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Westgate Morris

did you just end up a the pub?

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Three unrelated questions:

 

  1. I have not learned a real French Toccata yet and knowing that I dislike the Widor what one should I tackle? I probably only get to learn one… I just don’t have the technique.
  2. I need ten pieces for the five Sundays of Lent. If I could find everything by one composer that would be ideal. One year I managed to play only Willan. It is a Lenten discipline – this appeals to me. Taking advantage of a suggestion to my weekly rep. on this forum I’m looking at Gawthrop. Have a listen to Randall Mullin’s youtube recordings of Gawthrop’s Four Noble Gases - charming and well played. What would you play?
  3. Instead of having an organ ‘teacher’ for lessons have you ever played for a mentor, a friend? Played rep. for each other and offered critique? How did it go? Did you just end up at the pub? lol W.

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  1. I have not learned a real French Toccata yet and knowing that I dislike the Widor what one should I tackle? I probably only get to learn one… I just don’t have the technique.

 

Dubois and Vierne Carillon de Westminster are the two easiest ones I know. The Vierne does require some wide stretches in the left hand towards the end.

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  1. I need ten pieces for the five Sundays of Lent. If I could find everything by one composer that would be ideal. One year I managed to play only Willan. It is a Lenten discipline – this appeals to me. Taking advantage of a suggestion to my weekly rep. on this forum I’m looking at Gawthrop. Have a listen to Randall Mullin’s youtube recordings of Gawthrop’s Four Noble Gases - charming and well played. What would you play?

The RSCM's Sunday by Sunday is an excellent quarterly resource (available to its subscribing Individual and Affiliate members) with this sort of information.

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I am amazed to think you are suggesting that any organist would ever go anywhere near a pub. I've always been under the impression that all organists abstain totally from all forms of alcohol. I thought it was only bell ringers who go into pubs? Please don't tell me I'm wrong?

 

Malcolm

:):):)

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Dubois and Vierne Carillon de Westminster are the two easiest ones I know. The Vierne does require some wide stretches in the left hand towards the end.

I'm surprised that you would put those two in the same category of difficulty. What am I missing?

Although I used to be able to play the Dubois, I can't imagine being able to get anywhere near the CdW.

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I'm surprised that you would put those two in the same category of difficulty. What am I missing?

Although I used to be able to play the Dubois, I can't imagine being able to get anywhere near the CdW.

 

Forgive me, but have you actually tried practising the Vierne seriously? As toccatas go I really don't think it's difficult. Maybe the Vierne requires more independence between left hand and pedals - but even then I wouldn't have thought it particularly problematic for anyone who can manage the Dubois. I could well envisage the oscillations in the right hand at the beginning and, more especially, later in the left causing problems for some at first, but they should come with proper attention and diligence (I initially had this problem with a similarly oscillating left-and passage in the Poulenc concerto; it feels easy enough now). Vierne has a few linear semiquaver runs where you need to know your fingering, but, really, nearly all of it falls very neatly under the fingers - though not quite so much in the final tutti, I grant. The pedal part is also very simple, except for the semiquavers at the very end. The musical languages of the two toccatas are very different, of course. Dubois's harmony is very uncomplicated and easy to grasp (if you don't mind the bit in B major). Vierne is typically chromatic, so you do need to work out the chords carefully and this might complicate things for one or two - but surely not for long? This is just my take, of course.

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Hi

Maybe I'm the odd one out, but I positively loathe the Carrilon de Westminster - always have since I first heard it decades ago.

 

Aside from the Widor, I've not yet tackled any French Toccatas (not much point when my regular instrument is a single manual Early English chamber organ!)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Its a funny old thing on Dubois vs Vierne - I've always avoided playing the former in public, because as much as most of it is approachable, I find that the tiniest slip throws everything out completely, whereas with the Vierne I find it easier to 'battle on' if something goes wrong! Perhaps I should try the Dubois again, as the passage of time often makes these things easier.

 

Two years ago, I used six of the Eight Short P&Fs for my Lenten voluntaries, which worked quite well. These are all approachable pieces - maybe do the Prelude before and the Fugue after? I'm hoping to do six bits of 'proper' Bach after the services this year, but that depends on practice time!

