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Viva Voce questions for DipABRSM

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#1 The Land

The Land


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Posted 16 December 2015 - 17:04

I've found a number of posts on the internet where people have shared their diploma viva voce questions. These were really helpful for me when I was preparing, so though I would do the same while they're fresh in my mind. I think I did quite well on this section (better than I did on the recital ;) )



Beethoven Romance in F

Sarabande and Gigue from Bach Partita 2

Dvorak 4 Romantic Pieces

De Falla Danse Espagnole arr Kreisler


1) How did you choose your programme? Were they pieces you particularly liked, for instance?
Followup - Wouldn't it have been more conventional to play the Bach first rather than the Beethoven? [implication: stick to chronological order for the programme]

2) You mentioned that there is speculation that Beethoven might have been intended as a 2nd movement of a concerto - why do you say that?
3) In your programme notes you say the Beethoven is in rondo form. Can you take us through this structure on the score?
Followup - Isn't F-minor [in the 2nd development section] a bit of a strange key to use at this point?
4) How does the modern violin differ from Bach's time?

Followup - Do you approach this music thinking about how Bach would have played it on a violin of the time, or do you think "this is my twenty-first century violin, let's make a twenty-first century sound"

5) How do you approach the question of memorisation?

6) You've mentioned the emotional aspects of Dvorak's music - tell us more about the emotions in this piece

7) Anything you'd like to add?


Answers (briefly)

1) Variety of periods, moods. Arranged programme to vary emotional intensity, sandwiching sad/inward-looking with extrovert, ending with a big finish. Bach is inner movements of an inner partita in the cycle, much more inward-looking so started with more approachable Beethoven.

2) The Romance was a typical 2nd movement form at this point; Beethoven was in the habit of trying his hand at new genres of composition and only published when he was really happy with his work; there is an unfinished/fragmentary first movement in C 

3) Highlighted the thematic material and where it returned and the significant key changes (particularly the lead toward the dominant and return to the tonic). F minor isn't conventional but used to good effect with emotionally intense writing
4) (all the obvious stuff about baroque violins). Music has changed so much since Bach's time that it's important to think about how it would have been approached in the 1720s
5) Talked about benefits of memorising (better communication, eye contact etc even if you are playing with music there); identified the risk of playing entirely without.
6) Didn't handle this one very well but muttered something about the 2nd movement (I had talked about this in my programme notes quite well but couldn't think of anything to add)
7) (they were keen to finish at this point as I had talked too much in my answers to 1 and 2) Talked briefly about how De Falla reconciles gypsy flamenco style with classical rules. 

General observations: The questions were largely quite predictable from the reading I'd done, and were clearly led by things I'd mentioned in my programme notes. Also the examiners were lovely. :)

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#2 sarahchap



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Posted 31 August 2018 - 10:14

I found this post helpful when preparing for my own diploma exam so thought I would add my own experience:


I did my DipABRSM this summer in clarinet, and my programme was Malcolm Arnold Sonatina, Messager Solo de Concours, and Weber concerto no. 2 mvmts 2 and 3. I can't remember the exact wording of the questions, but this is roughly how they went.


1) Why did you choose this programme?

2) In your programme notes you mention elements of thematic continuity between the movements of the Malcolm Arnold Sonatina, can you demonstrate what you mean (using the score).

3) You mentioned the word "chaotic" in relation to the 3rd movement, what did you mean? (referring to the score)

4) Did Malcolm Arnold write any other pieces for the clarinet?

Moving on to the Messager:

5) You say that the origin of the piece as an exam test can be perceived in the way it is written, both in terms of technical challenges and variety of tone required. Can you show us on the score what you mean?

Moving on to the Weber:

6) Why do you liken the second movement to an operatic aria?

7) Can you demonstrate to us what you understand rondo form to mean (using the score)?

8) Can you describe the kind of instrument that would have been played when Weber wrote the concerto?

9) Can you tell us the names of any makers of the instrument at that time?

10) What is the name of the fingering system on your clarinet?

11) The fingering system originally came from the flute. Do you know the name of the person who developed it for the clarinet?

12) Anything else you would like to add?


There may be a couple of questions I have forgotten as the exam was a couple of months ago, but this is basically it. A lot of the answers about the actual pieces were already in my programme notes, and they were just giving me the opportunity to expand on what I had already said, using the score to demonstrate. I wasn't asked about harmony, presumably because I didn't focus on that in my programme notes. The history of the instrument questions were more detailed and test-like than I had expected - I knew they were likely to ask me about what an early 19th century clarinet was like because I was playing Weber, but I didn't realise they would ask me to list names of makers! 

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