before his recital because Vidas was just turning pages for him.
A: And night before recital, what Vidas told to me, I thought that I will hear a very sloppy performance, but it didn’t happen. So I guess he made overnight progress.
V: He played much better during the recital than in the last rehearsal. I only heard him once, right? I didn’t go to the cathedral a few times before when he was playing. I couldn’t come. So yes, I was stressed out and he was stressed out too, rather scared, I guess, for the upcoming performance, which was sort of very natural because we all are scared when something big is approaching and we’re not really feeling secure.
A: But you know, he has this wonderful quality that he did such a good job comparing to what he could do, and what he did a night before, and that’s a very good sign. Very few of us I think have this quality. Because usually under the pressure, people do much sloppier job than they could do.
V: Are you one of those people?
V: Cause I am, usually.
A: Well, I don’t think so, but it’s very hard to judge yourself and to be sort of objective when talking about oneself.
V: And actually, there are different instances, different experiences in our own life. Sometimes we play better during the public performance and sometimes a little bit worse.
A: You know, I just draw a very useful lesson after this recital, and it was a nice recital, I mean I enjoyed much of it. But also I thought how it could be if things would be different, and I like that you need to prepare in advance and it does matter what because before this recital he could not practice enough. And he know probably about it in advance I believe because he knew that this is the time before Christmas which is very busy for church organists, and gives all kind of additional work.
A: And therefore you need to prepare in advance. For your sake, for listeners sake, for everybody’s sake.
V: I didn’t ask him but it would have been really worth trying to play a dress rehearsal at least two months before.
A: And I think that how George Ritchie and Quentin Faulkner advised everybody to play.
V: For professionals, I think one month before is acceptable.
A: And that’s what we did—we had to play entire program one month before in public.
V: But for people who are still learning, I think two months before the public performance, you have to play the run through.
A: Because you always have to take in mind that things might happen. You might get sick for a week or two or something might happen, accident, whatever. And expect it work, jobs and all kinds of complication. So in that way if you will be ready in advance, you will not be so much stressed out.
V: What to you mean by run-through? Is you have to play your entire program?
A: Without stopping, from beginning to the end.
V: In concert tempo?
V: With as many mistakes as you like—it doesn’t matter.
A: Well, but if you will make mistakes in every measure that means that you are not ready to play through.
V: But, well, within reason...
A: I don’t agree with you...
V: Without reason.
A: By mistakes.
V: But do you even imagine that the person would make mistake in every measure, and still would play in a concert tempo? I couldn’t imagine it.
A: Well, you know, miracles happen, as we daily say on our podcast.
V: If you could play your program in a concert tempo, then feel free to make mistakes.
A: I have seen people who are very self-conscious and that are very sort self-confidence.
A: And you never know who you are talking to. And sometimes people are very having very good, very high opinion about themselves and sometimes another way, so…
V: Oh! You mean that things that we are talking right now, would be perceived differently by other people.
A: That’s right.
V: By different people...
A: That’s right.
V: When I say, ‘please do as many mistakes as you like’, then that person would really play absolutely horribly but still think ‘oh, Vidas let me play with mistakes.’
A: So don’t tell that because you need to do as little mistakes as you can. That’s the purpose.
V: For me, the purpose is to play in concert tempo, and within reason to make mistakes. I mean not to focus on the mistakes, but focus on the tempo, and then you will have two months to reduce those mistakes.
A: Well, but anyway, what I’m talking about and what I’m keeping in mind and what is very important for me that, if I play a recital and I’m really ready for it, I know that I did what I could…
A: And then let’s say something will happen to me during recital—some unexpected mistakes, or I don’t know, the organ would break or something else—then I would just know that I did what I could and know what happens, just happened. And I would be sort, well…
A: Pleased, yes. But if I wouldn’t be ready for recital for some reasons and I would do a sloppy job then I would feel really guilty.
V: By this time probably our listeners are wondering, ‘what did Paulius play?’, right? We’re talking about recital and they don’t know what he performed. So, the first piece on the program was Nun komm, BWV 599 from the Orgelbuchlein by Johann Sebastian Bach.
