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Hi: Just wondering if I could get some suggestions where to start! Have I left it too late?

 

I want to start learning some 'big' pieces, party pieces, a bit of flash, some postludes to have on hand for BIG events. I am NOT talking about a 20 minute symphony or rep. that is off the scale virtuosic (nor Bach...sorry just don't like much Bach organ music anymore). Practical please.

 

Start with the Gigout Toccata? Start with the Vierne Carillon (Pièces (24) en style libre, for organ, Op 31 Book 2, No. 9)?

 

I didn't get to do this at university (did Bach) and now in my late 30's I best start or I will never do it. :unsure:

 

WM

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It depends what you mean by "practical"! Assuming you mean around grade 8 ABRSM rather than "Carlo, eat your heart out"...

 

1) Gigout. Yes. Possibly the most approachable of the French toccatas. Not the best music though, IMO.

 

2) Vierne: Carillon. Yes. Should hold no fears for a competent grade 8 player.

 

3) Vierne: Carillon de Westminster. Ditto. Not half as difficult as it sounds.

 

4) Mushel: Toccata. Easy-peasy. Grade 6, I reckon. But get the Peters edition if you can (in 20th-Century Organ Music from Russia and Eastern Europe), not the OUP one. The congregation will love it too.

 

5) Rutter: Toccata in Seven (in OUP's A Second Easy Album for Organ). Currently in the Grade 6 syllabus, but probably needs a grade 8 player to pull it off really well. (But I don't actually know the piece - this is just my impression from having sight-read it through for someone a while ago).

 

6) Bossi: Étude symphonique. Only if you have a secure pedal technique and a decent three-decker. You probably do need to have a good grade 8 technique for this one, though it's not really that difficult since the pedal part lies under the feet quite well. But the penultimate page, where hands and feet are going hammer and tongs in octaves, is likely to sort your balance out. There's a mp3 here though the organ is far from ideal. The music may be difficult to get hold of these days.

 

Me, I'd go for the Mushel.

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The Widor 5th Symphony Toccata is popular with the masses. They appear to prefer it to other far better pieces. Over played and over rated yet still immensely popular. :unsure:

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How about the Final from Vierne's Symphonie No.1? Very effective, and apart from one or two tight corners, not too difficult. Also, have a look at Recessional by William Mathias, and his Jubilate too. Again, both very effective and approachable.

 

And if your wrists are up to it, Mulet's Carillon-Sortie will keep them happy :unsure:

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Or, for something even easier, but fairly impressive, Healey Willan's Festival is worth a look. Then there is the Toccata by Dubois (if one is playing this on an organ with mechanical action, wrist fatigue is a possibility....)

 

Also, the Final from Widor's 2me Symphonie is an exciting piece. This has the advantage that there are no changes of registration specified - it is marked tutti throughout; dynamic changes are terraced and achieved by means of following the clavier markings and judicious use of the swell pedal.

 

If there is a solo reed available, John Cook's Fanfare (or Whitlock's piece of the same name) can be impressive.

 

The Fugue from the Tryptique Symphonique by Pierre Cochereau is not difficult and builds to an effective climax.

 

How about movements from Mendelssohn's Six Sonatas?

 

(I have numbered sections, since I am currently at school and cannot remember exactly how each sonata is divided.)

 

First Sonata: Movements (i) and (iv)

Second Sonata: Movements (iii) and (iv)

Third Sonata: Movement (i)

Fourth Sonata: Movements (i) and (iv)

Fifth Sonata: Movement (i)

Sixth Sonata: Fugue (I cannot remember which section this is).

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6) Bossi: Étude symphonique. Only if you have a secure pedal technique and a decent three-decker. You probably do need to have a good grade 8 technique for this one, though it's not really that difficult since the pedal part lies under the feet quite well. But the penultimate page, where hands and feet are going hammer and tongs in octaves, is likely to sort your balance out. There's a mp3 here though the organ is far from ideal. The music may be difficult to get hold of these days.

 

 

 

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

 

My words, what a speed Kevin Bowyer plays this at. I thought I played it quickly, but I fairly gasped at this!

 

The de Montefort Hall organ is a gem, by the way, and has a Tuba which almost blends with the rest of the organ.

 

Judging by the final comment, I am so glad that I got my considerable collection of organ-music when so many pieces were still available.

 

I've been searching for Klement Slavicky's and Josef Klicka's stuff for over a year now, but thus far, to no avail.

 

MM

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4) Mushel: Toccata. Easy-peasy. Grade 6, I reckon. But get the Peters edition if you can (in 20th-Century Organ Music from Russia and Eastern Europe), not the OUP one. The congregation will love it too.

 

 

 

Me, I'd go for the Mushel.

 

 

 

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

 

I don't agree!

 

It's actually quite tricky if you play it as writ, due to those inconsistent left hand crotchets, which drop in and out alarmingly.

