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PUBLISHED SCIENTIFIC WORK 

Protsyuk@narod.ru 

The Art of Organ Perfomance

"Compozitor" publishers, St.-Petersburg, 1997. ISBN-5-73-79-0034-7, 128 pages, soft cover.
(See cover: Photographies )

 

 

SUMMARY

  Translated by Alexander B. Nemtsev.

 

In 1997, I wrote a far from perfect book on organ playing. At that time, I was a very recent conservatoire graduate so my ambitiousness must have surprised a good many people. However, important to me were not the opinions of my colleagues. I found the number of available books on organ playing ridiculously small, too often the professionalism of the authors leaving to wish for better. Besides, I have always believed that our profession is very underdeveloped, which is the source of much misfortune.

In five years, one thousand copies of the book had been sold and I wanted to re-edit the text, making corrections and adding things that had since accumulated while I was writing my master’s thesis. Actually, the text, which is offered to the readers at this time, is not much other than my somewhat adapted thesis, which I wrote while with the Department of the History of Foreign Music of the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatoire, under the supervision of Professor I. S. Fedoseyev, Doctor of Arts.

In connection with the publishing of the book, which, in the last count, has no direct relation to the defence of my thesis, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the members of the department who helped me by discussing the versions of my future work.

I am also grateful to Pieter van Dijk, my ever so tactful senior and more experienced colleague, who taught me to appreciate antique music and the sounds of the old organs of Northern Germany, while I was a trainee at the Higher School of Music in Hamburg, in the year 2000. I would like to express my gratitude to friends, music lovers from Hamburg, Carl-Jens Brattig and his sister Christa who put me up and allowed to continue my work in their house.

Although I paid much attention to the constructive critiques of my colleagues, this second version has not come out entirely free of the many shortcomings of the first one, of which the foremost is attempting to span the infinite.  Indeed, a student is hardly likely to find a systematic aid in this book, while the number of subjects, which have been touched upon is excessive. Yet this is not because I could not find anything better to do and not, I hope, because I am just a compulsive scribbler. I wrote it this way because I tried to fill in as many blanks existing in the specialised literature, as possible. Regretfully and too often, the few authors, whose subject is the organ, write about anything, from descriptive studies of the instrument to the bumps and holes in the far and dark alleys of the history of music, but not about what one needs in one’s everyday organ practice. I make no secret of that very often my feelings, which were inspired by the delight and freedom of research, were not unlike some kind of  intoxication, something possibly felt by many a pioneer discovering a whole new area of knowledge.

D. P.

 

 

During the last decades of the 20th century, demands on the technical skills of organists increased considerably. This technical development of organ music followed the overall historical development of music as such and the development of European civilisation.

Just like in any other performing art, the boundaries of organ repertoire have been pushed wider to include, on the one hand, pre-Bach organ heritage dating centuries back and, on the other hand, the most various musical trends and styles of the 20th century. The practical aids written in the 19th century by such authors as Ritter [i] and his likes, the virtuoso schools of the 20th century (Dupre [ii], Germani [iii]), and, finally, the historical sketches (Frotscher [iv]) give no information and teach no skills as to historically true interpretations, which makes them usable in today’s organ pedagogy to just a limited degree. There are modern works (Lomann [v], Laukvik [vi]) and methods existing in “oral” tradition (Vogel [vii]), whose authors, to various degrees, stay with authentic and historically correct performance.  They instruct their readers and listeners in mastering the specific manual techniques necessary to play the music of old masters.

Research into these areas results in very successful recreations of antique music, provided adequate and historically authentic instruments are used. Yet these methods and schools provide no directions as to what techniques should be used to perform post-Bach music. This disregard of romantic repertoire is quite in the mainstream of modern, that is, post-romantic, possibly also post-modernist culture, where romantic aesthetic ideals are revised (Chinayev, Gurevich). [viii]

Musical reality is always richer than any school experiences. Teaching according to “historical” methods is inadequate in that it renders performers helpless when they encounter romantic repertoire. This is why, at this stage of the development of organ performance, there is a great need for creating a conditionally universal basic organ technique in order to enable the performer to remain comfortable playing organ works dating back to various epochs.

