Sunday, January 18, 2009

A foray into Durufle

These days I spend most of my time hiding under a rock, frantically practicing repertoire I really should have learned two months ago. Projects at the moment include Reger's Halleluja! Gott zu loben, Jongen's Sonata eroica, and The Other French Requiem - which is, of course, the Duruflé. I've commented here and here on the challenges of playing orchestral reductions, particularly when I accompanied my first Fauré Requiem last year. The Fauré is in many ways a typical example of this sort of problem - the composer's original is for orchestra, but the score you actually play off is a piano reduction by Jean Roger-Ducasse. Performing the piece is thus almost a recomposition - as you rearrange Roger-Ducasse's score to get as close as possible to the original orchestral sound, without having the conductor tell you you're too loud. (All organ accompanists know the solution: nod, smile and reduce your registration when told to, then change everything back for the concert. Always register on a crescendo!)

With Duruflé's Requiem, however, I have the opposite problem; the composer carefully reduced his orchestral score for organ accompaniment, and so if anything the score is too idiomatically written for the organ. Duruflé's arrangement is fiendishly difficult, frequently calling for the organist to play on two manuals at once. (This technique, called "thumbing down", is easier than it looks, but not by much.) The score is covered with registration changes. And then there's the Sanctus, every organist's nightmare, with continuous running sixteenth-note sextuplets in the left hand. If you master the part and play every note correctly, the audience might perceive a barely audible burbling noise underneath the choir; if you can't quite hack it, the tempo sags and you drag the entire choir down with you. Doesn't this sound like fun?

And of course, Murphy's Law of Organ Maintenance applies here; the organ will always wait to have mechanical problems when you have the most repertoire to prepare. Basically I'm all right unless I want to use any of the couplers, at which point it's cipher city - except for the Positiv to Hauptwerk coupler, which has been stuck on all week. Harrumph. Returning home, I listen to Schubert impromptus and manage more or less successfully to convince myself that the Reger will definitely be ready by next Tuesday, and I should stop worrying and enjoy life.

Complain, complain, complain. I suppose the long and the short of it is that 1) I will probably not be blogging a whole lot over the next little while and 2) Duruflé's Requiem is really awesome and you should listen to it.

1 comment:

Kata said...

You just made my day, honestly. :) I had a horrible final rehearsal with the Duruflé just yesterday, where literally everything went wrong... my registration assistant (who is great, the best there is, in fact), was there for the first time, and tore himself nearly in half with managing the registration, page turning AND swelling at the same time (the swell pedal is built for someone with legs twice the length of mine, I can barely reach them, and not at all if I have to play legato pedal in the lower regions...) while almost breaking his neck trying to see what the conductor was indicating in some places (registration changes on long sustained notes, you know the ones...)
When I wanted to see what the conductor was doing, I had to crane my neck all the way up to catch a glimpse of him while at the same time trying to hit the right keys and keep track of where the hell in the score we were right then... aaaaah, I wanted to kill myself afterwards!
It all went so well when I practised it all by myself, who needs that f*ing choir anyway? ;)
Just hope it will be better tomorrow and the day after... TWO concerts, of all things! Pray for me...
And now I'll stop whining and start thinking of the wonderful time that starts on Monday... two days completely off work! Life will go on, no matter what happens in those concerts! :)