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Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
#2384554 02/10/15 11:10 AM
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Hello everyone,

I'm wondering if I could please ask everyone's advice on my choice of pieces for an amateur classical piano competition I’m planning to take part in. The first round is via Youtube audition and asks for performances displaying "contrasting classical styles with a minimum of two pieces (e.g. Classical & Romantic, Baroque & 20th Century; Baroque & Romantic, and so on)." It also has a 10min time limit.

At present, I've decided on Schubert’s Impromptu Op 90-2 and a classical-style transcription of a song titled "Blumenkranz". Originally composed for a Japanese "anime", here’s a video of the piece as performed by the transcriber: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfD8embOaHQ

But how appropriate it is to showcase a piece not in standard classical repertoire at a competition? To me, Blumenkranz is a technical showpiece, and sounds just as impressive. Furthermore, my conception of the song has a lot more of a “singing” feel to It, and I feel my performance of it will help showcase my abilities in dynamic and tonal variation. I also find its booming bass a great contrast to the Schubert’s “leggeremente” feel.

Alternatives I’m considering include:
>Beethoven Sonata Op 7 1st mov (6mins)
>Mendelssohn’s Op 19b-3 Jagerlied (from Songs Without Words) (2.30mins)
>Chopin’s Black Key Etude, Op 10-5 (2mins)
All of these songs are within my repertoire and getting them to recording standard within the 3weeks before the competition deadline is well within my capabilities. The Chopin might have some slight flubs though.

Any advice would be much appreciated. I’m almost entirely self-taught and am fresh out of options on where I might get an informed, objective view, so would welcome any input!!

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2384602 02/10/15 01:28 PM
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Personally, I've never heard any anime piano covers that I find particularly musically interesting, and I would expect judges at a piano competition to be much more conservative than I am. I listened to the first minute of that transcription, and it's nicely done I suppose, but I don't think it compares well with pieces by the great masters that your competitors would be playing.

As far as your other choices, I don't think the Beethoven is contrasting enough with the Schubert, so I'd recommend the Chopin or Mendelssohn. If you can do the Chopin, it would be preferable, since it's harder and more nuanced, but you'll have to weigh that versus the potential for flubs.

Good luck in the competition!

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2384610 02/10/15 02:00 PM
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Anime song is a terrible idea.

Go with the Mendelssohn, since Chopin is not secure.

edit: Also replace Schubert with Beethoven for a true contrast.

Last edited by Hakki; 02/10/15 02:02 PM.
Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2384638 02/10/15 03:12 PM
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Hi, Harry! And welcome to the forum!

A few comments --

1 Your "Blumenkranz" performance indicates that you have good technical ability, certainly sufficient for an Amateur Piano competition. The piece itself, though, is too rock-based in idiom, and IMO is not an advisable vehicle for a competition of this sort.

2 The Beethoven Op 7 Mv 1 is actually an excellent choice as an entry piece -- it's not played much, and it's IMO a beautiful movement with many varied colors. I would couple that with the Mendelssohn, not the Schubert or Chopin, to provide maximum contrast within the 10 min time limit.

3 If the Etude is not ready, I personally wouldn't even consider it for a first competition. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong under the stress of a competition. Why invite a crash-and-burn possibility?

Good luck to you in this endeavor!

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
Tim Adrianson #2384654 02/10/15 04:21 PM
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I agree with everyone here. Additionally, the transcription is not technically difficult enough to show off your abilities, pianistically or technically.

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2384690 02/10/15 06:49 PM
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I also would not perform the anime piece at a competition for the reasons previously mentioned. I think playing Schubert at a competition is an interesting choice when they want contrasting works. I've always associated Schubert as late classical / early romantic, which wouldn't provide much contrast from your other works in my opinion. Of course Beethoven is also frequently put in this category, but I think of his early works as definitively classical.

If you can play the Beethoven well, I would go with it over the Schubert, from what I recall the Op. 7 is fairly difficult at tempo. I would pair it with the Mendelssohn.

Good luck!

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
Tim Adrianson #2384702 02/10/15 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Tim Adrianson

1 Your "Blumenkranz" performance indicates that you have good technical ability, certainly sufficient for an Amateur Piano competition.
Small point of clarification - the performer in the video is NOT the OP. wink
Quote
The piece itself, though, is too rock-based in idiom, and IMO is not an advisable vehicle for a competition of this sort.
Not only "not advisable" - but really "not appropriate" in this particular context. Looks like a fun piece to play, however.

