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Dupre


octave_dolce
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I would like to start learning a piece by Dupre before the end of the summer. Right now I am particularly interested in the following:

 

1) Prelude and Fugue in B Major, Op. 7 no. 1

2) Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, Op. 7 no. 3

3) Variations sur un vieux Noel, Op. 20

 

One organist warned me that many students had injured their hands from learning the B-major P & F. Should I take this opinion seriously?

 

How proficient should a student be before tackling any of the above pieces?

 

Which piece would serve best as an introduction to Dupre's music?

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Take it seriously; the part like on the last page of Pr.in B (with the broken chord in sixteens - no score at hand now) may be a pain for the left hand; but as always your mileage may vary depending on your hands and the organ's action.

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I would like to start learning a piece by Dupre before the end of the summer. [snip] Which piece would serve best as an introduction to Dupre's music?

You need to be very proficient indeed to tackle the pieces you mention, and you should possess an assured technique. At the time of their composition (1912), Dupré's contemporaries pronounced the Op. 7 pieces "unplayable". Times change, though. The first piece by Dupré that my teacher gave me to learn was the fugue from Prelude and Fugue in F Minor, Op. 7 no. 2, but it was hard to resist dipping into the pieces on either side.

 

For what it's worth, pieces he specifically wrote for didactic purposes include the 79 Chorales, Op. 28 "to prepare ...[the student] the better for the study of the Bach Chorales, which are too difficult for beginners."; and Le Tombeau de Titelouze, Op. 38 "...destined for those who are beginning the study of the organ...", the last piece of which is the dazzling toccata Placare Christe Servulis for the Feast of All Saints. My favourite 'easy' Dupré pieces are some of the beautiful versets from 15 Antiphons, Op. 18 (Vêpres du Commun des Fêtes de la Sainte Vierge).

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You need to be very proficient indeed to tackle the pieces you mention, and you should possess an assured technique. At the time of their composition (1912), Dupré's contemporaries pronounced the Op. 7 pieces "unplayable". Times change, though. The first piece by Dupré that my teacher gave me to learn was the fugue from Prelude and Fugue in F Minor, Op. 7 no. 2, but it was hard to resist dipping into the pieces on either side.

 

For what it's worth, pieces he specifically wrote for didactic purposes include the 79 Chorales, Op. 28 "to prepare ...[the student] the better for the study of the Bach Chorales, which are too difficult for beginners."; and Le Tombeau de Titelouze, Op. 38 "...destined for those who are beginning the study of the organ...", the last piece of which is the dazzling toccata Placare Christe Servulis for the Feast of All Saints. My favourite 'easy' Dupré pieces are some of the beautiful versets from 15 Antiphons, Op. 18 (Vêpres du Commun des Fêtes de la Sainte Vierge).

 

Don't forget that a profound piano technique was mandatory before taking up organstudies ...

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Don't forget that a profound piano technique was mandatory before taking up organ studies ...

Quite right. Organists who studied both organ and piano while at conservatoire include Jeremy Filsell; Wayne Marshall; Jane Parker-Smith; George Thalben-Ball; Gillian Weir. There are others...

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Take it seriously; the part like on the last page of Pr.in B (with the broken chord in sixteens - no score at hand now) may be a pain for the left hand; but as always your mileage may vary depending on your hands and the organ's action.

I always thought the last page the easiest part of that prelude!

 

You need to be very proficient indeed to tackle the pieces you mention, and you should possess an assured technique.

Yes. I don't know what others think, but I would suggest that if you didn't get at least a merit for grade 8 piano, forget it.

 

Actually, I would have though that the real potential hand-wrecker is the prelude to op.7 no.3. However, if you can do really nifty trills with any two of the third, fourth and fifth fingers of your left hand, the manual parts shouldn't hold too many terrors.

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For me, P & F in B major to recital standard was about 2 years post Grade 8 distinction.

 

However, I'd dipped into 'Variations sur un Noel' from a fairly early stage in my organ studies, learning movements in order of technical difficulty over a few years. These are a good set of pieces for an intermediate-plus student to learn as each tends to focus on one particular technique. The last 2 movements; the Fugue and Toccata are actually not the most difficult.

