Magazine article The American Organist

Gradus Ad Parnassum: A Guide to the Literature of Organ Instruction

Magazine article The American Organist

Gradus Ad Parnassum: A Guide to the Literature of Organ Instruction

Article excerpt

BOOK GRADUS AD PARNASSUM: A GUIDE TO THE LITERATURE OF ORGAN INSTRUCTION, Robert Chase. Colfax, N.C.: Wayne Leupold Editions WL800027, 8 1/2" x 11", 190 pp. ISBN 9781881162513, $60. Robert Chase's new book is the most extensive and exhaustive bibliography of pedagogical organ materials ever assembled. It encompasses every aspect of organ teaching books and is alphabetized and categorized geographically. Chase first discusses the organ "school," known also as "method" and "tutor" and the books' common contents (a preponderance of exercises for legato, the most obvious difference between the piano and organ, and the many approaches to it), then the repertoire addressed in organ methods. Interestingly, J.S. Bach was not represented in early 19th-century methods, but only began to appear from the 1860s. Chase makes an interesting point that "every generation of writers has included, in addition to the repertory of the older masters, selections of pieces by the then-current composers," and the practice continues into the present century. Next to touch, the pedal receives the greatest attention-alternate toes and toe-and-heel, notwithstanding the lack of pedalboards in England and America before 1850. Pedal methods more than make up for past centuries after 1860, however. Ancillary materials (monographs on technique, registration, performance practice, and transcribing) conclude the Overview.

Six chapters follow-the real substance of the book. Each is categorized as Pre-1750 Works, Early Modern Works (pre-1850), Modern Works (1850 to the present), Pedal, Improvisation, and Ancillary Methods. Works in each of these divisions are listed alphabetically by author, whose dates as well as important positions are listed. Especially helpful is the English translation of all foreign titles and text. The contents of each entry is given (fingering, finger and foot substitution, exercises, trios, figured chorales, interludes, church modes, registration, and even organ maintenance) and names of composers of pieces used as examples.

The first and by far the longest chapter (40 pages) covers Germany, Austria, and Slovenia. America, Canada, and Mexico follows and is the next longest chapter (31 pages), with subsequent chapters on England, France and Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands, Czech and Slovak republics, Poland, Spain, Hungary, and the Scandinavian countries. …

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