As for the Beethoven vs. the Schubert - from experience I can tell you that the Beethoven is very challenging to play well up to tempo - and, as such, could also result in a crash and burn scenario. smile


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Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2384772 02/10/15 11:57 PM
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Thanks everyone for the replies. A shame that Blumenkranz gets the downvote due to its soundtrack nature, but I'll heed the advice.

So, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, hm? Can't say I dislike the idea. Some part of me might find them both "lively" pieces, but I suspect my conception of the Mendelssohn a little too...brisk, when compared to what most people see it as. Though that may just be something I need to work on. I have heard the other pieces in the set and the all sound very lyrical!

I probably will end up recording the Chopin with it as well though. I actually spent the last few hours working on it. Made a few tweaks to fingering and it feels a lot more stable now! It's helped improve my finger dexterity too, all my other pieces play a lot easier now smile

Thanks again for the suggestions everyone. I will probably be posting practice runs of the pieces soon!

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2390888 02/25/15 05:18 PM
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Apologies for double post, but I've returned with some practice recordings.

Here's the Beethoven...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-l6UBmCmMo

and here's the Mendelssohn.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F74_Gg9Jps0

Wondering if people think they are up to standard? Is it worth going with this take? Or should I try to do another piece? Comments and criticisms encouraged!

I would also appreciate if anyone could suggest a short piece I could learn for the second round (if I'm chosen). I want to do the 3rd Mvmnt of Beethoven's Waldstein for it (already learnt it - just have to polish it up!). There's a 15min time limit for it and entails a live performance, but the rules are otherwise the same. Recommendations for good pieces to go with it would be welcome!

Last edited by harry_kinomoto; 02/25/15 05:22 PM.
Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2390934 02/25/15 07:24 PM
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I wouldn't do another Beethoven. Maybe a modern piece? You could do something showy and virtuoistic to end your second round performance (I'm assuming you also play the Beethoven and Mendelssohn in the second round?)

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
A Guy #2390984 02/25/15 09:41 PM
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Duly noted, but could you perhaps name specifics? Do you mean a 20th century piece or perhaps something by Liszt and friends?
Also, no, I won't need to perform my recordings live for the second round (which would be the finals).

I should probably confess: versatility is NOT one of my strong suits! In all honesty, aside from the Chopin's "black keys" and several other anime songs, ALL my other showpieces are Beethoven sonatas. blush It's the only songs that have charmed me enough to spend many hours on! thumb

I wonder if I should get into something from the Baroque era. The Scarlatti Sonata L23 is looking very appealing at present:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRkHfyAruq8
Probably isn't good competition form to play 2 sonatas though, is it?

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2390988 02/25/15 09:58 PM
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I think for this competition it's not a big negative factor if you repeat composers in the second round. This is not like the Tchaikovsky Competition where the winner is expected to give concerts around the world. If you can handle the monstrous difficulties of the Waldstein 3rd movement, then I think that would be a good piece.

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2390997 02/25/15 10:25 PM
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I second the above. I'm sorry, I thought you would be playing your pieces from the first round as well (resulting in your playing two Beethoven sonatas in one performance). The waldstein is a good choice of you aren't doing so.

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2391485 02/27/15 02:45 AM
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I apologize but I couldn't listen to the transcription for more than a minute. It's quite repetitive.
Have you looked into French or Russian classical music? Some of the overlooked pieces in either school can offer great values in competitions.

Re: Choosing Pieces for a Piano Competition?
harry_kinomoto #2391489 02/27/15 03:29 AM
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Originally Posted by harry_kinomoto
....Wondering if people think they are up to standard?....

If you mean, up to the standard to be accepted: For most of the amateur competitions it's a clear "yes." For the very toughest ones, maybe or maybe not. Like, for the amateur Cliburn, I think not -- not quite, but not far off. I don't think "another take" would change this, but more practice might -- and even more so, some good teaching or coaching might. (It might not need much of that -- perhaps just some, followed by some good practicing based on it.)

I don't think you need to go out of your way about repertoire, except for not doing something like the anime piece. Besides that, play whatever you most want to play. I don't think your degree of success would be helped by playing something you think is more impressive, unless it's what you really want to play anyway and you play it as well as anything else.

BTW you do play very well. smile


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