The objective of this study is working out criteria for developing modern organ technique so as to remove repertoire limitations. Central in this is finding out how extensive an organist’s individual practice must be and what it should include.

In this work, the principal emphasis is made on that an organ player absolutely must include pianoforte practice in his or her individual schedules. The section entitled “Organ Player’s Pianoforte Practice” suggests the appropriate methods of it.

The author included practical directions from his thesis, while developing such courses as The History and Theory of Organ Making, The Methods of Organ Pedagogy, and An Introduction to the Technique of Composing for Organ for the Department of Organ and Harpsichord of the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatoire.

Because of the unique qualities of organ sound (see below), the chosen objectives can not be achieved with the use of the common deductive-inductive method. We believe that the use of this method is the reason why so many works on the history of organ lack consistency, while versatile technique of organ playing can not be synthesised, if one relies on them.

The book opens with an Introduction followed by two chapters on the quality of sound and the techniques of organ playing and closes with a brief conclusion. The attempt to answer the question what a universal technique of organ playing should be like is made using the rule of contraries: “not this way, and not that way and, therefore, no other than…”

In Chapter 1, which touches on a wide spectre of issues pertaining to organ culture and the place of organ in contemporary cultural life, we find the following:

The analysis of bibliography is done following from the premise that the subject of the study, which is the technique of organ playing, is not sufficiently disclosed in available special literature.

The organ is considered as an instrument that came to the concert stage from Christian churches, and which, therefore, keeps consistently reminding us about its cult origins.  This can not be ignored by either organ makers, or by composers and performers.

Certain signs of decline as concerns the treatment of live musical tradition by both foreign and Russian organ performers and composers are analysed.

The paradox of the profession of organ player being both very ancient and extremely young, the latter following from the recent appearance of large organs in concert halls, is reminded about.

The history of the Orgelbewegung is considered as an example of the ongoing struggle between the two current tendencies in organ music.  It could be compared with the struggle between the Apollonian and Dionysian or Florestanic and Eusebian tendencies.  The first of these tendencies is the one to adhere to live musical tradition, while the other is the rejection of it permeated by the spirit of musical Protestantism.  Also a certain connection is emphasised that exists between the predominant religion in some or other country or region (Germany and Holland on the one hand and, on the other hand, France, Italy, and Spain) and the situation with organ music.  Also the modern wave of organ reformation following the Orgelbewegung and the tendency of “Returning to Bach”, which dates back to the early 20th century, are considered, the latter disparaging romantic heritage under the slogan of “authentic performance”.

A purely technique-oriented understanding of performance, which strives for perfect articulation and such, is not enough to interpret antique music and the works of J. S. Bach.   As was shown by A. Schweitzer and V. Landowska, the correct interpretation of old music takes penetrating into its spiritual content, which becomes clear when dealing with musical works based on church chorals.

The situation in contemporary organ pedagogy is considered and its certain shortcomings criticised.  Among the latter, insufficient attention paid to the teaching of the art of registering may be named.  Then an original approach to organ dynamics and the choice of the style of registering depending on the individual qualities of each instrument is suggested.

The need for perfecting the technique of organ playing is illustrated through the examples of performing traditions as they correlate with the problem of the authenticity of the interpretation of the art of such a significant organ composer as Max Reger.  His directions for performers (just as those left by Franz Liszt) should not be ignored for whatever reasons and, instead, should be followed with all possible precision and consistency.

Architectural examples are used to prove that in certain concert halls where long periods of reverberation are predominant the absolute speed of organ playing should not be lowered.  This is another, though indirect, evidence of the importance of the technical consistency of an organist.

Finally, certain outside influences affecting organ art are considered.  These are, for instance, the progress of sound recording, the standardisation of instruments, the development of international business, etc.