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Our organist gave us the Georges Mac-Master Toccata in A last Sunday. I have to confess that I'd never heard of it, but am very pleased to have made its acquaintance. Whilst my abilities on the instrument are not nearly as competent as our organist's I fully intend to learn it. It has shades of Dubois, and is a little easier than some of the mainstream 'big' French toccatas. Worth a look, maybe?

Tony

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Ooooh, now we're really starting to get off-piste and the fun begins!

 

Barié toccata

Callearts toccata (OK he was Belgian)

Gaston Dethier toccata on Adeste fidelis (all 30 minutes or so of it)

Grison toccata

Georges Krieger toccata

Mailly toccata

Pierne toccata

Réné toccata

Renaud toccata

Franz Schmidt toccata in C (Austrian - could this be the most difficult toccata ever written?)

Vierne D major (Symphony 1)

Vierne B flat minor (24 pieces)

 

The Grison is a little on the long side but really lovely and there's a stunning recording on Youtube at Salisbury. I'm presently trying for the life of me to figure out how to learn the Vierne B flat minor which seems to break every rule of fingering in the book (thumbs on black notes etc) - any tips from the pros on this forum?

 

Oh and Tony thanks for "coming out" about the Carillon de Westminster, I hate it too, perhaps because (i) it seems fiendishly difficult and (ii) it's too dull to be bothered trying to learn. At least the B flat minor has flair.

 

On a serious note for learning, there's an excellent and inexpensive Dover book with loads of toccatas and carillons of varying degrees of difficulty, though many are now out of copyright and can be found on imslp.

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The Carillon from Pieces en style libre is one of the easiest I know in the French toccata style (the one sometimes known as 'Big Chief Thunderfoot's War Dance').

 

Boellmann's Gothic Toccata is easier than most.

 

Thinking of loud Dubois, 'Fiat Lux' is effective and not too hard to play.

 

Then there's always Herbert Chappell's 'Songs of Praise'. I know he's not French, but neither was Georges MacMaster, who was mentioned earlier, and this is a very approachable piece.

 

I like the Gigout, but it's very short and there's a bit about two thirds of the way through that always waits to trip me up.

 

The Dover book, edited by Rollin Smith, is very well worth buying - all sorts of valuable stuff in the Toccata, Carillon and Scherzo line (the Scherzos including Gigout's).

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The Carillon from Pieces en style libre is one of the easiest I know in the French toccata style (the one sometimes known as 'Big Chief Thunderfoot's War Dance').

 

How could I have forgotten this one? It's definitely easier than Carillon de Westminster and probably easier than the Dubois. However, if downloading from the internet I would avoid a certain "edited" version that fills out the texture of the main theme by repeating the right hand an octave lower in the left.

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A few more:

Widor 2nd Symphony Finale (though I find one bit very difficult)

Guilmant 1st Sonata Finale - a superb piece (though I either have to leave out a couple of pedal notes or buy organ shoes with bigger heels)

The Belier Toccata - at first I turned up my nose at it, but having played it once or twice I find it rather good and always enjoyed by listeners. It's very easy, which is a big plus! (on IMSLP)

Dupré: Placare Christe servulis (from the Tombeau de Titelouze)

Dupré, again: the Prelude - from the P & F in B

Vierne; The superb Finale to the 3rd Symphony

Fleury: the last of his "Vingt-quatre pièces pour orgue ou harmonium" - brilliant piece - and easy. (Basically manuals only, with a few pedals at the end. Recorded by George Guest for Rymuse.)

 

And if they don't have to be French:

Lemmens Fanfare

Bédard: Toccata from the "Suite for Organ" - okay a bit trite, but very effective

Archer: the Toccata from the "Suite for Organ" which is a very good piece, I think, but easy to play (The Suite also has a beautiful Adagio, in my opinion)

Also Archer: the Centenary Toccata from the "Lancaster Suite" - not quite such a good piece but I still enjoy playing it.

I've also played a Toccata in F minor by Ralph Driffil which I quite liked.

Francis Jackson: Toccata (from Toccata, Chorale & Fugue) - a bit fiddly but a great piece

 

RE: the Vierne Carillon from the 24 Pièces, I don't use the adaptation by Pierre Gouin but I think it does work. After all, Vierne wrote it so that it could be played on a harmonium. Would he have used the octaves graves if he'd played it on the organ? It's a bit thin if played as written unless there's plenty of 16' tone.

