SOPP572: When I ordered the "Toccata and Fugue in d minor", by J.S.Bach, it would be nice to have a tutorial with you talking about certain sections of the piece
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 572 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Rebecca. And she writes:
Thank you for your email. When I ordered the "Toccata and Fugue in d minor", by J.S.Bach, it would be nice to have a tutorial with you talking about certain sections of the piece. I studied with Roberta Gary at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and she introduced playing with a more 'detached' style or more suitable early organ music style of playing. With the Bach piece I am now working on, I don't know exactly how to play the opening section. I played the piece a long time ago, but it was before I studied with Dr. Gary. When listening to others play the piece, I wonder if I am making too much distinction between the notes by trying to accent the correct beats. Could you do a short tutorial on the piece to help me understand the correct articulation?
V: So that was her first problem. And the second one is sticking with a schedule of practicing and time management. And the third one was pieces to play for an organ recital.
Suggestions as to what would make a good program. I think somewhat limited in what I can play. I played piano during my early years, and I am semi retired at this point. However, I LOVE to play and I want to challenge myself to do a recital. I am thinking of the Bach piece, which has not been done in our recital programs in the last year and the "Westminster Carillon". Thank you for any input. Also, I didn't quite understand if I joined for 1 month of your study, would I have to continue if perhaps it didn't work out for me?
V: She probably refers to the Total Organist program, and remember, the rule is that the first month is free.
V: People can try out this program. If they don’t like it, they can cancel before their 30 days are up, and they won’t be charged. But if they want to continue, they can simply keep practicing and downloading the programs and scores, whatever they want, participating in Basecamp conversations, and there is nothing else that is required from them. So that’s answering the remaining part of the email. Now, starting from the top, about articulation on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, what can you say in general? What kind of advice would you give?
A: Well in general, you need to consider the meter of the piece, the given piece. Because each meter requires certain way of prolonging the downbeat.
V: Mm hm. Emphasizing the downbeat.
A: Emphasizing, yes, the downbeat, For example, if you have a meter of 2/4, then you would emphasize only one note per beat, the first one, yes? If you have Common Meter, 4/4, then you will emphasize the first one and the third one. And if you have the 3/4 meter, you will emphasize the first beat, and just a little bit the third one. To have sort of like a spring jump to the next bar.
V: But this is a second level, I think, of articulation. The first level is to simply imitate the detached playing style, but not too choppy. As you…
A: Well, I don’t think this is the second step. I think this is the first step. Because, come on, it’s much easier to detach notes if you know you will lean down on the strong beats.
V: It was difficult for me. I remember myself.
V: Maybe you are not as stupid as I am.
A: Well, that’s why I noticed that some of your students play staccato everything. And you are sort of happy about that. But it’s not the way, it’s not the way it should be. I think you need to do the right thing right from the beginning. It’s much easier than to go back and to correct of relearn things. So I think the meter in baroque music is a crucial thing.
V: I don’t disagree with you, but do you think that emphasizing the meter should be done right from the start?
A: Yes, yes, I strongly believe that.
V: Even for the beginners?
V: I mean…
A: Yes, definitely.
V: Wait a second. Let’s say Roberta, not Roberta, Rebecca, right? Rebecca wants to play BWV 565. And this is not a beginning piece, this is, well, we call it an intermediate piece at least. So, obviously, by that time, she probably has to be familiar with meter concept and it has to come naturally to her. And when she is learning the articulation, I think for her, for her, emphasizing the meter right away might come naturally already. It wouldn’t be too difficult.
A: Well, by her question I don’t think so.
V: You don’t think so?
A: Yes. That’s my impression that I got by reading her letter.
V: Yeah. It’s like making consultation over the phone. It’s difficult giving prescriptions when you don’t see the exact person.
A: Because look, you need to consider the meter first, because even the space that you will give between each of the notes will depend on that a little bit, yes? How your strong and weak beats in the measure falls down Another thing to consider would be, what kind of environment are you performing? Is it a dry room acoustic? Or it’s a large church acoustic, like we have at St. John’s? All these things are to consider. Because if you will play really staccato every note in a dry room, then it will sound unmusical. And unnatural.
V: No, no, no. What I meant, it was just a preliminary stage. And then once you’re familiar with the notes, you can think of the meter, being more fluent and emphasizing the meter.
A: I still don’t know how you are learning things that’s very fun.
V: For myself it’s different.
A: It’s like putting your trousers and then putting your underwear, don’t you think so?
V: But didn’t you forget…
A: Underwear comes first, and then…
V: But didn’t you forget when you were little, like 6 years old. And you started…
A: Well, I haven’t played organ at that time So, sorry I started to learn organ when I was 17 years old. And I was taught organ to play in Lithuania incorrectly.
V: Yes, but by that time your piano technique was perfect.
A: Well, maybe not that perfect, but it was good, yes.
V: You could play all kinds of things.
A: But you know, if she studies with Roberta Gary, who is one of the most renowned organists in the United States, maybe she’s not a beginner.
A: Although when she asked how to put the, how to plan the recital program, it’s sort of…
V: ...beginning question.
A: Beginning question, and it cannot really be answered, because if we should tell her particular pieces, she would need to send us entire list of what she’s able to play at the moment. And then we could advise how to put, and what to play first and what to play the last.
V: Well, okay. Let’s talk a little bit about, if we have time, I think this is maybe the question for the next episode, right - how to create a good recital program. Maybe we will run out of time for this episode if we talk right now. So maybe let’s sign out and let’s do one more episode.
V: Thank you guys for listening. Keep your articulation detached, but not too detached. Emphasize the meter as Ausra says. Keep playing in a singing manner, a cantabile manner, if we are talking about baroque compositions. And let’s look forward to our next discussion. 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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