The examination of these issues in the Introduction helps to clarify what organ playing technique should not be like.  The properties of organ sound and the techniques of registering, as based on a performer’s analysis of the texture of any organ work, are considered in Chapter 2.  Then the most basic laws concerning the management of organ sound are established on their basis.  This is to say that Chapter 1 is as if a forerunner of Chapter 2 where the physiology of organ performing actions is examined.  The properties of organ performing apparatus and, accordingly, the manual technique of an organist, its coordination with pedalboard technique and pianoforte exercises are discussed in Chapter 3 of this work.

What is emphasised here is the importance of the correct comprehension, that is, adequate perusal of organ notation.  This is because, unlike pianoforte notation, it goes back at least five centuries, which has been a long enough time for the way music is written down to change.  This concerns not only and not as much tabulation as differing orthography of notes and the varying styles of writing on a five-line staff.  What varies the most is the correlation between the value and duration of a note.  Also, the semantics of rests differs from one composer to another.

While in orchestral scores the texture and text are nearly identical (the precision of notation is detailed to the limit), three-staff organ notation allowing arbitrary registering is maximally removed from its textural realisation.

Because it is sufficiently detailed, which is due to the common clavier nature, organ texture is analysed with the use of the method suggested for pianoforte texture (Prikhodko’s thesis [ix]).  This includes “analytical reference points, that is, density, stratification, and summation” and “analytical coordinates, that is, horizontal and vertical lines plus the depth”.  Such terms as “vertical, depth, and horizontal measurements” (Skrebkova-Filatova [x]) and “diagonal and depth coordinates” (Bershadskaya [xi]) are also used.

Because of a greater degree of reverberation, the diagonal component of organ texture becomes uniquely important;

The depth of sound is controlled by the performer;

Organ is not a poly-timbre instrument;

Vertical and horizontal coordinates behave unpredictably: the horizontal dimension is not as important (organ is not an instrument with prolonged sound exactly because the duration of its sound is automatic) as the building up of sound along the rhythmical vertical within discrete temporal continuum (“The beauty and nobleness of organ is in coordination between punctual micro-motif formations, which are automatically, process-connected).

The nature of “horizontalness”, voice-lines, and polyphony is revealed and the opposition between the vocal and instrumental components of music is considered in a non-traditional way.  The views of Martynov, [xii] a composer strongly connected with the Christian Orthodox musical tradition, are projected onto the history of organ.  It is emphasised that organ, while used in prayer services, does not reveal its secular qualities.  The conclusion is as follows:

The organ is a unique instrument defying the laws of time and space where music is concerned to the point of being a miracle instrument.  “The sound of the organ organises itself in time, while organising time itself”.

The density of texture determines the density (and volume) of sound while either playing in one register set (the choir principle of turning voices on and off) or determining the ratio between dynamics and timbre.

The section entitled “Organ Player’s Work with Sound” of Chapter 1 deals with such available acoustic qualities as:

The facility for arbitrarily altering the pitch of sound (glissando or vibrato), duration and attack, sound alteration (filar un suono), and pitch, timbre, and dynamic ranges.  The organ also offers the choice of the type of keystroke, the limit of fluency, and that of the duration of sound.

The conclusion we necessarily come to is that the organ is a super-instrument.  It is the apotheosis of the idea of a musical instrument brought to its logical conclusion.  By this we mean that in the organ we have a super-instrument, which first absorbs and then replaces the sound worlds of other instruments.

Further on, “the principles of the forming of organ sound”, that is, the laws of registering, which remain correct where all organ literature is concerned, are suggested for the first time. These are:

the principle of the synthesis of registers

and score-oriented approach to organ sound.

The descriptions of these two basic laws are found in separate subsections:

Synthesis

The principles of synthesis as concerns invariable or variable sets in different organs;

The existence, as an exception, of “vivid” compound sets;

The bi-functionality of reed stops;

The principle of building up sound pyramids, while registering;

The law of the basic pitch, which manifests itself in the principles of the allocation of registers. 

