Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 618 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Brigitte, and she writes:
“Hi Vidas and Ausra,
The more complicated rhythms are my favorites for sight-reading. Also I have been listening to recordings from Art of the fugue and did some research as I was wondering about the meaning of the different parts.
There must be so much more that can be learned from the Art of the fugue.
The variations of the Genevan Psalms are of interest to me too. Can I find them somewhere together to come back to them?
Enjoy following you and learning from you.
Vidas: So Ausra, it appears that Brigitte is studying my “Organ Sight-Reading Master Course.”
Ausra: Excellent! I think this is a very useful tool.
Vidas: It’s based on Bach’s “The Art of Fugue,” and each week, students receive daily trainings for their sight-reading exercises, and at first we start very simply with sight-reading one voice, a simple line soprano part. And then we switch to other voices little by little, add combinations of voices, increase the number of voices, and so we also switch keys! I transpose the contrapuntal material into other keys as well, so organists can get the sense of playing in multiple keys as well. So, this is a long course—40 week long—plus seven weeks of bonus material in legato style. And I hope that people who start can finish what they started, because not everyone is so patient.
Ausra: Yes, I know somebody who sight-read one voice, but I think I haven’t heard her playing more voices.
Vidas: I’m looking forward to two voices as well. Maybe this time will come in the future, too. Who knows? But Brigitte is clearly enjoying complicated rhythms in that collection, in “The Art of Fugue.” Do you think she means triplets or something else?
Ausra: I’m not quite sure in which part of “Art of Fugue” she is right now. But in general, that’s a sort of a little bit of an odd comment, because often people avoid complicated rhythms and they like simple rhythms, so…
Vidas: This is good!
Ausra: Yes, this is very good.
Vidas: Yeah, because if you know how to play simple rhythms, you tend to play simple rhythms all the time, and challenging parts are not always a joyful experience to play. Right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right, and in general, as Brigitte says, “The Art of Fugue” is the collection that one could learn a lot, and I couldn’t agree more, because it’s really a good collection.
Vidas: How many times have you heard this collection live?
Ausra: Well, only a very few times. Like being in a real recital, I think I’ve heard it three times. But of course, I’ve heard recordings, too.
Vidas: So two times was for organ, right?
Vidas: And one for harpsichord, right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: Can you share with us what that was?
Ausra: Well, twice, our former organ professor, George Ritchie has played it at UNL, and he played it twice, but I think…
Vidas: In the same week!
Ausra: Yes, I think we were the only two students who attended both performances, and I think it’s worth it to listen to it more than once!
Vidas: And this collection became his DVD recording together with a double CD, I think, where he also not only performs “The Art of Fugue,” but talks about each movement and the history behind the work, the meaning of every fugue, and so on.
Ausra: And he is not the only one who talks about “The Art of Fugue.” The famous musicologist Christoph Wolff also talks about it in this DVD.
Vidas: Yeah, it’s called the “Desert Fugue,” I think. We can add the link add the link to this conversation for people to find the DVD. It’s published by Fugue State Films.
Ausra: Yes, I believe it is.
Vidas: So, yeah, and the other, the third performance you heard by whom?
Ausra: By Dirksen!
Vidas: Pieter Dirksen.
Vidas: Did you like his playing on the harpsichord?
Ausra: Yes, I liked it a lot, because he always pays so much attention to the little details, and he is a really wonderful performer and teacher and musicologist!
Vidas: He initiates, I think, a Facebook group called “Sweelinck 2021,” because next year, there will be, I think, the 400 year anniversary of Sweelinck! So we need to play more Sweelinck next year.
Ausra: Yes, and he is one of the leading scholars of Sweelinck’s music, and he has published a famous book, which is very extensive, and I think the best source for those who study Sweelinck.
Vidas: And also, he’s done great research in Heinrich Scheidemann’s organ works and keyboard works as well!
Ausra: Yes, so it was really nice to hear him playing “The Art of Fugue” on the harpsichord.
Vidas: If you had to choose one, which one would you choose, Dirksen or Ritchie?
Ausra: That’s a very unfair question. I don’t think you should be asking it!
Vidas: I know! But I will ask anyway!
Ausra: Well, it’s very different, you know, to hear it on the harpsichord and on the organ, because the specifications of these two instruments are completely different.
Vidas: But also, playing on the harpsichord without pedals, that kind of looks more difficult. Don’t you think? Because you have to reach with your left hand more.
Ausra: Well, but for people who, for example, don’t know how hard or easy it is to play pedal, they think that it’s harder to play something with the pedals. So it’s…
Vidas: But anyways, this is a great collection to learn sight reading. When I practiced my sight reading, I learned from the original clefs. Not only from the bass clef, but also from the soprano clef, alto clef, and tenor clef. In this course, in “Organ Sight-Reading Master Course, I transcribed everything into modern notation with treble clef and bass clef so that people won’t get scared too much. It’s already challenging enough, I think, but adding original clefs would scare people away.
Ausra: Sure! I don’t think that would be a good idea.
Vidas: Yes. So Brigitte, if you want to learn even more from “The Art of Fugue, once you finish this course, you can go back a little bit and check out the original clefs, original notation, and play through them, a few fugues, at least the beginning four. These are nice; they group together nicely. And I think I already made one score with the fingering and pedaling of the first Contrapunctus so people can enjoy playing for themselves with articulation, with articulated legato touch, which could be easily achieved with my fingering and pedaling.
Vidas: And of course, we need to talk about Genevan Psalms, Ausra, because Brigitte is kind of interested in Genevan Psalms. Shall we talk about it in the next podcast episode?
Ausra: Well, yes, I think so!
Vidas: Because it is another theme.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Alright guys, please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
Ausra: 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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