 

P & F in B major is technically more difficult by an order of considerable magnitude!

 

DT

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I would like to start learning a piece by Dupre before the end of the summer. Right now I am particularly interested in the following:

 

1) Prelude and Fugue in B Major, Op. 7 no. 1

2) Prelude and Fugue in G Minor, Op. 7 no. 3

3) Variations sur un vieux Noel, Op. 20

 

One organist warned me that many students had injured their hands from learning the B-major P & F. Should I take this opinion seriously?

 

How proficient should a student be before tackling any of the above pieces?

 

Which piece would serve best as an introduction to Dupre's music?

I'd second Wolsey and recommend Le Tombeau de Titelouze: it's probably the best introduction into Dupre's style. The final piece, Placare Christe Servulis is a very good stepping stone into Dupre's more virtuostic pieces, like the B major P&F, and, like many of the pieces in this book, very useful to have under your fingers.

 

I've never heard of anyone injuring themselves playing Dupre's music but I've heard lots of organists injure Dupre's music, especially the B major P & F. The best approach learning Dupre is to be very, very disciplined - his music really repays careful, slow practice and working out all the fingerings and technique. Use a metronone a lot, especially with the toccata style music - start at half speed and get comfortable with it before you turn it up a notch. Keep repeating this process at each notch, keeping 100% accuracy all the time. It's the only way: learn to enjoy playing it slowly, which you will do because Dupre's music is brilliantly written and there is a lot to enjoy when playing it slowly. The B Major P&F sounds superb at 80% speed with 100% accuracy - but it sounds horrible if you try to play it too fast to begin with and get unstuck - as many young and inexperienced organists do! There are a lot of difficult corners in this piece, especially the first 4 pages of the fugue.

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Don't forget that a profound piano technique was mandatory before taking up organstudies ...

 

Ever since I started to play the organ three years ago, I have always felt that technically, advanced piano repertoire is far more demanding than advanced organ repertoire. I am inclined to think that:

 

1) An advanced pianist can play advanced organ repertoire well with some practice;

2) A mediocre pianist can play advanced organ repertoire well with some practice;

3) But an advanced organist may not be able to handle advanced piano repertoire even with a lot of practice.

 

I know that this post is totally off-topic, but I would like to hear what others think!

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Actually, I would have though that the real potential hand-wrecker is the prelude to op.7 no.3. However, if you can do really nifty trills with any two of the third, fourth and fifth fingers of your left hand, the manual parts shouldn't hold too many terrors.

 

My main worries about Op. 7 no. 3 are the chords in the pedal toward the end of the prelude. Much of the manual parts reminds me of Durufle's Op. 7, which I have just finished learning.

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Might be helpful for the B-major: play the chordpassages, like at the start, with both hands together and 'learn' the position(changes) of the hands carefully; breaking up the chords afterwards is rather easy then (OT: this also works for me on Messaien's 'Transport de Joie' - playing on two manuals not needed ;-) )

 

And as always: learn the most difficult passages by heart (absolute notes as well as 'analytic') and play from memory.

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1) An advanced pianist can play advanced organ repertoire well with some practice;

2) A mediocre pianist can play advanced organ repertoire well with some practice;

3) But an advanced organist may not be able to handle advanced piano repertoire even with a lot of practice.

I think that is a fair summary.

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1) An advanced pianist can play advanced organ repertoire well with some practice;

2) A mediocre pianist can play advanced organ repertoire well with some practice;

 

Tell that to those pianists who get flumoxed trying to use the pedals - especially in combination with the left hand.

 

3) But an advanced organist may not be able to handle advanced piano repertoire even with a lot of practice.

 

People like Jeremy Filsell and GW instantly spring to mind as being pretty awesome pianists too. There are a number of top organists who are able to handle advanced repertoire of both instruments.

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There are a number of top organists who are able to handle advanced repertoire of both instruments.

