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How Do You Choose An Encore?


Vox Humana
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What musical qualities and programing considerations make for a good encore?

 

Context is all. Yet more full-organ after a big noisy piece can be dispiriting. As ever, it's an area where organists could learn from musicians. Sorry, other musicians. ;) Lieder singers generally judge this one pretty well.

 

I'm not sure about a couple of well-known players, who often opt for twentieth-century American pieces of a rather whimsical nature. These can really ruin a carefully-wrought atmposphere...

 

I think there's a broader issue here tho', about programming generally. Good programming seems a rarer skill than good technique. B)

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I must admit that I prefer not to have an encore. Especially if the recital has concluded with a significant serious work. Its rather like a singer concluding her recital with Strauss's Four Last Songs. What sort of encore can follow that?

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I must admit that I prefer not to have an encore. Especially if the recital has concluded with a significant serious work. Its rather like a singer concluding her recital with Strauss's Four Last Songs. What sort of encore can follow that?

 

Well indeed. On the few occasions I've needed an encore, I usually choose something SHORT, like Peter Hurford Dialogue 1 or the Yon Humoresque or a transcription I did from a Hoffnung LP - Donald Swann's hilarious reworking of Haydn's Surprise Symphony - shortened somewhat.

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Well indeed.  On the few occasions I've needed an encore, I usually choose something SHORT, like Peter Hurford Dialogue 1 or the Yon Humoresque or a transcription I did from a Hoffnung LP - Donald Swann's hilarious reworking of Haydn's Surprise Symphony - shortened somewhat.

 

If you must have an encore, build it in as a short last piece in the context of the programme - not a lollipop to go home with.

 

FF

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Just to clarify, my question is purely hypothetical since I can't imagine the occasion ever arising for me! But I've always wondered whether there is some sort of rule of thumb - apart from the obvious one of having to be something short. Conflating Goldsmith's and Frank's comments it would seem the best option is to go for something that maintains the atmosphere without being trivial and without piling bombast upon bombast. Like a sort of musical blessing maybe?

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I think that Frank's advice is wise. Encores can be infuriating. I think a few people came away from SP's RAH recital thinking 'what on earth was that he played?'

I think that contrast is the key. If your programme has ended with loud virtuosity the encore should be quiet and simple. I recall at the first night of the Proms a few years back the violinist Maxim Venegerov encored either the Brahms of Beethoven concerto with a Bach prelude. We were all holding our breaths. Incidentally, one of the competitions,either Calgary or Dallas has an encore prize. The criteria is not only how well you play the encore but also whether you correctly judged that one was called for.

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Incidentally, one of the competitions,either Calgary or Dallas has an encore prize. The criteria is not only how well you play the encore but also whether you correctly judged that one was called for.

 

So could one win the prize by showing excellent judgment in not playing an encore? :D

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This, Blaze Away and Liberty Bell are all transcriptions, of course. Nothing at all wrong with that, but do you suspect audiences enjoy transcriptions more than 'real' organ music?  B)

It depends on the context. I've always thought it's best to change the mood from what's gone before, so a transcription can be a good choice where you've finished the recital proper on a serious note. On the other hand, I've gone somewhat the other way when the occasion seemed right - for example, from that old warhorse, the Final to Vierne 1, to Bach's Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland BWV 659.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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This, Blaze Away and Liberty Bell are all transcriptions, of course. Nothing at all wrong with that, but do you suspect audiences enjoy transcriptions more than 'real' organ music?  :huh:

Possibly, although audiences vary and it is dangerous to generalise. I wasn't trying to go quite that far in what I was suggesting, but I certainly don't think recitalists should be sniffy about including transcriptions in a programme. If I could play the ride of the walkeries I certainly would.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

I'm in favour of encores and usually have one up my sleeve for an evening 'do'. At lunchtimes you can go on too long and forget that people have to get back to work so I can't remember when I was last persuaded to burst forth again!

 

In argument with those who dislike encores, there are IMHO typical 'last piece' items which almost demand a further piece before folks go home. I'm thinking of things like the Reubke which is, although ffff, pretty firmly minor and therefore not quite the note on which to send people away (unless one's in a bad mood, of course). I remember playing it on 'The Grove' at Tewkesbury once and losing middle C on the Great - frankly the worst note that could have gone AWOL!

 

Encores over the years:

Liberty Bell - Sousa (from a band score)

Divertimento alla Giga - Bossi

Serenade - Borgeois

Toccata 'Songs of Praise' - Prizeman

Minuet - Bocherini arr.Lemare

Bohemeske - Wolstenholme

Jig Fugue - Bach

Badinerie (Transcription) - Bach

Ronde Francaise - Boellmann

 

all of them run for about 3 minutes - and none of them likely to spoil anyone's digestion I would have thought.

 

The last two are the only minor ones I can think of.... the idea is always that folks go home happy.