 

Score-oriented approach:

the hierarchy of transpositions (the rule of the basic pitch as concerns registering),

and the selection of timbre-dynamic solution.

 

The entire Chapter 3 deals with modern organ playing technique:

This chapter clarifies what place pianoforte must occupy in the professional life of a modern organist.  “We believe that the contemporary art of organ playing necessarily includes the complete knowledge of organ literature, from pre-Bach times to our day, and that this art is unthinkable without a sufficient command of pianoforte.  It is even desirable that an organ player’s command of pianoforte technique be exhaustive.  Once this is achieved, the transition to organ playing becomes a natural and conscious transition from the world of pianoforte sound to a complete new quality of instrumental music”.

The methods of organ playing are also looked at in a strictly practical way.  One can not be an accomplished organ player without being an accomplished pianist.  Teaching children who do not have enough experience with pianoforte to play organ is a mistake.  Special organ technique can not be achieved without preparation.  Only an adult person of an adult size can play organ well while using several manuals.  It is impossible for a person who is just beginning to learn clavier technique to stay regular long hours at an organ (a calcant was required as early as in the 19th century).  Basic technique should be learned on an individual instrument.  Pianoforte’s advantage is in its being a more standardised instrument, while all organs are different not only in their arrangements but also as concerns the performing feeling they give.

Despite the fact that organs date much further back than keyboard strings, organ technique is not self-sufficient.  The harpsichord, clavichord and piano did not adopt performing technical qualities from the organ.  On the contrary, organ as a “universal instrument” gained much from the novelties appearing in musical literature for keyboard string instruments.  At a closer look, the so-called “organ style” in piano music is nothing but a misinterpretation.

Also on the contrary, organ music and performing technique bear the traces of the influence of the harpsichord and piano.  Mozart, Schumann, Liszt, Reger, Schonberg, and Hindemith, enriched organ texture, introducing elements of pianoforte notation into it.

However, the techniques of composing for and playing organ are in no way secondary in relation to other kinds of music.  In this way, organ remains a Super-instrument, absorbing the potentials of others.

Before analysing the organ’s hand–key–pallet and pianoforte performing apparatuses, the principle of the functioning of the mechanical action of the organ is considered:

Mechanical, pneumatic, and electrical organ schemes may be divided into two basic types.  In the one case, a key is directly connected to a pallet (mechanical scheme), while in the other case such direct connection is not there.  Such are pneumatic, electric, or compound systems.

The organ technique considered here is for the mechanical scheme.  Other systems exclude direct contact of the performer with sound and delay the production of sound, therefore inhibiting the performer’s will for creative sound making (Martinsen [xiii]).  When the appearance of sound is delayed, the organist loses the “pre-hearing” ability, which negatively affects not only the technical but also the artistic quality of performance. The most important technical quality of mechanical organs is the constancy of a key’s resistance to finger, regardless of its position.  This means that unlike pianoforte technique where a key is simply pressed, the basic organ technique includes first pressing, then following, and finally retaining a key.

In more detail, this is as follows:

A finger presses a key, taking up the slack of the mechanical elements (according to the 1972 BDO norm this should be between 2 and 3 mm).  At this point, the finger feels the resistance of the opening pallet (Druckpunkt).  Once the pallet is fully opened air pressure drops.

As the key keeps moving downwards, the resistance increases due to the compression of the pallet spring.

At the bottom position, when the spring is fully compressed, holding the key down is the hardest, so an additional effort is needed to retain it.

According to the BDO norm, the total force needed is between 150 and 250 grams for manual keys and 2 to 2.5 kg for pedal keys. If the performer uses mechanical manual coupler, depending on their number, the figure doubles or triples.  Obviously, playing a mechanical organ, especially playing virtuoso pieces, involves considerable physical effort.  Even J. S. Bach said that especially inconvenient hard instruments were “for horses to play”.  So organ players, while working on their individual techniques, must consider the possibility of overstressing themselves (like pianists sometimes overwork their hands).

