The Organ

Masterclass with Roger Fisher: Practical Help for Organists and Pianists

Masterclass with Roger Fisher: Practical Help for Organists and Pianists
4 volumes
£30 (incl UK p&p)

Roger Fisher has performed many services on behalf of organ music in this country. I especially remember his fine performances on LP which did so much to popularize the music of Rheinberger. In these four slim volumes he has put together his life's experience (so far!) of teaching and practising both the piano and the organ. Roger Fisher's most interesting idea to me was that of arpeggiating difficult passages. A similar idea is applied in learning scales (volume 2), where, having learnt the fingerings hands separately, to play not quite hands together, but the right slightly later than the left. This gives the brain the opportunity to take in one thing at a time.

In volume 3 Fisher shows ways of practising Bach's D minor Trio Sonata, showing how to break it down into 'finger groups' (some people refer to this as 'handing', as opposed to 'fingering'). He then goes on to show the importance of the accompanying parts in the opening of Franck's Prélude, Fugue et Variation. There are a number of useful exercises for trills and chord-playing. Fisher gives wise advice on methods of practising away from the instrument, as well as on silent practise. The importance of thinking ahead is continually stressed, though I am not sure if the equally vital matter of listening to oneself is sufficiently brought to the fore - even though it is implied.

The layout makes it easy to find one's way around each volume, although I wonder why there are four books and not one, since each relates closely to all the others. Part of the pleasure of this publication is its Englishness - its quaint way of shifting from some deep study of a phrase of Hindemith to a question like, Are you saved? which leads into a discussion on how to 'mentalise your technique'. (Volume 3, pp.36 ff.). No French or German musician would ever arrange their material in such a way! However, anyone from a beginner to an advanced player can seek help on their particular problem if they apply intelligently the advice given in another similar situation.The bibliography includes Schweitzer's biography of Bach and Alcock's Organ Method but omits the possibly vital books by (e.g.) Peter Williams and Christoph Wolff. Roger Fisher achieves a style which is neither too formal nor too chatty, one that is readable, instructive and entertaining. He never appears to 'talk down' to the reader, and invariably writes from his own experience. Almost anyone remotely interested in music could read these notes with profit.