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If one is going to include Guilmant's 1st Sonata in the list of possibles, why not play the whole wonderful thing - maybe one movement at a time to suit the occasion? The first movement is almost as "toccata-like" in its excitement as the last, but of course one really needs a Cavaille-Coll console to play it on - the detached chords on the Solo/Bombarde organ written on the 4th and 5th staves of the score demand the spring-loaded hitch-down pedal controlling the manual coupler which Guilmant specifies in a footnote. (Otherwise one will probably need to descend to the indignity of using an assistant. I always feel a musical instrument which needs more than one person to play it isn't really a musical instrument at all. But now I really am going off-topic ... )

 

CEP

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The Driffill Toccata is also on IMSLP - looks pretty good.

 

Thanks for the mention of the Belier Toccata - I didn't know it at all, but I'm going to give it a run at this Wednesday's lunch-time concert.

 

I always find these posts about repertoire very helpful - I've picked up a lot of interesting stuff which I otherwise wouldn't have heard of.

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I played the last piece from this earlier in the year - it has been mentioned on here before recently in another post. Not difficult and goes down well with members of choir and congregation.

 

A

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Apologies if I add yet another Toccata (actually it's billed as a 'Carillon') to the list, especially if somebody has already mentioned it, but what do people think of Mulet's 'Tu es Petra'? It doesn't seem to make it to the top of the playlists very often, but I love its dark pulse and thematic material, especially as it starts (unusually for its genre) at pianissimo and doesn't rise above mezzo-forte for quite a long time - full Recit with box closed and Pedal flues down to 32 foot. I understood it better having realised that Mulet always refers to it by its full title of 'Tu es Petra et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus te' (Matthew 16 v18 I presume) - and you can't do much better than that for a text! It appeared rather fearsome at first sight but I found it yielded quite well to a bit of practice.

 

Then of course there's his 'Carillon-Sortie' if one wants something a bit jollier, but after Tu es Petra it seems somehow a bit trite. Just a personal opinion of course.

 

CEP

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I've just started learning Bonnet's Concert Variations. It has an impressive toccata at the end and a fearsome-looking pedal cadenza passage complete with four-part chords with the feet immediately before, which I always assumed having once seen it in concert, as unplayable. It isn't - there are two tricks that make it considerably easier.

 

(i) play in socks

(ii) if that's too radical, Bonnet wrote an alternative version that's only a couple of bars long.

 

Given Bonnet comes out of copyright in 2014 I hope his music is about to enjoy a renaissance (who couldn't enjoy his lovely, silky "Elves" for instance?).

 

Another set of very beautiful variations with a brief but spectacular toccata-like flourish at the end are the Surzynski Variations on Holy God - see imslp.These appear to be very little known or played but are well worth learning - the music is of high quality, very straightforward to learn and shows off a wide range of organ sounds from diapason chorus then pp, through soft flutes and solo reeds to full Swell box shut to full organ.

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I've just started learning Bonnet's Concert Variations. It has an impressive toccata at the end and a fearsome-looking pedal cadenza passage complete with four-part chords with the feet immediately before, which I always assumed having once seen it in concert, as unplayable. It isn't - there are two tricks that make it considerably easier.

 

(i) play in socks

(ii) if that's too radical, Bonnet wrote an alternative version that's only a couple of bars long.

 

 

It is quite possible (and I should have thought considerably less painful) to play the full cadenza wearing conventional shoes - of course, with a slight heel. I am not convinced that playing this in socks would work. If the piece were taken at a good speed, it would be quite difficult to play cleanly. In addition articulation would also be awkward - and extremely uncomfortable.

 

I have occasionally inherited pupils who initially insisted that they could play better (generally) in socks. I made then try suitable shoes and on each case the pupil concerned became converted to playing in shoes. I must admit that I have never been convinced by shoeless organ playing.

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The pedal solo falls under the feet fairly well, in fact the whole piece isn't nearly as difficult as it might sound. As for the chords, shoes with a decent instep make them feasible, but it may depend on the size of one's feet (mine are 10 1/2 British size).

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