A: And I think the next two pieces also were from the same collection.
V: Right. Then the second was BWV 600. If the first was BWV 599 then the next one in the program was in order—600, and then BWV 601. All three of them together. And then Paulius played Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland...
A: ... From the Leipzig collection.
V: Exactly! From eighteen great chorales, BWV 659, I believe, where the choral melody is in the right hand, ornamented, the famous advent choral. And then, what came next?
V: Jeanne Demessieux. Also ornamented choral on Rorate Coeli.
A: That’s right. And then he did his own improvisation, which I think was the best on the program.
V: Uh-huh. And the themes for this improvisation was also advent hymns.
A: Then then he finished with a toccata, French style toccata by...
V: Eh, Carter.
A: It came from the Oxford Collection of Christmas music.
V: Yes. So it took about 25 minutes…
V: To perform. It...
A: Well actually, he had to take less than 25 minutes because I believe that that last toccata by Carter was performed probably, I would not say maybe double as slow as it should be, but maybe one-third slower than it should be.
V: Was it that obvious?
A: Well, in some parts, yes.
V: Cause he started normally…
A: Because tempo wasn’t steady...
V: Slowed down.
A: That’s what I noticed in that toccata so…
A: You just felt that organ is controlling him, not he is controlling things.
V: But Orgelbuchlein chorales were performed, I think, well,
A: Yes. That’s true.
V: All three of them.
A: That’s true. Not the last one from the last Liepzig collection.
V: Herr Christ, der einge Gottes-Sohn, BWV, 601 Paulius played it many years ago, and it repeated it just for this performance, and was feeling very shaky the night before about it. So I was kind of really surprised that he managed to play it very well.
A: It’s not an easy choral.
V: Especially if you don’t play it with care and precision.
A: It’s the first Orgelbuchlein choral that I have learned in my life.
V: Maybe it was one of his firsts, too, when he was studying with me. But that was like at the beginning of our friendship so right when we returned from the United States.
A: That’s right.
V: In 2007.
A: But in general I think that he has a great potential and he showed it on this recital.
A: I’m just sorry that he doesn’t feel very well himself…
V: I think…
A: And he knows why, but…
V: I think that Nun komm, BWV 659 from Leipzig collection, could have been played even better because he messed up a little bit in ornamented places. He didn’t sometimes know how to perform correctly ornaments. And the easiest way to do this is just to listen to my…
A: To listen to recordings.
V: To my recording for example. I’m not being very…
A: ‘To my recording’... There are wonderful recordings by other organists.
V: Wait a second… I’m not being very, what is this word I’m looking for—modest, right, Ausra?
A: That’s right?
V: But that’s because he’s playing…
A: Everybody noticed.
V: But that’s because he’s playing from my fingered and pedaled score. He is using my score so he could listen to my performance on Youtube and that would take him five minutes.
A: That’s right.
V: Unless he doesn’t like my recording. Then he would need to listen to your recording.
A: Have I recorded this choral? I don’t think so.
V: Then he could ask you to record it.
A: But in general if we are talking about Leipzig collection, this is probably the easiest choral from the Great Eighteen Chorals to play.
A: And it’s a very good piece if you want something not too complicated and beautiful to play.
V: Do you think that Paulius could benefit from harmony studies a little bit more?
A: Of course, I think….
V: But was it obvious from listening?
A: Well, yes, sometimes yes, because I think he needs, and everybody needs, to play more attention to chord structures, to harmonic structures. Then it will help you to show your audience what is more important and what is less important.
V: Well to put it another way, the piece will start to speak to you…
A: That’s right.
V: In a musical way.
A: Because it will help you to internalize it’s structure.
V: Maybe it now speaks on emotional level, like it’s beautiful, you feel the flow, you feel mood, but you don’t know what’s happening inside. You don’t know how the composer created it, this piece. I’m not even talking about Bach or Carter—any type of music that you play, if you don’t know what’s going on inside, then you’re missing something, right? So Paulius could really benefit from harmony studies. But in general, to summarize, I was really pleased. I thought that he has great potential, considering the circumstances that he was in. So Paulius, if you listening to this, don’t stop. Continue practice. 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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