 

I remember two recent encores at Hull City Hall, one was the Londonderry Air (played by Kevin Bowyer) where it was invaluable since it was more or less the only tune on the programme and the other was a lengthy bit of David Liddle that had appeared earlier in the (long) programme. This was performed by the composer.

 

So, these encore haters.... why don't they get up during the applause for the final published item and drift towards the door early just to save themselves the shock and/or disappointment of having to hear more?

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I always try to pick something that is on the light side, not loud. I've played the Schumann Sketch in D-flat or the Yon Primitive Organ. My favourite is a little trio on Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are" by Billy Nalle, the late Americn theatre organist.

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I always try to pick something that is on the light side, not loud.  I've played the Schumann Sketch in D-flat or the Yon Primitive Organ.  My favourite is a little trio on Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are" by Billy Nalle, the late Americn theatre organist.

 

===================

 

Billy Nalle was very good, but Billy Mayerl is better.

 

The "English Gershwin" is a mine of delightful tunes which could be used as encore pieces.

 

He had class you know.......he played at the Savoy.

 

MM

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  • 2 years later...

The current Church Music Quarterly is very enthusiastic about Thomas Adams' set of variations on 'The popular and elegant air entitled Barney! Leave the girls alone' a.k.a. 'Polly put the kettle on'. :rolleyes:

Rated medium-difficult, manuals only, Fagus Music.

 

No personal view - just pssing the news on.

Ian CK

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Context is all. Yet more full-organ after a big noisy piece can be dispiriting. As ever, it's an area where organists could learn from musicians. Sorry, other musicians. :P Lieder singers generally judge this one pretty well.

 

I'm not sure about a couple of well-known players, who often opt for twentieth-century American pieces of a rather whimsical nature. These can really ruin a carefully-wrought atmposphere...

 

I think there's a broader issue here tho', about programming generally. Good programming seems a rarer skill than good technique. :rolleyes:

 

 

I entirely agree with the above comments, which cover most of what I would like to say on the subject.

 

A good programme (for me) is one where the items are balanced carefully - in the ideal programme there will be pieces in almost every mood, not the same mood repeated several times. A bold end piece can end a concert very satisfactorily, but if it's a long one in a minor key, or perhaps one rather demanding on the listener, I like to send them away from an evening 'do' with something in a lighter vein. It might be Bonnet's Elves, it might be a Lefebure-Wely Sortie, it might be the Prizeman 'Songs of Praise' Toccata or Yon 's Humoresque: l'Organo Primitivo.

I often drag out light pieces that nobody else plays - Wolstenholme's Bohemesque or Boellmann's Ronde Francaise (both pieces being reissued by David Patrick's edition incidentally).

 

Generally, I only give an encore at a lunchtime concert if we are in a Town Hall. In an evening programme, with an appreciative audience I would usually have something ready - after all, solo performers (away from the organ) generally do, don't they? It's part of being good value and 'audience-friendly'.

 

I can remember two fairly recent encores at Hull City Hall: David Liddle gave us again a work of his - it had to be at least 7 minutes long and it hadn't been intelligible first time around. I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time, which might well have been the point; however, as an encore at a lunchtime recital IMHO it left a certain amount to be desired.

 

Kevin Bowyer played 'The Londonderry Air' as his encore; this had one great merit - it was a tune we all knew. It was also the only popular melody in the whole programme!

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In my experience most encores are a let-down. There are certain works that just cannot be followed. And if you have just been on the receiving end of a really profound performance of (say) Bruckner 8 or Tchaikovsky 6 you want to revel in it for as long as possible, not have it driven out of your head by some piece of trivia.

 

There probably aren't that many organ works in the "unfollowable" category, but the Reubke Sonata and Liszt's Ad Nos are getting close. They create a mood that it is sacrilege to break. To do so is to ignore the emotional impact the piece has (or ought to have) on the audience.

 

I find the idea that audiences can't be left in a minor key slightly patronising (sorry Paul!). But then again, I always did prefer the cheese to the sticky toffee pudding.

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In an evening programme, with an appreciative audience I would usually have something ready - after all, solo performers (away from the organ) generally do, don't they? It's part of being good value and 'audience-friendly'.

This raises an interesting point. I was brought up to believe that an encore was something you played when the audience made it clear (usually by prolonged applause) that they wanted to hear more - which I assume is what Cynic means by "an appreciative audience". Isn't there some competition or exam where some marks are given for a performer's judgement on whether or not an encore is appropriate? However, it does seem to be quite the thing these days for organists to play an encore whatever the level of applause. Have I misunderstood, or has custom changed? And does it really matter what the etiquette is?

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I went to hear Guillou at Symph Hall Birmingham, mainly prog of his own music and transcriptions (including a brilliant transcription from memory of Pictures at an Exhibition). When he came back on for an encore, I wondered how he would top it. He then pulled out about 3 stops and gave us a tiny set of French Noel Variaitons, so simply and exquisitely played, yet so musical and without a hint of showmanship. The rest of the programme had done that!

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