Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 573 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. We just recorded the previous episode with the question sent by Rebecca about the articulation of “D Minor Toccata and Fugue” by Bach , and Rebecca’s question sort of continues in this episode. Okay, so she writes she has problems with:
“Sticking with a schedule of practicing. Time management.”
“Pieces to play for an organ recital? Suggestions as to what would make a good program? I feel 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.”
V: So basically, Ausra, let’s talk a little bit about scheduling—schedule of practice and time management. By the way, these are courses in our Total Organist program, so if she’s interested in joining Total Organist at least for some time, she could really take advantage of our programs. So we talk about practicing, but in general, schedule of practice is… it depends on each person, right Ausra?
A: Sure! For me, it seems that in Rebecca’s case, she needs to set up a date for a recital if she really wants to do it, and that way, she will feel the pressure of it coming up and then she will manage her time much better.
V: You think so?
A: Or in the other case, she will have to cancel it!
V: You think so? I have heard people play badly in recital, even though they scheduled the date in advance, and they knew that the due date is coming up, but they don’t understand their true situation wisely enough, and they still don’t take it seriously. You know whom I’m talking about.
A: Well, of course there are people like this, but that’s what I would do, because otherwise, look, they cannot work on her schedule and to do it hour by hour, because we don’t know what she does in life, how long she sleeps, and what kind of other responsibilities she has. Does she have to take care of children, grandchildren… you know, we don’t know that.
V: So basically, when you schedule a recital, a good solution is to play a run-through of the recital two months before the date. Yes?
A: Well, if you are a professional, I think one month is enough, but it depends.
V: If you are a professional, I think a run-through could be even sometimes omitted if it’s a solid program and you know it. But it depends. So in Rebecca’s case, I really recommend two months prior to recital a run-through. And, thinking about that, she has to plan her practices so that she would learn the right amount of repertoire on each day so that she would master it on time—two months before the recital.
A: Sure, and about the program, she’s working on the “D Minor Toccata” and on “Westminster Carillon,” I would say that the one would be a perfect opening piece for her recital, and “Westminster Carillon” would be perfect for finishing it!
V: And we could talk a little bit about general principles of selecting the repertoire, right? What do you think about playing everything either very fast or very loud?
A: I think it’s very disrespectful to the audience in general, and to the organ itself.
V: You haven’t been to our last recital at church.
A: And I’m very glad about it from what I heard about it!
V: But one of the guest organists played for an hour and twenty minutes with only, I think, one piece soft and slow, and maybe some variations of another piece a little bit softer, too. But other than that, it was loud and fast all the time. It was French twentieth century music, beautiful pieces by Tournemire, by…
V: ...Duruflé, by Dupré, by Cochereau. They all are amazing pieces, but not together, you know? They have to have some contrast, and I have heard complaints from listeners downstairs that in general it was a nice recital, but too loud.
A: So you need to respect your audience, basically, and think about them. So basically, you need to play various music.
V: Various music!
A: Loud and soft, fast and slow…
V: Sad and…
A: ...joyful, and keep a good balance among them. Because again, if you will play everything soft and slow, then the audience probably will either leave or fall asleep!
A: But if you will play loud and fast all the time for an hour and twenty minutes, everybody probably would just go mad.
V: Exactly. Well, also think about your program like one continuous piece, one continuous musical story, like a movie! You have to have culmination in a movie. You have to have a strong beginning, right? Otherwise your listeners will be bored right away if you’re playing very meditative music at the beginning, unless there is a special reason for that, like in Lent, let’s say. Meditations in Lent or Advent time, some other things…
A: You know, like now, the thought came to my mind, let’s say, about the “Third Symphony” by Louis Vierne. It consists of five movements. It has a fast and loud opening and finale, it has the third movement of this symphony is very a playful and joyful scherzo, virtuosic, and the second an the fourth movements are a sort of slow meditative style.
V: Normally, those symphonic pieces are written with contrasts in mind, of course, and if that organist would have selected two symphonies, let’s say one symphony by Vierne and another by Dupré, let’s say, that would be fine! That would be fine, because each work has many contrasting sections and episodes so it would be built-in success. But he selected just the “pieces from the cake”--from each symphony or cycle. Just the Sortie, just the toccatas, you know!
A: Yes, just the loud and fast stuff! Well, anyway, I think you also need to think about the timeline of composers on your program, because sometimes people start with early music and then they go to the modern stuff. That’s okay, too. You could do some baroque pieces and then some romantic pieces and finish with let’s say twentieth century or twenty-first century.
V: And you know why it works? Because the musical language in those pieces will be gradually probably increasing in difficulty and the tolerance of dissonance in listeners’ ears will be also readjusted with each piece. If you start to play with a very dissonant piece right from the start, it might shock the listeners. Right? But on the other hand, if you play your entire program from modern music and each of them has contrasting sections and episodes, this commonality might unite your program, and actually that would not be as tragic.
A: But, you know, you need to be careful about playing only modern music.
V: When you say modern, it could mean a lot of different things.
A: I know, but I mean sort of like a new Viennese style. Atonal.
V: Or expressionist. Yeah. Twentieth century saw a lot of different movements, including minimalist music, minimal, which is very easy to listen to. It was like a reaction to Dodecaphonic music.
A: I think for a general audience, you might add one of that kind of piece in your concert. If you will include all pieces like this, then again, you will lose your audience, because when we are talking about these specific twentieth century compositional techniques, I think it’s in general wise to introduce people to compositional techniques about what is done in the piece. Otherwise, they might not get the idea of what it was about.
V: You’re right. It’s nice to talk between the pieces.
A: Yes, or at least write it down in the piece’s program notes.
V: Good! This is good enough for starting the discussion and thinking about it. For closing, I would like to point out that if there is an anniversary of the composer, you can play only the pieces of that composer. This is fine, I think. There is a reason to do that. Right? Or one stylistic period or one historical period of organ composition, one country if there is an instrument that fits this country very well. That’s fine. But it has to be explained for the audience as well.
V: Why you chose this… exactly. Because variety in your program will be somewhat limited then, if you are unifying your program. Right? And then your listeners might need an explanation. Thanks 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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