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Both a Bach Toccata and a Beethoven Sonata in Diploma Programme?


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#1 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 11 September 2019 - 16:23

Greetings, all.  I would like to get some feedback regarding the advisability of including both a Bach Toccata and a Beethoven Sonata in a DipABRSM programme.

 

I have made a large amount of progress on my ARSM programme (exam date next May - eight more months), and the Professor (that's what I call my teacher - a retired conservatory department chair) has suggested that we start working a little on my DipABRSM programme.  So I find myself needing to start finalizing the DipABRSM programme earlier than expected.

 

He's my proposed programme:

  • Bach - Toccata in E minor, BWV 914
  • Beethoven - Sonata in G, Op. 14 No. 2
  • Chopin - Nocturne in E, Op. 62 No.2.
  • Debussy - La Puerta del Vino

I'm a little concerned about including both the toccata and the sonata.  Both are lengthy, weighty works, though the sonata is nearly twice the length.  Would the examiners ding me for this, or am I overthinking it?  Has anyone done something like this before, and if so, how did it go?

 

The toccata and sonata are both multi-movement works, but there is considerable diversity of form.  The toccata has four movements:

  • Relatively slow prelude
  • Slightly faster four-voice fugato
  • A fantasia-like adagio
  • And ending with a rip-roaring three-voice fugue

The sonata has three movements:

  • Sonata allegro form
  • Theme and variations
  • Rondo

So there's no overlap in terms of form.

 

So what do you folks think?  Should I go for the toccata and sonata, or should I replace the toccata with a bog-standard prelude and fugue from the WTC?  (A P&F would not be the end of the world... I'm happy to study anything form the WTC.)


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#2 becksloane

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Posted 11 September 2019 - 19:00

I would suggest your programme us one you will enjoy on your journey first and foremost. Secondly check your time frames and consider if you are doing repeats or not. Your programme should reflect and showcase your abilities above all and if thus programme dies that for you -go for it. I did 5 pieces - Bach P+F same Beethoven Sonata as yours, a Chopin Nocturne Brahms Intermezzo and a Shostakovich prelude. If your programme hangs together then great. I think the Toccata will be a refreshing change from the bog standard WTC, the Beethoven will contrast well as a second piece. So Enjoy and hood luck - Rebekah
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#3 mel2

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Posted 11 September 2019 - 21:31

Will they fit in the time allowed?
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#4 Invidia

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 09:40

I would personally solve this problem by re-ordering the programme- i.e. break up the two heavier works with the Chopin and Debussy.

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#5 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 12:55

becksloane: You make a good point.  This is indeed music that I love.  I would rather spend a year or more with the toccata than with the alternative P&F (in D from WTC II, BWV 874 - nice but not that exciting).  And this programme does play to my strengths (which is why there is no Mozart or Haydn on there, though the Beethoven sonata is perhaps Haydn-esque).  And I'm glad to hear that you played the same sonata.  Opus 14 needs more love!  I'm playing Op. 14 No. 1 for my ARSM, and it was the Professor who suggested Op. 14 No. 2 for the DipABRSM.  IIRC she said that she performed that sonata in her first year at conservatory many decades ago in the old Soviet Union.

 

mel2: Yes, this programme should fit nicely in the time allotted, with wiggle room both ways.  I have a projected timing of 33 minutes and 39 seconds.  If I have read the syllabus correctly, the target time is 35 minutes +/- 10%.  This yields an allowable range from 31'30" to 38'30".  My tendency is to play a little on the slow side (alas, I'm not as young as I used to be) so the projected timings give me some wiggle room in both directions, with more wiggle room towards slightly slower tempos.  I arrived at the figure of 33'39" based on recordings of Gould (for Bach), Barenboim (for Bethoven), Rubinstein (for Chopin), and Kuznetsov (for Debussy).

 

Invidia: That's an interesting suggestion; one that I will definitely think about and discuss with the Professor.

 

I'll be meeting with the Professor this evening for my weekly lesson.  Needless to say, I will certainly pay attention to her opinions and suggestions on the matter.  She did not interfere or even make any recommendations for my programme for ARSM; I brought in the music and showed it to her to get her advice.  Her response was (read this in a thick Russian accent): "This is an excellent programme."

