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Guilmant - Final To Sonata No. 1

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I've decided to make this my next big piece to learn, having done the Widor Toccata for this first time recently.

 

Any specific tips as I begin? Particularly I was wondering how to treat the triple pedalling in the final section. Should it be played as written (if so, how?), or should I leave out one of the notes, or does it not matter?

 

As always, all advice gratefully received!

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I've decided to make this my next big piece to learn, having done the Widor Toccata for this first time recently.

 

Any specific tips as I begin? Particularly I was wondering how to treat the triple pedalling in the final section. Should it be played as written (if so, how?), or should I leave out one of the notes, or does it not matter?

 

As always, all advice gratefully received!

 

I don't play the piece myself as there are 7 other Sonatas to choose from but what I would say is be careful to get the correct edition - there have been many other interpretations of Guilmant's work which are not always accurate. I have more info if you are interested....

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I don't play the piece myself as there are 7 other Sonatas to choose from but what I would say is be careful to get the correct edition - there have been many other interpretations of Guilmant's work which are not always accurate. I have more info if you are interested....

 

Thanks for this. The edition I have is by Wayne Leupold - it contains both the second and third editions of the sonata (the third being written for a four as opposed to three-manual organ, as well as having details such as slurs and articulation added). He says in the foreward that both are photographic reproductions of original scores, and that he has only edited obvious mistakes. It also contains a quite substantial blurb, with articles about Guilmant and his music, which allude to the fact that some people started making (illegal) copies of Guilmant's work while he was still alive.

 

My main reason for purchasing this edition - Foyles had it at half price in their sale! Although doubtless the information provided at the start is of some interest.

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The triple pedalling is certainly to be played as written. Your right foot needs to be able to play naturals a third apart (one with the toe, the other with the heel), so you will need shoes with a good instep to avoid playing the natural in between. I used to manage OK with ordinary street shoes, but much depends on the individual pedalboard; if it has a deep touch you may be in trouble. If you have Organmaster shoes you should be fine, or you could get your heels built up by a cobbler (AMT recommends a heel height of at least one and a quarter inches).

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Thanks Vox. The issue of shoes is actually another I was going to raise at some point - I may well acquire some organmaster shoes shortly then.

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Thanks Vox. The issue of shoes is actually another I was going to raise at some point - I may well acquire some organmaster shoes shortly then.

 

I own two pairs of organmaster shoes, and I must say that I am quite disappointed with the newer pair. Apparently the shoes are manufactured by a different company now. The shoes are quite stiff and uncomfortable on the feet. (But if you have to walk in them, the newer shoes are safer because the heels are not slippery like the older ones.)

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The triple pedalling is certainly to be played as written. Your right foot needs to be able to play naturals a third apart (one with the toe, the other with the heel), so you will need shoes with a good instep to avoid playing the natural in between. I used to manage OK with ordinary street shoes, but much depends on the individual pedalboard; if it has a deep touch you may be in trouble. If you have Organmaster shoes you should be fine, or you could get your heels built up by a cobbler (AMT recommends a heel height of at least one and a quarter inches).

I have to admit that I've played this movement for years without triple pedalling. I can't do the the white note thirds and I don't intend to buy a special pair of shoes just to make the slightly unpleasant sounds the triple pedals create. I just play 10ths where there are three notes (I play a fifth in bar 293). The earlier edition of this piece doesn't have all the triple pedals.

 

Nor do I worry about leaving out the odd note on the manuals in pieces with very big stretches if I can't manage them (I have small hands) provided the music still has the intended effect.

 

I always play an octave on the last chord of this Guilmant as adding the third just sounds nasty on any organ I've ever played it on. I don't play the low fifths on the last chord of the Mulet Carillon-Sortie on an organ with a pedal 32' reed either.

 

I wonder if playing these pedal notes is easier or harder on a French pedalboard??

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This is what I was wondering. I tried this afternoon and it was absolutely no good in the shoes I'm currently using to play in (which are more like slippers, which can't be any good for technique - but I'm used to them!) which have virtually no heel. However, in bare feet I got the impression it might work. I've got plenty of time to work on the piece - I was just having a first bash through. If I can manage it all and it sounds right, then I certainly will include it.

 

Edit:

From what I can tell the organist here is adopting precisely Stephen's method.

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Edit:

From what I can tell the organist here is adopting precisely Stephen's method.

Looking at this in the full screen view, he is certainly doing the triple pedalling as printed in my copy (the Schott edition). Look carefully at his heels; they are going down on the relevant chords. (And, with a technique like he has, triple pedalling is the least of his problems!)

