Playing Day with David Sanger
28th October 2006
Review by Tracker

This event, as previous explained, took place partly to replace our cancelled Festival and also to restore this event which was cancelled in June. Concern that an Autumn date might deter members evaporated when 21 of us assembled in David's organ room.

The Chairman opened the meeting by expressing great regret that Chris Bell, who had completed an application form for the event, had recently died. He also apologised for not being able to inform all members about his funeral because our newsletter was sent out just before we received the news of his death. He also expressed thanks to Sam Carradice for e-mailing as many members as possible.

Five courageous players submitted two pieces each with the majority being by Bach. As a result the first part of the programme was a 'Baroque Festival' including one piece by Buxtehude, and the second part was of a more romantic character forming a lighter contrast to conclude the programme.

Samuel Carradice
Toccata in F, BuxWV 157
D Buxtehude
Doug Scott
Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 646
J S Bach
Christopher Price
Ich ruf zu dir, BWV 639
J S Bach
Tamsin Brown
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 709
Adagio (from Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C), BWV 564
J S Bach
J S Bach
Samuel Carradice
Fugue in G, BWV 541
J S Bach
Alice Sheppard
Romance sans paroles
Toccata in 7
Joseph Bonnett
John Rutter
Doug Scott
La Paloma
Sebastian Yradier, arr. Alan Gout
Christopher Price
Fantasy on Psalm 42 vv 3 & 5
Feika Asma

Every year our players who have successfully deluded themselves that they have prepared their pieces for impressive performances have had their hopes dashed on the rocks of a critical audience, an organ which requires more than the allotted one hour practice, and moreover a leading world virtuoso seated two metres away detecting every defect ready for the post mortems. This year was no exception, although all five did well as far as correct notes were concerned.

David's comments about the Bach and Buxtehude pieces included the general point that playing Baroque music only as a sequence of notes will fail to bring it to life. Ways of achieving this were explained as their need arose during the performances. These included the ability to dramatise by highlighting certain climax points, to play with correct articulation, including detaching notes forming intervals, avoiding romantic legato, playing toward cadences as arrival and departure points, ensuring all parts are carefully characterised in the same way as wind or string instruments, (e.g. the pedal part as a cello line), and to differentiate between the role of main and subsidiary notes as a means of achieving coloratura in the chorale line of chorale preludes. A typical articulation is to play notes weak to strong across bar lines.

Successful playing of chorale preludes, including choosing an appropriate tempo and interpretation requires playing the original chorale and studying the text of the verses.

David also drew our attention to the technical defects, the worst being lack of coordination between pedals and manuals, usually not being realised by the player, and the need to avoid using heels. Ornaments need careful practice if they are to mesh successfully with the texture.

In the second part our players provided varied pieces of great interest and charm. David showed us how to get as close as possible to the composer's registration requirement using the stops available. In "Romance sans paroles" David recommended registration changes in the repeated sections and to maintain interest by colour changes in a piece containing motive repetition. Alice also played Rutter's Toccata in 7/8. The first page was excellently played.

I though Doug's choice of "La Paloma", scored for solo flute with piano accompani-ment created pedalling problems, possibly caused by the change from a radiating to a straight pedal board. David suggested some editorial modifications to facilitate the transfer from piano to organ.

Feika Asma was a leading Dutch virtuoso. Chris played this piece because he heard it played on a CD by a present Dutch virtuoso. It was the longest piece in the programme, concluding it with full organ plus David's pedal Trombone. With much andante crotchet movement David commented on the need for an accurately maintained pulse, a criticism applied generally to all the pieces.

As usual David pleaded with us to discipline ourselves to practice slowly and separately the feet and hands, pointing out that bringing the parts together too soon produced an unfocussed performance. Reducing practice speeds also reduces the time taken to complete the learning of the piece. He also said that the effort required to give a good performance under examination on a different organ is much greater than that to please oneself on one's own instrument. He warned against using editions containing unauthentic editing such as phrasing.

An improved arrangement with the supply of copies of the music consisted of members ordering their copies in advance at a charge of £1. Because only 12 out of the 21 present required music the arrangement avoided sharing and the players were able to copy the number required. Our thanks are due to our players for providing this essential service.

Refreshments at the end provided a welcome social part of the event and, as usual, the Chairman thanked David for bringing the music to life and for encouraging us to achieve even higher levels of virtuosity.

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