In my thesis, I further consider the following:

What exactly pianoforte practice of an organ player should be like?  What kinds of piano techniques may be applicable to organ playing?  What is the optimal organ practice schedule when a technically difficult piece needs to be learned?  How to be rational about one’s practice, that is, what should be practiced on a piano and when organ is more appropriate?

In the section entitled “The Piano Practice of an Organist”, it is noted that increased performing loads have to do with the problem of repertoire range.   This is why an organist’s individual practice must be effectively organised, time spent at organ manuals sparingly distributed.  As a rule, when learning a new piece of music, one does not need to practice extensively, spending all one’s time at an organ.  Moreover, sometimes this may be even harmful.

Everyone knows how helpful is practicing with the use of one's inner hearing.  The true practicing culture requires that pieces be partially learned at a desk rather than at an instrument.

However, most organists, whatever country they live in, do not use the advantages of learning music without actually playing it.  In Russia, organ players mostly complain of organs being often unavailable for practice.  However, in itself, the availability of an organ does not make practice effective.  The situation may only be improved through the intensification of it.

This is why one should learn organ music playing it on a piano as much as possible.

Each time one sits down at an organ, be it daily or weekly, complete technical preparedness is essential.  Every problem that can be resolved while playing piano must be resolved exactly that way.  We recommend that the initial analysis of musical pieces or the initial playing of unfamiliar manually difficult passages never be done at an organ, otherwise the whole practice session may prove totally useless.

Further in the thesis, I consider the hypothetical objections against pianoforte practice. They are as follows:

While practicing on a piano, one can not learn one’s pedal parts.

Piano practice does not help developing purely organ keystroke (Anschlag), thinking, and feeling.

Several different methods of practicing a piece of music are brought together in the most characteristic schemes:

A manual part is learned without any preliminary familiarization with the whole score or the whole composition of the piece.  The player sees the notes for the first time as he or she lays the hands on the keyboard.  In this case, both the technique and the artistic component may suffer.  The result can only be good if the well-practiced manual part is complemented by a well-practiced pedal part, that is, if the pedal part is simple and the musician diligent.  If the pedal part is complicated, the result will be bad because even under the best conditions the performance will rely only on motor reflexes.  The inevitability of such result is easy to explain and prove.  During this kind of practice, the organist will have a wrong impression formed in his or her mind (and the first impression is the most persistent) that the music is played without the pedal part, which, when learned separately, may not be easily matched to the manual part.  Also, motoric memory actively absorbs wrong information, all its cells become filled in, and no place for the pedal part is left.  When the manual part is accommodated in memory, the organist begins trying to superimpose the pedal part onto it.  The attempts are especially difficult when playing music with an obligatory pedal part (obligato).  Just imagine how disorganised motoric memory becomes when it needs to “repack” information it receives while even having no adequate picture of the whole musical text.  So we have to agree that after a lot of purely mechanical practice bringing together hands and feet, which is added on top of a lot of psychic and emotional effort, performance will once again become motoric in the way that hands will play as if all by themselves while all attention will focus on the feet, especially when the pedal technique of the performer is not perfect.

We suggest an alternative way to memorise music and to practice:

Before practicing a new organ piece, a musician should get fully familiar with it.  It also should be “listened” to with the use of inner hearing, which, if this skill is well-developed, can replace playing the whole thing for familiarisation.  The pre-instrumental phase of practice may also include registering the piece in one’s mind.  While this is done, a complete adequate image of the musical piece forms in the mind and the necessary memory cells become reserved.  Even more, a purely visual absolutely correct image of the three or more-staffed notation forms in the iconic memory.  When the piece is actually practiced, first at a piano, and than at an organ, the motoric information is placed right where it belongs so that later the performer has minimal difficulty bringing together the manual and pedal parts.