 

I guess Mushel didn't really know what he was doing, or had ingested too much extreme Vodka.....and what to do with the ending, I wonder?

 

It's what happens when people compose music in council flats in Moscow.

 

I tend to take a liberal view of the notes, and re-write them a little, adding anything that comes to mind for the last bit.

 

No-one has ever complained and the KGB are probably too tied up with oil interests to seek me out and eliminate me.

 

Good piece though....I agree.

 

MM

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Hi: Just wondering if I could get some suggestions where to start! Have I left it too late?

 

I want to start learning some 'big' pieces, party pieces, a bit of flash, some postludes to have on hand for BIG events. I am NOT talking about a 20 minute symphony or rep. that is off the scale virtuosic (nor Bach...sorry just don't like much Bach organ music anymore). Practical please.

 

Start with the Gigout Toccata? Start with the Vierne Carillon (Pièces (24) en style libre, for organ, Op 31 Book 2, No. 9)?

 

I didn't get to do this at university (did Bach) and now in my late 30's I best start or I will never do it. :unsure:

 

WM

How about the Boellmann toccata from Suite Gothique? It's really quite easy (except a couple of beats I rarely get exactly right when performing it) and is very effective. At about 3:40 to 4 minutes, just the right length for a flashy end to a service.

 

I don't entirely agree with pcnd about all his Mendelssohn suggestions: although they are fine pieces, they are not the flashiest pieces in the repertoire. The first movement of sonata 1 is in the austere key of F minor and is an intense contraputal movement - it's not going to get a party off the ground. Sonata 2 - lovely, especially the andante with the solo but there is very little musical substance to the 3rd movement and the 4th movement is a mf fugue at a moderato con moto pace. Sonata 3 is very fine and grand but the middle section takes a lot of practice and work to play correctly. Good, meaty piece though - a good suggestion. The first and last movements of sonata IV are very hard (I would rather play the Dupre P&F in B major) to play right and at the metronome marks, although they are very fine. While happy music, they are quite restrained in a way - I wouldn't quite class them as party pieces. Sonata 5 sounds nice but will never raise the roof off the building. Sonata 6 - I actually think pcnd means the toccata, which is the final section of the first movement. It's a good piece and quite easy to learn and play, although you will occasionally wish you have 6 fingers on both hands, it is certainly a fore-runner of the later whirling French toccatas...

 

I love the Fugue from the Tryptique Symphonique by Pierre Cochereau, the way it starts from foundations in the beginning and builds with with tremendous tension and momentum just to die away to nothing but by the time it's really going most people will have left the service and be nattering with their friends over coffee. Perhaps the final from that suite would be more apprpriate - that's really very thrilling and just the sort of thing PC would finish a big service with.

 

If you want something easy, I would suggest in addition to the suggestions above the Toccata Festiva by Fletcher - really easy and impressive sounding. Happy party piece, just a step above Lefebure-Weley. Christus Servulis Placare - final piece in Le tombeau de Tietoulouze (sp?!) by Dupre is a good piece and sounds flashy but is not that difficult. Gigout Scherzo is a good piece, too. I'm thinking about learning the Dubois toccata myself - I'd rather like to play that at this year's carol service or Christmas morning service.

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You could also trawl through the OHS catalogue - there are masses of flashy toccatas etc. by Americans (some based on hymn tunes) designed specifically to sound about 80% more difficult than they really are. This is the only way I can cope! Some are good - some totally lacking in musicality but if other congregations are anything like the lot I had for Harvest on Sunday (piece by Noel Rawsthorne - sounded like the middle of an Elgar P & C march plus the odd fanfare) after the first page they will be so heavily into coffee and chat that whatever you do will make no difference.

 

http://www.ohscatalog.com/sheetmusic.html

 

AJJ

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The Egil Hovland Toccata on Nun Danket is worth searching out. Not too hard once you have grasped the sequences and it makes an effect out of all proportion to its difficulty. A good sense of dramatic timing, though, is needed to get the best out of the last page.

 

I would say the same for the Garth Edmundson toccata on Vom himmel hoch, although liturgically that rather restricts you to Christmas.

 

Simon Preston's Alleluyas might also fit the bill. The notes are not terribly difficult, but it is not the easiest piece to pull off ; real judgement and conviction is needed to prevent it sounding incoherent.

 

I played the Dubois toccata a lot last year ; it always wins over the audience but, personally, I find it a far greater test of stamina than the Widor. On a mechanical action organ last year I really had to dig into my reserves to get through the last two pages.

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Sonata 3 is very fine and grand but the middle section takes a lot of practice and work to play correctly. Good, meaty piece though - a good suggestion. The first and last movements of sonata IV are very hard (I would rather play the Dupre P&F in B major) to play right and at the metronome marks, although they are very fine.