 

FWIW, here's what I'm working on for ARSM:

  • Bach - Prelude and Fuge in F minor from WTC I, BWV 857
  • Beethoven - Sonata in E, Op. 14 No. 1
  • Chopin - Mazurka in C# Minor, Op.50 No.3
  • Debussy - Bruyères (own choice)

Notice it's the same composers - my favourites from each period (although Beethoven is transitional, Op. 14 is from his early period where he was still in the classical idiom).  I initially wanted to do a Chopin nocturne for ARSM, but the Bach prelude is very lyrical and I felt the programme needed a dance-like piece, so I went for the mazurka.  I don't like mazurkas in general (and neither does the Professor), but this one isn't a typical mazurka.  She said (again, read with a thick Russian accent), "this is philosophical mazurka."


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#6 Clovis

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Posted 12 September 2019 - 14:59

I agree with Invidia – break up the heavy-weights with either Chopin or Debussy. Make sure you end with a 'final'-sounding piece, though.

 

The dipABRSM timing is for the whole performance, including space between works and movement, so you can add a little extra time to your total.

 

Good luck!


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#7 Invidia

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Posted 13 September 2019 - 11:39

I agree about the 'final' sounding piece too (forgot to make this point). Although are any of the pieces on your list particularly 'final'? 
 
If you like your Baroque and your Debussy you could replace the Toccata and the Prelude with the Ravel Sonatine. It has the best of both worlds and the third movement is so much fun to play once you get your fingers around it (great ending too). Perlemuter's recording (Ravel's student) is 12'31'' (same as your Bach and Debussy combined)

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#8 EllieD

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Posted 15 September 2019 - 09:49

That's quite an intense programme! I would love to hear it!!  Will you be playing all the pieces from memory in the diploma exam? 


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#9 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 16 September 2019 - 17:59

Update: I went over the proposed programme with the Professor late last week.  She was very happy that I was considering a toccata rather than a prelude and fugue.  She looked through the toccata and the P&F I was considering (P&F in D from WTC II, BWV 874) and said that either one would be excellent to study, but that she recommended the toccata, with the caveat that we still have plenty of time to change the programme if we need to.

 

She said that I shouldn't worry about having both the toccata and the sonata in the same programme, and her reasoning matched mine - there is no overlap in form.  Furthermore, she pointed out that the moods are very different.  The toccata is serious, weighty music.  But the mood of the sonata is light and playful.

 

I raised the idea of perhaps playing the Chopin nocturne between the toccata and sonata, but she didn't think that would be a good idea, since the nocturne is also rather weighty.

 

We considered alternate pieces by Debussy (Sarabande and The Sunken Cathedral) and also Stravinsky's Tango.  She thought that La puerta del vino would be the best choice of the lot, and she also thought it would make a good finale for the programme.

 

EllieD: I do intend to the perform both my ARSM and DipABRSM programmes from memory.  I already have all of my ARSM programme memorized, except for the last two pages of the Chopin mazurka.  I've never had much problem memorizing music, thankfully.  I performed part of my G8 programme from memory, just so that I could avoid page turns!


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#10 lil_mist

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 14:54

Greetings, all.  I would like to get some feedback regarding the advisability of including both a Bach Toccata and a Beethoven Sonata in a DipABRSM programme.

 

I have made a large amount of progress on my ARSM programme (exam date next May - eight more months), and the Professor (that's what I call my teacher - a retired conservatory department chair) has suggested that we start working a little on my DipABRSM programme.  So I find myself needing to start finalizing the DipABRSM programme earlier than expected.

 

He's my proposed programme:

  • Bach - Toccata in E minor, BWV 914
  • Beethoven - Sonata in G, Op. 14 No. 2
  • Chopin - Nocturne in E, Op. 62 No.2.
  • Debussy - La Puerta del Vino

I'm a little concerned about including both the toccata and the sonata.  Both are lengthy, weighty works, though the sonata is nearly twice the length.  Would the examiners ding me for this, or am I overthinking it?  Has anyone done something like this before, and if so, how did it go?

 

The toccata and sonata are both multi-movement works, but there is considerable diversity of form.  The toccata has four movements:

  • Relatively slow prelude
  • Slightly faster four-voice fugato
  • A fantasia-like adagio
  • And ending with a rip-roaring three-voice fugue

The sonata has three movements:

  • Sonata allegro form
  • Theme and variations
  • Rondo

So there's no overlap in terms of form.