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Looking at this in the full screen view, he is certainly doing the triple pedalling as printed in my copy (the Schott edition). Look carefully at his heels; they are going down on the relevant chords. (And, with a technique like he has, triple pedalling is the least of his problems!)

Yes, I agree, he is. Don't get me wrong, I would play the triple pedals if I could do so (provided the result sounded musical. I do find the last chord especially ugly on an English organ.)

 

It's just that I am prepared to play the piece without them.

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I wonder if playing these pedal notes is easier or harder on a French pedalboard??

My experience of Cavaille-Coll organs (either original or scrupulously restored) is that Cavaille-Coll pedal boards are straight and flat. The drop from the keyboards to the pedalboard is quite large as well. I can't say I find them the easiest or most comfortable pedalboards but the unique musical experience of playing a Cavaille-Coll more than makes up for it...

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The triple pedalling looks fearsome on the page, but it's not actually that hard to play, you just need flexible ankles and a decent length of heel. I found other parts of this piece much more challenging to learn, such as some of the manual changes, which I think would be much easier with a French manual layout (GO/Pos/Recit).

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Long played party piece since learning for LTCL 23 years ago!

 

I try to play all the pedalling, but there are some organs/actions/spaces between pedals I find occasionally a little tricky, so I tend not to double the octave note.

 

I'd be interested to hear who plays other sonata movements as much of it is pretty average stuff. I play all of no.5 which I think is a very good piece, and since hearing the excellent Ian Tracey + orchestra on Chandos do no.8, I've learnt a couple of movements from it.

 

Any other offers?

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I did used to play the whole of no.1. Though I can understand why some people disagree, I find the first movement very satisfying; it has more substance than the last (even if the pedal semiquavers punctuating the chorale are a tad cheesy). I find the pedal part troublesome though.

 

Off topic, but still on the subject of Guilmant, when I was young an elderly lady gave me a batch of organ music that had belonged to her deceased husband. Most of it I quietly ditched, but for some reason I held onto a tattered, browned and brittle copy of the first three pieces from Guilmant's Pièces dans different styles. Only a few years ago I noticed that at the bottom of the front cover, on one of the few pieces of "white space" available, there is an inked annotation: "A Guilmant". The hand matches his signature perfectly.

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Well having spent a little while on it now, I have to agree with the earlier contributor who said that the triple pedalling may look bad but is actually far from the most difficult element of the movement. I've stuck to leaving my shoes off which seems to work fairly well - the only chord I'm having real trouble with is the penultimate one (some way from the end) where the right foot is to take C# and E. I also realise looking at the score that in my ignorance I'm playing the first one wrongly (I've been doing D and F# when it is in fact F# and A). However, my chief concern will now be with the preceding pages before the change to the major.

 

I think its a wonderful movement, full of drama. I almost think the ending is a bit over-the-top but it is very satisfying.

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The 'Pastorale' from the First Sonata is also rather pleasant.

 

The Third is quite dramatic, and fairly straightforward to play - makes a good work to learn for recitals.

 

Anyone interested in finding some more of Guilmant's works which are off the beaten track - go to www.guilmant.nl, go to 'Works', and then 'Downloads' - there are some rather rare works, which are now out of print.

 

VA

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Like the above mentioned for No.8, but it really is worth getting hold of Ian Tracey and the orchestra doing No.1 in its arrangement for orchestra and organ. I agree that the first movement is also a good movement, as is the first movement of No.5, and the scherzo always raises a few eyebrows as a voluntary.

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I played Sonata No 8 in a recital a few years ago and enjoyed doing so. However, I think it works better in the symphony version. I have Ian Tracey's recording and agree that it s very good.

 

 

 

Malcolm

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I played Sonata No 8 in a recital a few years ago and enjoyed doing so. However, I think it works better in the symphony version. I have Ian Tracey's recording and agree that it s very good.

 

 

 

Malcolm

 

I second the recommendation of both of Ian Tracey's Chandos discs, but can also highly recommend Ben van Oosten's complete Guilmant sonatas on MDG, recorded at Saint-Ouen.

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How fast do people think the Final of Sonata 1 should go? I have MM crotchet = 120 in my copy but I feel this is too fast. It sounds too hurried at this pace to make good listening. Even the firey, youthful performance Raul Prieto Ramirez (youtube link above) clocks in at about 104-108, which I feel is about the right speed. What do other people think?

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I bashed this out on the Liverpool Cathedral organ a few years back. Using the (then new) Trompette Millitaire for the left hand chords in the last few bars was lots of fun - even if it did make the ears bleed a bit :(

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