 

Fair enough - but I do not agree at all concerning the Dupré. Having played this many times, it is considerably more difficult than any of the Mendelssohn sonata movements!

 

Remember that, when they were originally published (probably around 1912 - Dupré aficionadi are still arguing about the date), even Widor protested their 'insurmountable difficulty'. None of the Mendelssohn pieces are that technically demanding - they just need sorting-out.

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Perhaps the final from that suite would be more apprpriate - that's really very thrilling and just the sort of thing PC would finish a big service with.

 

 

Which again is considerably more difficult than the Mendelssohn.

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How about Alain 'Litanies'? Tremendously exiting , but playable by an ABRSM VII/VIII standard player. I know that the bars of rapid LH chords just before the final tutti are a bit monstrous, but it should be remembered that the composer himself described these a 'unplayable'. That's my excuse for fudging them, anyway.

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How about Alain 'Litanies'?    Tremendously exiting , but playable by an ABRSM VII/VIII standard player.    I know that the bars of rapid LH chords just before the final tutti are a bit monstrous, but it should be remembered that the composer himself described these a 'unplayable'.    That's my excuse for fudging them, anyway.

 

I took this piece to Ann Elise Smoot last year, and said exactly the same thing about the LH chords. This piece works best at a very lively tempo, at which point the LH becomes almost impossible to play accurately. Conversely, the speed at which the LH becomes comfortable is unbearably slow!

 

AES told me she had read (in one of Alain's biographies) that Alain had intended to notate this section as note clusters in the left hand, but that it was an earlier version - with the written-out chords - which were published. I can't recall the reason for this, but I was delighted to be told this, and the piece works so much better now.

 

Carry on fudging!! :unsure:

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AES told me she had read (in one of Alain's biographies) that Alain had intended to notate this section as note clusters in the left hand, but that it was an earlier version - with the written-out chords - which were published. I can't recall the reason for this, but I was delighted to be told this, and the piece works so much better now.

But Marie-Claire Alain is on record as saying that this is nonsense. Can't give a reference for this, I'm afraid, but I distinctly remember reading it somewhere. She also said somewhere else (I think it may have been in a pair of articles she wrote for an ancient edition of The Diapason) that Jehan had a phenomenal left-hand technique.

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But Marie-Claire Alain is on record as saying that this is nonsense. Can't give a reference for this, I'm afraid, but I distinctly remember reading it somewhere.

 

Ha ha! Well, I'm not getting hung up about it, and I know which version I'm going to believe! :unsure:

 

Seriously though VH, aren't the LH chords almost unplayable at speed?

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

 

My words, what a speed Kevin Bowyer plays this at. I thought I played it quickly, but I fairly gasped at this!

I think it's one of those pieces that, if you can play it at all, you can play it at any speed. However, in my view it does not need to go quite that fast. I'm not saying Bowyer plays it too fast - he doesn't - but merely that there's scope, if you wish, to let the manual melodies "sing" a bit more.

 

Bernard Rose had a dictum: If you're doing a piece of bad music, do it slowly. Very wise words indeed. Fast speeds may be exciting, but the faster you go the more it trivialises the music. A slower speed may give the illusion of more musical depth. It's all about getting the balance between the two things right - imparting excitement without the music sounding flippant.

 

Most people, or at least those I've heard, take the Mushel far too fast (not that I'd call this a bad piece). I think they get hung up on the word "toccata". For goodness' sake, it's a Cossack dance (or whatever the Uzbek equivalent is).

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Seriously though VH, aren't the LH chords almost unplayable at speed?

Well they're certainly unplayable by me! And I've heard of one or two cathedral organists who won't play the piece because they can't manage them, so I don't feel too bad about it. I've heard plenty of people who can manage them though (damn them to perdition!) I've never quite worked out why it is they're so difficult. Probably something to do with the agility of the fourth and fifth fingers and picking them up smartly enough to aim them correctly at the next chord. All tips gratefully received!

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Well they're certainly unplayable by me! And I've heard of one or two cathedral organists who won't play the piece because they can't manage them, so I don't feel too bad about it. I've heard plenty of people who can manage them though (damn them to perdition!) I've never quite worked out why it is they're so difficult. Probably something to do with the agility of the fourth and fifth fingers and picking them up smartly enough to aim them correctly at the next chord. All tips gratefully received!

 

That's very interesting VH. I suppose I prefer the note cluster option as (1) I can actually get away with it, (2) it seems to underline the sense of "reason having attained its' zenith, faith alone continues its ascent" and (3) the option of playing the printed notes accurately is way beyond me! :unsure:

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I've just had another look at this. The chord that really causes me the most trouble is the first inversion of B flat and, particularly, hitting the F (for which I use my second finger - which in theory shouldn't be problematical!) Otherwise it's the fourth finger that needs care - not so much the little finger. Your mileage may vary!

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