 

So what do you folks think?  Should I go for the toccata and sonata, or should I replace the toccata with a bog-standard prelude and fugue from the WTC?  (A P&F would not be the end of the world... I'm happy to study anything form the WTC.)

 


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#11 lil_mist

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 14:58

I'm also playing a Bach toccata and a Beethoven's sonata. If you feel like you can manage both pieces and the others within time, then it is completely fine. However if those two pieces are too lengthy, I would advise you to choose not so lengthy ones for the other two pieces.

 

Sorry if my advice is incorrect, I am a student.


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#12 pianodom

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 12:56

Hi, I just did my DipABRSM in July there.  I played:

 

 - Bach Toccata bwv.914

 - Beethoven Pathetique

 - Rachmaninov Moments Musicaux No. 1

 

I considered the Bach and the Beethoven to be totally different in style, era, feel and technical challenge to each other and were a good complement in a programme.  And I thought the Beethoven was a good chronological stepping stone to the Rachmaninov.

 

However saying that, I did the entire choice, prep and exam without consulting a teacher at any point, so I may well have fallen flat on my face  :D   I am really intrigued to read the feedback when it eventually comes (come on ABRSM, it's been two months!!).  Fully prepared to fail for all sorts of reasons including programme choice - will respond here when I get the feedback if it helps.

 

The Bach 914 is a fabulous piece - really the first piece of Bach i've studied properly.  I got really into it and found it incredibly satisfying to learn and play.  Hope you enjoy it too :)


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#13 pianodom

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 13:25

ps - could anyone advise if the Rachmaninov I played is suitable for DipABRSM, ie. up to standard/difficulty?  I just really liked it and didn't have a teacher to ask so thought what the heck and entered it anyway, now I'm worried it's one of the (many) reasons I might fail.  Also it's about 30-60 seconds over the 7 minute limit for self-choice pieces. Eeek


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#14 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 13:53

pianodom: I took a look at your Rachmaninov. Op. 16 No. 1, n'est-ce pas?  If so, then I would say it's fine for DipABRSM.  It looks at least as technically difficult as Chopin's Trois nouvelles études - and probably poses greater challenges of interpretation.

 

And I'm glad to see BWV 914 getting some love!  Per my Professor's suggestion, I'm working on it on the side to combat the boredom of polishing up my ARSM programme.  I'm currently focusing on hands-separate practice of the Fugato and Fugue movements (tricky, tricky!) and nailing down fingerings in all the movements.

 

Did you use any professional recordings as guides when developing your interpretation of BWV 914?  I'm drawing heavily from Gould - I like his recording of 914 better than any of the others I've heard, but I'm not among those who consider Gould the be-all, end-all of Bach.  (For instance, I tend to prefer Schiff and sometimes Argerich for the WTC.)

 

Another question for you regarding 914: did you play the upper mordents in the Fugato and Fugue movements?  If so, did you play them as upper mordents (primary-secondary-primary) or as short Baroque trills (seconday-primary-secondary-primary)?  The edition I'm using recommends playing them as upper mordents in the Fugato, which seems to make sense musically.  It doesn't make a specific recommendation for the Fugue, but Gould seems to play them as short trills in that movement, and short trills seem to make sense and fall under the hand better than upper mordents.

 

About four or five years ago, I got a hankering to play the Well-Tempered Clavier (having previously avoided Baroque counterpoint like the plague) which motivated me to get off my butt and work on improving my stagnant piano skills.  (I had focused on other instruments for many years, mainly banjo and fiddle.)  I love the WTC, but the Professor was very happy that I was considering a toccata rather than the more conventional P&F.


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#15 Dr. Rogers

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 13:56

I'm also playing a Bach toccata and a Beethoven's sonata. If you feel like you can manage both pieces and the others within time, then it is completely fine. However if those two pieces are too lengthy, I would advise you to choose not so lengthy ones for the other two pieces.

 

Sorry if my advice is incorrect, I am a student.

 

Which toccata and sonata are you playing?  My proposed programme gives me plenty of wiggle room regarding time, so I should be good from that angle.


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