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How to Polish a Programme - the Last 10%


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#1 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 14:35

Greetings, all.  For those of you who have sat diploma exams, I'm curious to know how you polished up your programme.  I'm talking about the last 10% or so, where the pieces are in pretty good shape but still need that last bit of polish, speeding up the tempo, etc.

 

If anybody has any suggestions on how to do this, I'd love to hear them!

 

I'm registered for an ARSM exam in May.  So I have four months to polish.  I am working with my Professor who is not worried about any of these pieces, but she's not the one who will be sitting the exam!

 

Piece-by-piece breakdown of what I'm playing and how they stand:

 

Bach - Prelude in F minor from WTC I, BWV 857:  Memorized, with rare memory slips.  It is at performance tempo.  I am working on being more consistent with intonation and voicing.

 

Bach - Fugue in F minor from WTC I, BWV 857:  Memorized, but with frequent memory slips.  It is at performance tempo, but my fingers still slip in certain sections - slow practice is called for in those sections.

 

Beethoven - Sonata in E, Op. 14 No. 1 First Movement: Memorized, with occasional memory slips.  Nowhere near performance tempo!  Working on consistently nailing all the subtleties and nuances of the voicing (a good bit of polyphony in this movement) at a slow tempo.

 

Beethoven - Sonata in E, Op. 14 No. 1 Second Movement: Memorized, with rare memory slips.  It is at performance tempo.  Working on consistency in voicing.

 

Beethoven - Sonata in E, Op. 14 No. 1 Third Movement: Memorized, with rare memory slips.  Oh, what a monster!  I am so sick of this movement.  I have been working on this movement for two agonizing years!  I played it in Grade 8 and received a distinction (27/30), but I was never happy with it.  The left hand scale passages in the B part (and B' - it's a rondo) are a train wreck and have always been.  I am doing better with them, but at a shockingly slow tempo.  I am focusing on getting all the scale passages even, accurate, and in time.  I am most worried about the tempo in this piece.

 

Chopin - Mazurka in C# Minor, Op. 50 No. 3: Memorized, but still very shaky in the last two pages where Chopin modulates like a madman.  I can play it (poorly) at something close to performance tempo, but I am practicing it more slowly.  There is a waltzy section in the middle of the mazurka that should be the easiest part, but I'm most likely to mess up there!

 

Debussy - Bruy√®res: Memorized with a few isolated shaky areas, close to performance tempo.  I'm not too worried about this piece.  This is the easiest piece in my programme.  The Professor has said we will add some "splashes" to this.

 


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#2 fsharpminor

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Posted 14 January 2020 - 15:55

Its so long since I did my A dip (1963) I cant remember my polishing technique  But I didnt do the whole programme from memory, only the sonata (Op 10 No2).  As it happened I performed the first movement Op14 No 1 only last Saturday in LIverpool, my timing was 5 mins 20 secs (without the repeat)

.   But I agree the third movement is very tricky in places. Also performed first movement of Op14 No 2 on Saturday


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#3 corenfa

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 11:50

I recorded myself every day, and listened to the recordings regularly. One sure fire way of forcing myself to fix problems was to listen to the same recording of myself over and over. Hearing the same mistakes got extremely annoying.

I also performed the programme to others as much as I could. I did 4 run throughs to an audience before the actual exam.

For various reasons I had only 6 months to polish up the programme after an 8 month break from lessons and regular practise, so the above definitely worked for getting me up to scratch.
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#4 corenfa

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 11:58

Also, I got as much performance experience as I could, not just of my programme. I can't remember your background- maybe you are already a seasoned performer and don't need this, but I did. I volunteered at a hospital and played in the lobby 3-4 hours 3 times a week.
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#5 Clovis

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Posted 15 January 2020 - 15:53

Also, I got as much performance experience as I could, not just of my programme. I can't remember your background- maybe you are already a seasoned performer and don't need this, but I did. I volunteered at a hospital and played in the lobby 3-4 hours 3 times a week.

