Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/LTCL recital (piano) programme



I deeply impressed by your answers to other readers with regard to the LTCL piano program.

I would like to get our professional advice on my LTCL recital (piano) program selection. I will take my exam in 2014.

I have some difficulties on structuring my program and choosing suitable repertoire. I like to play Bach and Haydn, and want to add romantic and 20th century pieces to balance the program.

Here's my draft program:

1. BACH - Partita no.3 in A minor, BWV 827

2. Haydn - Sonata in C, Hob. XVI/50
2. Mozart - Sonata in A minor, K.310

3. DEBUSSY - Either one piece from Preludes book 1 (no.3 or no.7), Preludes book 2 (no.4,7,8,or11), Prokofiev - suggestion Diabolique op.4 no.2, which one is more suitable for ending? How about in terms of technical difficulties?

Since the program is around 37-38 minutes now, Do you think it's better for me to add one more short piece from romantic period? what's  your suggestion?

What do you think about the key relationships in my programme planning?

I really need you guidance and recommendation, looking forward to your reply soon. Thank you very much in advance.

Best regards,

ANSWER: Hello Agnes, and thanks for being patient.

You're aiming for a 40-minute recital so start by thinking about the "shape" of your programme - either "linear" (3-4 pieces of equal weight/substance) or an "arch" (1-2 substantial pieces in the middle framed by shorter pieces at either end)  You've decided to go for the first option since you're starting with a substantial work - I'm guessing that without repeats the Partita takes about 17 minutes?   Seven movements all in the same key.  

So you can't follow it with that Mozart!  Either change it or go for the Haydn instead - it's a lovely sonata and takes about the same length of time as the Bach?  The problem is, that only gives you about 6mins for your final piece, which doesn't make for a balanced programme.

I'm not convinced that a Partita is a good idea for an exam recital - as you want to play Bach and something more substantial than a prelude and fugue, have you thought about the Toccatas?  They're multi-sectional, so give plenty of variety, and more importantly, they're about five minutes shorter than the Partita, so you've got more time for your final piece.  If you want to play the Haydn as your central piece, you've got No 4 in Dmin, No 5 in Gmin or No 6 in Gmaj to choose from as your starter.  If you decide on the Mozart, you've got those three plus No 1 in F#min as well.  See what you think.

Obviously you need to time everything exactly, but so far you've got about 30mins.  From Haydn to Debussy is a considerable jump - have you thought about a Romantic piece?  Then you could finish the recital with Debussy Ce qu'a vue.  I've been looking at the Brahms and Chopin options and they aren't great from a key-scheme viewpoint, but maybe a couple of Chopin Etudes? Nothing too fireworky - save that for the Debussy - but a number of the Op25 set fit together well key-wise and I think would provide sufficient contrast.

Look I think you need to decide definitely on your Classical piece - Haydn or Mozart? - and see what you think about my Toccata suggestion.  Then get back to me and we can think about the rest of the programme.  

Hope this helps.      


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Clare Redfarn,

Thank you very much for your informative reply.

I am changed the program as below, could you please kindly give some advice.

1. D Scarlatti Sonatas in G minor, K.426 and G major, K.427
2. Haydn - Sonata in C, Hob. XVI/50
3. Mendelssohn - Andante & Rondo Capriccioso op.14
4. Barber - Nocturne op.33 (Is it sutable for ending?)

Thank you very much.


ANSWER: Hello again Agnes,

Wow, you have made some changes, and for the better.  I'd reverse the order of the Scarlatti sonatas and start the recital with the G major followed by the more contemplative G minor, then the Haydn comes as a more effective contrast.  The Mendelssohn works well after Haydn, and it gives you a nice showy finish as the climax of the recital, so you need one more piece to round things off.  I don't think the Barber's it, lovely piece though it is.

The main problem is that it's too short, by my guesstimate.  The two Scarlattis together = 6mins, Haydn = 17mins, Mendelssohn = 7mins?  That's only 30mins so far, so if the Barber's about 4mins it's not long enough.  Added to which, I'm not convinced that Emin followed by Abmaj works, and in a strange way I don't think it's enough of a contrast to Mendelssohn.  It was written in homage to John Field and stylistically it's another Romantic piece, albeit atonal.  I'm not convinced.

However, I've spent a happy few hours listening to the LTCL syllabus on Youtube, and I have a suggestion - look at Rzewski's "Down by the Riverside".  There are a number of different performances but gives you the score.  I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of Rzewski nor this piece, but I think it would be really effective after the Mendelssohn. And it's around 6mins long, which is closer what's required (check timings exactly, of course!).  

See what you think and do get back to me.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Clare Redfarn,

Thank you very much for your suggestion and prompt reply.

I agreed that Barber's nocturne is not so appropriate.
I have listened Rzewski's "Down by the Riverside", it is a good choice, but how about Fazil say Paganini Jazz for ending?  Is it suitable? I like the jazz style and melody.

Best regards,

Hello again Agnes,

Yes, the Say is definitely suitable and it was top of my list before I heard the Rzewski, so go for it!  

The Mendelssohn has, as I said, a nice showy finish.  So you either make that the climax of the recital and choose your final piece to round things off, or you eclipse the Mendelssohn with even more fireworks.  Either approach works - the Mendelssohn isn't so demanding that you're likely to be exhausted afterwards (although when planning a recital don't ever forget about pacing yourself) so you can really let rip on the Say, enjoy yourself and crawl away to collapse afterwards <g>.  It's about 7 mins?  Perfect.

I'm glad you like the Rzewski too.  You like playing Bach and Debussy, and there are elements of both in "Down by the Riverside", so I thought you'd enjoy it.

Agnes, you have a recital programme!  Have fun learning that lot and don't leave your programme notes until the last minute, please.

Glad I could help.  

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Clare Redfarn


All aspects of the academic/theoretical side of music, including harmony, counterpoint, elementary composition, history, harmonic analysis, aural training, sightreading - the lot! Please note I'm not primarily a composer so I can't help with composition beyond what's required for Grade 8 theory or A'level. And don't ask me about psychoacoustics or music psychology as I have no knowledge of, nor interest in, either subject.


58 years as pianist (soloist and accompanist); 43 years as harpsichordist (soloist and continuist); 10 years as violinist and 6 years as bassoonist (youth orchestras/chamber groups); 46 years as piano teacher, coach in performance/interpretation (all ages, instruments and levels) and private tutor (mainly the old O'level, Grade VI+ ABRSM theory/practical musicianship, A'level and undergraduates); 21 years as ballet pianist (Cecchetti syllabus).

Member of Musicians' Union in Britain 1978-1989 and 1991-2009.

I've been writing professionally since I was 20 - too many programme notes to count over the years and a number of articles. Additionally, from 1996-2000 I was a Music Assessor for London Arts and as such regularly wrote critiques of concerts given by recipients of Arts Council funding.

MA in European Cultural Policy & Administration (Warwick University, 1994)
B Mus with Honours (London University, 1977)
Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Administration (City University, 1982)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Piano Teaching (1976)
Licentiate of Royal Academy of Music in Harpsichord Teaching (1978)

Studied RAM Junior School (1966-74), then as full-time student (1974-78).

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