SOPP420: In Bach’s Two Part Inventions, if I were to move some of the left hand parts to the pedal, how would I set about that?
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 420 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And this question was sent by Dieter. He writes:
In Bach’s Two Part Inventions, if I were to move some of the left hand parts to the pedal, how would I set about that?
A: Interesting question.
V: Uh-huh. I mean, Dieter wants to create left hand, or right hand and pedal exercises out of Inventions, right?
A: How did you understand that he wants to create exercises? Because I haven’t comprehended.
V: That would be like an exercise, if you play left hand part in the pedals. It would be a great pedal exercise.
A: But he wants just to play some of the notes with the pedals.
A: What I understood, was he was asking how to arrange it.
A: And is it appropriate to take some notes from the left hand to pedal part, to move some
notes. That’s how I understood it.
V: Some of the Inventions don’t fit nicely in the pedals, I think.
A: Yes, and actually, I wouldn’t do that. I think we are very well suited for manuals performance. Because, honestly, I don’t see the reason why you need to do it. Unless you know, we are talking about, like, ending cadence. And that cadence, of course, you could, you know, play a few notes with the pedal, just to make more emphasis on the bass.
V: The only point I imagine is that it might make an interesting exercise for the pedals and for the hand, whatever hand he uses. I did that in Trio Sonatas, when I created Left Hand Training. I transposed all those pieces, and made an arrangement so that an organist would play any part with the left hand only. And in turn, the technique of left hand would become stronger. And the second level of this is two-part training, where actually two parts are arranged from Trio Sonatas, and you could play just two hands, or right hand and pedals, left hand and pedals, from that setting, also transposed in many keys. So I was thinking more along these lines, as an exercise. But still, it would be difficult for pedals, I think.
A: Definitely, because, you know, if you are talking about these Two Part Inventions, both voices are equally important and equally complicated. Complex. So, anyway, I think it would be hard to play them with the pedal, the left hand. And if you would do that occasionally, I didn’t think it would sound appropriate, or nice.
V: You see, the main problem is obviously the range. Sometimes, left hand goes beyond what it’s possible to do in the pedals. So probably, in these cases, it would be wise not only to move, you know, one note downward, because it would sound strange, but maybe entire fragment, entire maybe motive or phrase downward, I would say, from the left hand part to the pedals, but down one octave if it doesn’t fit the range.
A: How would it sound if you would try to add an extra voice with the pedal? Let’s say, to emphasize the harmony? Is it possible?
V: Huh. Good question. I guess we need to try and find out…
A: Maybe just a part of some…
V: Obviously, in each measure there are at least a couple of harmony changes, right? And in cadences, even more. Which means that your feet could play the bass note of the harmony. But it would sound sort of sometimes cheesy, I would say.
A: I think so, too. I don’t think Bach would be happy if he would hear what we are talking about. Arranging his inventions.
V: If you added a third voice in the, somewhere in the middle, or in the descant range, like a second soprano, then it would be a trio texture, and it wouldn’t be that far from what Bach himself would have done when he sat down on the harpsichord and accompanied a singer or a soloist as a continuo player. Definitely, he would add an extra voice.
A: Sure. So but actually, my final advice would be that, better play them as they are written. Because Bach left so many compositions. If you want to play something for the pedal, I’m sure you will find some music that you can develop your pedal technique.
V: For example, Three Part Sinfonias.
A: That’s right.
V: Yes. You could play them as trios.
V: Easily. Take the lowest voice in the pedals, the middle voice in the left hand, and the top voice in the right hand.
A: Yes, because Bach was a wonderful pedagogue himself. And each of his pieces also served pedagogical purposes, especially when we are talking about Two Part Inventions, and then Sinfonias and Trio Sonatas. So.
V: Interesting questions. I’m very happy people are experimenting with those ideas. And sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But in all cases, people learn something from the experiment itself.
A: Of course.
V: Great. Thank you guys for listening and applying our tips in your practice. We hope this helps you grow. And please send us more of your questions, and we will discuss them in future episodes of the podcast conversation. 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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