While one should have a common initial practicing scheme in one’s mind, each peace of music should be perceived as a new mystery to be revealed.

When music is learned in this optimal way, actual technology should vary depending on the texture.  For instance, the comprehensive learning of the whole complicated manual part of a polyphonic piece is inadmissible.  It is better to remember and use in a new way the well-known, if not always consistently used, method of first playing separate voices.  In this case, the pedal part is initially connected not with the whole manual part but with tenor, alto, and soprano separately and in combinations, which will make the confident learning of the polyphonic texture easier.  So the multi-level musical fabric (not just textural multi-levelness but also rhythmical multi-tasking as it goes together with the texture) is easier learned, if one makes up a practice plan and decides what and in what sequence should be done with the pedal and the various strata of the manual part.

An organist also should be very smart when coordination-related difficulty appears not in separate parts but somewhere in-between, coming out only when the parts are put together.  When there is no chance to practice at an organ, such difficult passages could be practiced with the use of inner hearing, thought over or learned playing piano while singing the pedal part.  This will help to learn the material and enhance coordination.

What is also examined is how practicing organ repertoire on a piano correlates with developing purely organ performing methods and qualities:

The organ and piano cultures of sound production are different.  There is no single answer to whether or not the constant use of pianoforte as an auxiliary instrument slows down the development in an organist of specific professional qualities.

We focus our attention on the musician with a sufficient command of the pianoforte who, as a creative personality, becomes interested in the organ while “outgrowing” the piano as a keyboard instrument.  In the beginning, while learning technically simple pieces, such a musician should mostly practice at an organ in order to develop specific skills and hearing.  If during this period organ music is learned at a piano, pianoforte relapses may later occur, which will make the transition from one sonic model to the other either too long or even totally unsuccessful.

The practice of an accomplished organist is quite another matter.  If the above conditions are met, diligent in the best sense organ practice will also have a quick effect and fundamentally alter the musician’s approach to the production of sound, articulation, and the playing of musical phrases.  This is why a musician with good, if not extensive, foundation can trust the pianoforte to be the instrument for resolving technical problems.

The elements of purely organ technique (inasmuch as they may be called that), such as keystroke (press-follow-retain) are developed in a similar way.  In the beginning, a musician does a lot of organ practicing, trying to get accustomed to new sensations and functions.  Later, as certain experience accumulates, intensive pianoforte practice should be added.

Defining the laws of organ sound production now becomes possible:

During performance, the absolute speed of an organ key is comparatively low. Here, activity is not connected with dynamics.  The instrument is harder, yet the inertia of its components is less.  When playing pianoforte, a musician pushes hammers strongly and abruptly.  A hammer receives an impulse and flies up, while theoretically the key may continue moving downwards simply because of inertia.  However, organ’s springs will not be compressed by inertia.  When a finger hits, the spring will absorb its energy and then require more for the finger to follow the motion and then retain the key.

This is why organ playing requires special attention paid not as much to the absolute speed of a finger hitting a key as to the force it applies and the freedom of pressing.

While piano playing involves only one action, that is, hitting, organist always uses the pressing-following-retaining combination.   What is important in the latter case is not as much the reactivity as the intensiveness of the motoric apparatus.

The comparatively low speed of key pressing does not in the least affect the precision of rhythmical organisation because a pallet lets air into a pipe only after the key is beyond the upper half of its motion.  The reason the finger follows the key to the bottom is mostly the need for resilient support before it goes on to the next sound.

Therefore, the optimal organisation of the process of sound production in an organ can be seen as follows:

Whatever the dynamics, a finger, in a comparatively short but intensive motion, with a varying force depending on the hardness of the instrument, the number and kinds of couplers used, and the greater or smaller weight of the hand, presses-follows-retains a key.  After the key has been followed to the bottom and stopped, the finger it supports, in turn, serves as a resilient support for the hand.

