Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 403, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Leon. And he writes:
Dear Ausra and Vidas,
Remind your students of Dupré 79 Chorals, a very useful set. I’m almost halfway through it and he gives the difficulty level on the last page of his introduction.
Grace and peace,
V: Are you familiar, Ausra, with this set?
A: Yes, I have seen this set, I have played a few of them.
V: I love this set for a few reasons. First of all, probably because in the preface of “79 chorals”, Dupré writes his memorization procedures. Earlier, I was talking on the podcast about how Dupré and Walcha memorized differently. So, Dupré memorizes by taking a fragment of 4 mesures, and memorize mesure by mesure. Then 2 mesures at a time : 1+2, 2+3, 3+4. Then 3 measures at a time : 1+2+3, 2+3+4, and then everything together, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Always starting and ending on the downbeat.
A: It even sounds boring as you’re telling this, and you know, to apply this to practice, it would kill me. I never used any method of memorization because it took me lots of trouble to do it, and I often tried to memorize things very fast and at the last moments, and then I would experience this panic attack “No I have to go and perform” and I still have nightmares about it so, in general I don’t like to talk about memorization.
V: That’s why you and me will never become rectors of Paris Conservatory!
A: That’s ok with me!
V: And never win the “Grand Prix of Rome” in composition.
A: Do you think if I would decide now to apply this method and to memorize some pieces everyday, I would still be able to achieve such a career?
V: Only if you cut your wrist and play pedals with vengeance for 3 months, like he did in his youth.
A: Wow! Maybe I’ll just stick to my life and my path. But well, let’s go back to the “79 chorals” collection. I think it’s a wonderful set to have, especially for church musicians, it’s very handy. Because they are all based on the choral tunes, so all of them have a title, and you can apply them for various occasions, depending on your church calendar, so it’s very handy. The only problem might be that not everybody likes Dupré’s musical style.
V: True. Plus, he writes that thos “79 chorals” are meant to be like an introduction before a student is ready to play Bach’s music, Bach’s Orgelbüchlein chorals for example. Because if you jump in and start with Bach’s Orgelbüchlein chorals, they’re too difficult for the beginner. And the easiest one from “79 chorals”, it only has 3 parts and it moves I think in 8 notes, like a short trio, like Lemmens would write. But this is more extended but not too much, you see. But I see just one problem with that : in Dupré’s understanding, all of these chorals should be played completely legato. And if the student buys Dupré’s collection, reads the preface, starts to practice like Dupré recommends – and he also talks about articulation and legato-playing – then a student, after finishing quite a few of those chorals, would jump into Orgelbüchlein by Bach. And what would happen? He wouldn’t know how to play with articulation.
A: Well, anyway, if I would be working with this collection, I wouldn’t connect these two collections together, Bach and Dupré. These are completely different, so I don’t think you need to connect them.
V: But he was intending…
A: Well, it’s okay, but, well, he’s dead for a long time now so, do you think he would be mad if somebody wouldn’t play these two collections one after another?
V: Believe me, if you saw Dupré now, an apparition of Dupré, you would want to play his chorals legato!
A: Well, you know I remember, once when we studied at Michigan University and Pamela, during Lent time at Peace Auditorium, on that wonderful Eolian Skinner organ, she had this recital of Dupré, huh…
V: Stations of the Cross.
A: Yes and she had these beautiful slides and there was local priest, not far from campus, he was reading from the Bible. So it was a sort of very serious, nice event. And the priest liked Pamela very much and he liked those slides very much but about Dupré’s music he wasn’t, you know…
A: Impressed at all. So, you know, it’s a matter of taste really.
V: Uh-uhm. But as a purely pedagogical collection I think it has real value because, as Leon says, at the end of this collection, a student can check in which order he or she should play. Because Dupré gives the order of difficulty.
A: Plus because it’s a light collection and these pieces are not too hard and not too long so it’s really well suited for a church organist, because we’re always short on this kind of music that we can learn fast and apply to a service.
V: Yeah. So it could be a nice introduction to trio-playing or legato techniques if one would need to play later let’s say Boellmann or Franck, or Vierne. Right? For Bach I think, if one would think of playing Bach after Dupré, then I would probably suggest they should articulate even Dupré, you know? Do you agree? Say yes.
V: Say yes please!
A: Well, I wouldn’t agree. Because Dupré is Dupré and Bach is Bach. You need to use some articulation in Dupré of course, because of freezing and repeated notes. But… I wouldn’t read Dupré as Bach, as well as I wouldn’t read Bach as modern romantic.
V: Uh-uh. So, what can you say, just one piece or composer, what would you play before Bach, if you were just starting to play the organ? But not Bach.
A: Well, you mean baroque composers?
V: Yes, as a preparation for Bach.
A: Well, maybe Pachelbel.
V: Pachelbel, that’s right. Bach studied from Pachelbel scores too.
V: He rewrote them and made them into larger compositions.
A: And I remember Pachelbel’s is also a good choice for church musicians. There is a Dover publications of complete works of Pachelbel. I don’t think it includes entirely all compositions, but it has you know, huge selection of his music and I enjoyed working with that collection when I was a church organist.
V: You’re talking about choral compositions?
A: Yes, chorals, not free works.
V: Free works I think is another set in Dover collection.
A: So I think Pachelbel is a good composer to prepare you for Bach.
V: And he wrote versets in Magnificat, Dover reprinted them too. So yeah. Thank you guys for listening and sending in those wonderful questions. 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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