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Piano Examination Pieces

Grade Eight’s going to be a slight problem. All of a sudden, after eight years, I’m expected to play a piece from the Baroque period. More importantly, I don’t get to play both a romantic and a modern piece, I just have to pick one.

I know this applies to everyone, but for me, this sucks. I have never before touched a baroque piece, at least not one I can remember. Those pieces bore me more than novels do. My general rule for telling baroque from other periods is that baroque’s the one I lost attention to after the fourth bar. The consistent rhythms and endless repetitiveness almost put me to sleep.

My repetoire for each of the last three years (I was considered too incompetent to sit the third and fourth grades) has consisted of a piece from each period except baroque. The chance to play a classical piece, a romantic one and a modern one for each exam’s been brilliant.

It is, then, disappointing to have to choose between romantic and modern. I’ve already chosen that piece, but it remains that I will not have the chance to play a piece from the romantic period.

Now, this baroque piece. I don’t think any of them are worth searching for, which limits me to the three pieces in the Selected Examination Pieces book. The Shostakovich — placed in list A because it was a tribute to J. S. Bach — might seem interesting, or at least the prelude, but the fugue becomes tedious. To be fair, that can be true of most baroque piano pieces, but to be fair, this fugue contains a nice assortment of accidentals and dissonances.

That leaves the Bach (Allemande) and the Scarlatti (Sonata in D). From what I gather, everyone does the Scarlatti. I was told of one pianist who chose the Bach before switching to the Scarlatti. The Allemande, see, is four-and-a-half minutes long, more than double the length of the Sonata, which is also apparently easier to remember.

From what I can see, the Allemande has a bit more rhythmic variation than the Scarlatti, and all else being equal is hence the more interesting piece. Also, it appears to be less played than others — the examiners are bound to get of the Scarlatti at some point. However, its length and supposed difficulty suggest its selection is not to be considered lightly.

Well, I don’t know. If baroque and classical were in the same list, rather than romantic and modern, this would be so much easier.

Related Links

  • ABRSM Grade 8 Piano Syllabus (including list of pieces), 2005–2006

    Below diploma level, there are eight grades of practical music examination offered by the Royal Schools of Music. The baroque period was from roughly 1600 to 1760, classical 1730–1820, romantic 1815–1910, and "modern" is another (slightly inaccurate) term for 20th century.

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    One Comment Post a comment
    1. Elena #

      I did scarlatti for Grade 8 last year…its quite good for a Baroque…don\’t know y u have something against Baroque…those songs are quite nice

      13 March 2006

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