This support, having absorbed the energy of the hand, forearm, shoulder, etc., serves as a firm resilient foundation for the production of the further sounds.

Reliance on such support is found not only in the notations of practically all composers familiar with the qualities of the organ but even in those written practically beyond the capabilities of an organist, such as Reger’s Opus 57 where, in the episode entitled sempre vivacissimo assai, only two chords of eight are not interconnected by a common harmonic tone and thus have no support.  Having created the impression of an extremely swift whirl-like sweep-away motion, writing music with this in mind, the composer still tried to make the texture as convenient and playable as was possible.

Issues pertaining to the choice of a technical “range” and the posture of an organist are considered further.

A pianist adjusts the height of his or her seat so that the position of the hands on the keyboard is best suited to the task.  In the meantime, when adjusting the seat, an organist first of all cares about the convenience of his or her position in relation to the pedalboard.  The hands are most often at a disadvantage, their position varying from one instrument to another.

Organs may have varying numbers of manuals and varying distances between them.  When playing, the performer cares rather about the quality of sound than about his or her convenience.

Every time an organist plays a different organ with a different number of manuals, the angles between the hand and forearm will vary and will not always be convenient, sometimes even very far from what is recommended.  Considering that the placement of manuals is far from always standard, one can easily imagine playing an organ with five manuals, of which the first is too low and close while the fifth is too far and possibly as high as the organist’s neck.  From this one can judge how impeccable and universal an organist’s manual technique must be.

It is possible to determine what the components of the technical mastery of a virtuoso organist are.  A virtuoso can overcome the resistance of the system and organise it into a convenient playing space.  This is fundamentally opposite from an average situation when an average organ player, instead of prevailing over the performing space, tries to fit into it.  All his or her life, an average player will continue adjusting him or herself to different organs while a virtuoso will make the instruments adjust to him or her.

A beginner who practices for a number of years on a simple training organ of a conservatoire or another school with never more than the conditional objective of “doing the best under the circumstances” will hardly ever fully understand what the true command of the instrument means.

While a pianist deals with a keyboard that is never tilted forward or backward, knowing that once he or she gets used to one instrument, any other will be the same, an organ player always encounters innumerable variations of the structure and always has to overcome and prevail over the instrument, and that requires much mastery.

An analogy with an athlete is not out of order.  If a jumper, while training, can conquer a far greater height than required, he or she has a good chance of being successful in a competition.

Nearly athletic training, involving more technical difficulties than may possibly be encountered later, is the best way to acquire the necessary performing freedom and confidence, whatever the organ.

The thesis is concluded by a summary as to the basic manual technique of an organist:

Through various epochs, organ players have had one but never the same instrument.

So it is reasonable to ask not how to play various pieces of music but what is the best way to play organ, meaning the super-instrument that has absorbed all the structural qualities of various systems.

This makes logical the assumption that while the performing techniques of the 17th and 20th centuries were different, the way an organist interacted with his or her instrument always remained the same.  This is what we call the constant basis of an organ player’s manual technique.

We are talking here not about establishing a universal technique but just considering the technology of the production of organ sound and the common order, which may include various approaches to it.

Just like baroque, classical, and romantic styles of music reflect their periods in time, so in every separate case, the technical methods and the organisation of the performer’s apparatus reflect the best ways of transforming composers’ ideas into sound.  By this we mean that each period in the history of clavier technique reflects, in the most adequate way, the contemporary form (gestalt) of the language of music.

This process is in no way a one-way street.  It is hard to tell what affected the baroque organ style more, the behavioural stereotypes inherited from the epoch of strict musical notation or the consistent use of both “good” and “bad” fingering.

Just like earlier the natural process of transforming one kind of musical sound into another excluded the hard or inflexible positioning of hands while playing, for instance, the music of Claude Debussy, so now the so-called psycho-technical orientation of the apparatus of a performer playing antique music is incorrect.