Of course there are, but to paraphrase the point that I think was being made, an organist who can play the Duruflé Toccata may still not be able to cope with the keyboard hopping required in something like Debussy's "Pour les octaves" (no.5 here if you want to look it up - I've not tried playing it myself; I just picked it coz it looks difficult).

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Might be helpful for the B-major: play the chord passages, like at the start, with both hands together and 'learn' the position(changes) of the hands carefully; breaking up the chords afterwards is rather easy then (OT: this also works for me on Messaien's 'Transport de Joie' - playing on two manuals not needed ;-) )

 

And as always: learn the most difficult passages by heart (absolute notes as well as 'analytic') and play from memory.

 

Thanks for the advice, heva.

 

I bought the Dupre Op. 7 score today and read through most of the B major and some of the G minor. Difficult difficult stuff, but they are manageable with careful practice.

 

The manual parts in the B major work aren't as scary as I had imagined. The pedal chords in G minor are tricky. My feet are very small, so it is hard to play the major third interval with one foot.

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Of course there are, but to paraphrase the point that I think was being made, an organist who can play the Duruflé Toccata may still not be able to cope with the keyboard hopping required in something like Debussy's "Pour les octaves"...

 

That's exactly my point. Advanced piano repertoire is far more demanding in terms of speed, dexterity, and muscle endurance. This is not to say that organ is an easier instrument. It is really hard to get the correct articulation and to create an illusion of expressive playing on the organ. But I think these difficulties can be overcome with diligent practice. On the other hand, the difficulties in piano playing cannot be overcome with diligent practice alone; success in piano depends a lot on the player's physique also.

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Advanced piano repertoire is far more demanding in terms of speed, dexterity, and muscle endurance......success in piano depends a lot on the player's physique also.

 

You ought to try a certain three-decker Victorian tracker in this part of the world on which I tend to have to play for a concert once per year. Suffice to say I do plenty of weight-training in the gym to prepare myself for it! :P

 

In fact, after a recital I gave there a few years back, a then pupil of mine asked if she could try the organ after everybody had left the building. Of course, said I. A couple of minutes later she came back and said that the organ wouldn't work. I went to the console with her - where I'd left both the Swell and the Choir coupled to the Great - and asked her to show me what she meant. She tried to play a chord on the Great and couldn't. Press harder, said I. She did, and a couple of the keys she was pressing slowly went down! It really is impossibly heavy.

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Ah, I assume you mean the place with a rather lovely medieval rood screen and an interesting rococo organ case which isn't at the top of a steep hill.

 

And what a pity to have that case buried in the chancel behind a screen!

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You ought to try a certain three-decker Victorian tracker in this part of the world... It really is impossibly heavy.

 

I have very little experience on playing tracker-action instruments. I remember trying one of moderate size (3 manuals, 48 ranks) that was a Baroque replica. The HW was somewhat heavy but not impossible. What really bothered me was that the keys on the HW were not of uniform weight; this was particular noticeable when the manuals were coupled.

 

A few organists have told me that tracker organs that are built properly are not supposed to feel very heavy even when the manuals are coupled. Is this true? Can the weight of the keys be adjusted on a tracker instrument like the keys on an EP instrument?

 

Sorry for another off-topic post. I really don't know very much about organ building.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Thanks for the advice, heva.

 

I bought the Dupre Op. 7 score today and read through most of the B major and some of the G minor. Difficult difficult stuff, but they are manageable with careful practice.

 

The manual parts in the B major work aren't as scary as I had imagined. The pedal chords in G minor are tricky. My feet are very small, so it is hard to play the major third interval with one foot.

 

It may, or may not help - simply with balance more than anything else - to swap the RH and LH parts from 23 bars before the end (the Eb7 chord?) of the G minor Prelude until Dupré swaps them anyway 11 bars before the end...

I find either way comfortable/uncomfortable dependig on the instrument. Also it gives the LH a rest if the action's heavy. :P

 

Don't forget the F minor P&F Op7. Musically it has more 'depth' than the outer two... I'm learning it at the moment...

 

P.

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