Absolutely! It's performance practice that's needed in the few months leading up to the exam. A friend and I played our recitals to each other every Wednesday, and I entered as many festivals and masterclasses as possible.  I also booked consultation lessons with various teachers in my area and played the whole programme to them.

 

You can build up your stamina by playing through the whole recital every other day, and occasionally running through it twice without a break. This was particularly helpful in the run-up to my first diploma exam. It takes a lot more mental effort than Grade 8 because there are no gaps between pieces, and you are in sole charge of how to pace the recital.

 

None of mine was memorized.


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#6 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 20:04

Lots of good advice here.

 

fsharpminor, do you like the musical result of omitting the repeat in the first movement of Op14 No 1?  To my ears, it sounds fine either way.  But I've been working on it so long I don't really trust myself to make good decisions on it anymore!  I figure I can omit the repeat if necessary for timing purposes, but right now it's looking as if I won't have to.

 

corenfa, that's good advice on recording.  I need to find a way to do that.  My wife did some recordings for me on her telephone as I was preparing for G8, and that was very helpful.  But my telephone doesn't record (it's not a smartphone).  There may be an old iPhone sitting around the house that I can use.  I did buy a very expensive Xoom device many years ago, but it broke like a week after the warranty ran out!  What a crock!

 

corenfa and Clovis, I have a lot of performing experience on other instruments, but I haven't done much performing on piano in many years.  Just teaching!  I will discuss performance opportunities with my Professor this evening.  I may try to organize a little house concert to get some experience playing in front of an audience.

 

Stamina isn't a problem.  I routinely practice two hours a day.  A typical practice session would be something like this:

 

10 min - Bach Prelude, 20 min - Bach Fugue, 20 min - Beethoven first movement, no set time for second and third movements, but no more than 10 min each, 20 min - Chopin mazurka, 15 min Debussy


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#7 corenfa

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 20:47

Stamina practising and stamina performing are entirely different things, I found when I was doing the hospital sessions. I had/have no problem with 3 or 4 hour long practise sessions, but keeping the mental stamina up for performing the entire 4 hours was hard. 

 

I just played through my whole LTCL programme from memory on Monday. It sounded awful but I did it all from memory. At this stage, I'm happy with that. But it will be a long time yet before I can actually perform it. 


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#8 fsharpminor

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Posted 16 January 2020 - 21:11

fsharpminor, do you like the musical result of omitting the repeat in the first movement of Op14 No 1?  To my ears, it sounds fine either way.  But I've been working on it so long I don't really trust myself to make good decisions on it anymore!  I figure I can omit the repeat if necessary for timing purposes, but right now it's looking as if I won't have to.

 

Reply

I was limited by the amount of performance time I was allowed, other wise I would have done repeats in both Sonatas. I dont normally repeat expositions.


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#9 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 13:33

Well... it's looking as if I may be on my own until the exam.  I'm certainly on my own for the next month or so.  My Professor (whom I greatly respect and admire) had surgery last week, and both she and the surgeon vastly underestimated the scope of what would be needed.  The surgeon had told here that she could teach this week... but she's still in the hospital, completely incapacitated, and will be for the new few weeks.

 

My ARSM programme and all its worries seems kind of silly compared to the serious threats to her health.

 

But she has taught me well and I have plenty to work on, so I'm going to push forward.  I've already registered for the ARSM in may, so we'll see what happens.  Worst comes to worst, I can always take it again, though I doubt that will be necessary.


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#10 corenfa

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Posted 17 January 2020 - 13:57

All the best to your teacher for fast and complete recovery. From what I've read of your previous posts you seem quite prepared to be able to work on your own for a bit.
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#11 birm_piano

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Posted 18 January 2020 - 00:04

Look for amateur piano music festivals in your area, and register to play/compete there. You get some good advice from professional adjudicators on your pieces, try yourself at adjusting to unknown piano, hear advice to others who take part. You may fit part of your programme into the Recital class, usually about 15 minutes.


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