Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 534 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Richard, and he writes,
Dear Vidas and Ausra,
How lovely to see our conversation make one of your SOPPs this week. Thank you! I don’t know Franck’s L’Organiste. I will order it and enjoy a good read. Do you know Guilmant’s ‘Organiste Liturgical’? A wonderful collection of his music that would have been (and still could be) used during Mass in France. Another gorgeous work I am dipping in and out of is Vierne’s Messe Basse for organ, again for use in Mass. It contains some wonderful movements, particularly ‘Elevation’ and ‘Communion’.
I am vice chairman of the local organists’ association. The association is 70 next year and I’m arranging the trip to Paris as our birthday event. The organists I’ve met, or emailed this year, have been really lovely and welcoming. I have played some superb instruments, large and small, and am looking forward to the trip in April (I’m going back for a weekend in November as I just adore the wonderful instruments!). We will be playing at St. Eustache, St Clotilde, St. Laurent (Cliquot pipework), St. Gervais (Couperin dynasty), Notre-Dame des Champs (where Cavaillé-Coll worshiped and had his workshop just round the corner. He was always tinkering with the organ in the church which is why it is such a large two manual! The sound………….WOW!!!) and others. You’re right when you say that the playing must be perfect. It’s why I’ve already started learning music from Couperin to Langlais. I hope the other 9 players are working hard too! It should be a good trip!
With best wishes to you both, Richard
PS I drink decaf coffee too!
V: Remember, Richard sent us some donation for us to drink coffee.
A: Yes, I remember. That was very nice of him.
V: Mm hm.
A: And it’s wonderful that he is planning this trip to Paris. I think everybody will be excited about it.
V: Yes. He mentions Guilmant’s Liturgical Organist Collection. It’s very practical. It has amazing variety of pieces, as well as Vierne’s low mass, Messe Basse, for the organ. And yes, you can pick Elevation and Communion out of that, they are easy to play in your service any day. But for his trip, it will serve a purpose of demonstrating some of the quieter organ stops, like maybe celestes and gambas.
A: Yes, I think any of these mentioned collections, including Vierne, Guilmant, and Franck would definitely work well on such a trip.
V: I mentioned Franck because we have done fingering, complete fingering for them - it would be easy for people to pick up and start practicing the efficient way right away.
A: And of course, if he will have a chance to, and his crew will have a chance to play at St. Clotilde, then you definitely have to do some Franck to honor him, because St. Clotilde was his church.
V: Yes, yes. Maybe something with pedals would be nice by Franck, as well.
V: Like one of the easier pieces like Prelude, Fugue, and Variation in B Minor?
A: Or Cantabile maybe?
V: Cantabile, yes. Pastorale, too.
V: Or C Major Fantasia. Those several pieces would be wonderful to try out in Paris. You know, I’ve done fingering and pedaling for Couperin’s Mass for the Convents, and he can find that in our Secrets of Organ Playing Store, and I think I have a course on learning this piece with Widor’s, where I demonstrate my own playing on St. John’s organ. That could be useful to him as well. Wonderful. Some of the modern pieces, and modern composers could be applied to such trip, too, don’t you think?
A: True. And what do you mean when you say modern pieces and modern composers? Do you mean like Dupre, or is he too old as well, and you mean something even newer?
A: Like Bedard? Or what?
V: Bedard is a living Canadian composer, and he created French-sounding pieces which are very easy to play, actually, quite successful. And audiences love it. It creates great effect, but requires not much of, not as much practice as real French music. So that could be an option. But I wonder if, for example, Messiaen would be practical to learn here, or some of the modern pieces of living composers, like Naji Hakim and maybe Thierry Escaich. Although they might be too difficult.
V: They are concert pieces mostly, probably. I just wish more French organists would write down their improvisations.
A: And would you learn them?
V: Yes, some of them, sure. And Tournemire would work as well, in St. Clotilde.
A: Yes, that’s right. Because he, I think, was an organist there as well.
V: Yeah, successor of Franck.
A: So I think it’s a wonderful city with a wonderful organ history. Although, I’m not so sure about Messiaen, if you would play it. In church, then yes, but in others, because, well, what Messiaen did to his organ actually wasn’t such a nice thing, when I think from the historical perspective of the instrument, himself, because he installed so many mutation stops because those were crucial for his compositions, but they are not so common in general French tradition. So he sort of ruined, a little bit, the French instrument.
V: Let’s say “improved.” (laughs)
A: Well, you know, time will decide for him. But I don’t consider it as an improvement of the instrument.
V: In that time, of course, it wasn’t historically right thing to do. Because, as we know today, if you have an historical instrument, you should try to preserve the original condition, and not augment something else, not add things that change the nature of the instrument.
A: That’s why sometimes the most exciting historical instruments are found in the villages. Because if you have an instrument in a large city, then it’s more possibility that during a war, it will be damaged, or the congregation will have too much money and will renovate it a lot and will rebuild it a lot, and the perspective of a few centuries. But in the village, there are less possibilities for a bomb to hit the church, or for people to have money to ruin it.
V: Because it draws less attention.
A: True. And that’s, for example, I think, one of the reasons why the good Baroque instruments in Paris almost…
A: Non existent. Because of all the revolution and all those things.
V: Yeah, when pipes, lead pipes were made into bullets.
A: True. So I guess probably French really needs to feel grateful for Cavaille Coll, that he lived after the Revolution, not before it, and we have all these wonderful instruments built by him.
V: That’s right. At any rate, let’s hope Richard will write back to us after his trip, and we’ll share his experiences so that we could also discuss them.
A: Yes, let us know how your trip went, and we will be glad to hear from you.
V: Ok guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your 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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