While playing the organ, a performer has far fewer ways of technological manoeuvring than is afforded to him or her by the pianoforte.  Organ keyboards leave no place for finger-pad strokes or carpal staccato.  However, when an optimal constant sound-production technology is selected, the diverse and differentiated musical fabric should be embossed.

It then becomes clear that, from a beginner’s earliest days of training, a teacher should pay enough attention to instilling good manners as concerns organ playing and appropriate approaches to it in the student.

The concept of mobility, as applied to the apparatus of an organ player, also assumes a different value.  While to a pianist it is rather the ability to use various techniques in order to achieve certain sonic results, to an organ player it is mostly manoeuvring within one method, while requirements as concerns stylistic richness remain the same.

The “mechanical”, “Anatomically-physiological” or “psycho-technical” schools of playing must be understood not just as visible complexes of muscle activity and their audible results, that is, various levels of music-making from “angular” gothic and baroque to “harmonic” classical and romantic styles.  What must be discerned is, mainly, the reason for all that, the setting of a musician’s energy (psychic, spiritual or other) to some or other temporal range, and appropriate signals sent to muscles.

The super-task of an organist is to play without any variability of technology, while setting almost invariably different groups of muscles, pressing keys, and unceasingly working physically hard to sustain sound while following the approaches and the feeling of the instrument intrinsic to various epochs.  His or her immediate task is to match the styles of different epochs as if having been a student of every master, Bach, Busoni, Straube, Martinsen, and Gould, while using only one method, strictly speaking.

While the pianoforte allows using various methods in order to obtain different quality of sound (the variability of technology), the organ allows this to a much lesser degree (the invariability of technology).

While technology remains invariable, attitudes differ.  Keystrokes, which fit the image of the instrument during various epochs, are used.  We believe that this optimal technology may be described as the use of the elements of the expansive humeral piano technique, while playing organ.   



[i] Ritter, August Gottfried, Practischer Lehrkurs im Orgelspiel, Erfurt und Langensalza 1845; NA Peters 1953.

[ii] Dupre, Marcel: Traite d`Improvisation a l`Orgue 1925, Methode d`Orgue 1927, Exercices preparatoires a l`Improvisation libre 1937 // Leduc.

[iii] Germani, Fernando, Metodo per Organo, Rom, De Santis 1942-1945.

[iv] Frotscher, Gotthold, Geschichte des Orgelspiels und der Orgelkomposition, Berlin 1935, 1959.

[v] Lomann, Luedger, Studien zu Artikulationsproblemen bei Tasteninstrumenten des XVI-XVIII Jahrhunderts, Bosse, Regensburg 1982.

[vi] Laukvik, Jon, Orgelschule zur historisches Auffuehrungspraxis. Eine Einfuehrung in die “alte Spielweise” anhand ausgewaehlter Orgelwerke des XVI bis XVIII Jahrhunderts, Carus-Verlag, Stutgart 1990.

[vii] Harald Vogel, the head of the Northern German Organ Academy (Norddeutsche Orgelakademie).

[viii] V. P. Chinayev.  The Romantic Myth in the Twilight of Decadency.  Collection “The Problems of Romanticism in Performing Art”. The Academic Works of the Moscow State Conservatoire, Moscow, 1994, pp. 108-144.

[ix] V. I. Prikhodko.  The Problem of a Performer’s Analysis of Musical Texture (based on examples from piano works by S. Prokofiev and D. Shostakovich), 1987.

[x] M. S. Skrebkova-Filatova. Texture in Music: Artistic Potentials, Structure, Functions. Moscow. Music Publishers, 1985.

[xi] T. S. Bershadskaya. Lectures on Harmony. Leningrad, Music Publishers, 1978.

[xii] V. I. Martynov.  Lectures on Prayer Singing: On pre-Christian, Christian, and Post-Christian Music.  Manuscript.

[xiii] K. A. Martinsen. Individual Piano Technique Based on the Will to Make Sounds. Moscow, Music Publishers, 1966.

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