Filtering by Category: Programming

Sending Work to Greg

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I have some pieces you may be interested in. Want 'em? I have scores and recordings. Holla!

Dear No Name,

Yes, I always enjoy looking at new scores and hearing new music. I make no guarantees that I will perform works you send -- my repertoire wish list is huge and there's never enough time to learn everything! You never know though -- the music you send could make it onto my wish list and someday be the perfect piece to fill a recital program, or inspire a recital program, for that matter!

- Greg (Aug. 3, 2009)

Audition Advice

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Greg, I'll be facing college auditions in about a year. I want to major in Piano Performance but I'm also thinking about Music History. What would be the perfect audition program? Most places around here require three contrasting pieces.
Josh in MS

Dear Josh,

You've asked an impossibly difficult question! There are a couple basic pieces of advice I can offer, but after that, things get tricky.

  • Play pieces you enjoy playing. In order to be thoroughly prepared, you'll have to practice a lot - and that shouldn't be a problem if you are playing something you like!
  • Play pieces that are within your abilities. A jury is much more impressed by controlled and musical playing than they are by messy playing of slightly harder music.

Okay. Now the tricky part. Do you play pieces that represent you or pieces that you're pretty sure the jury wants to hear?? In an ideal world, I would lay my heart right out on the table for the jury to pick apart ... but my honest choice of pieces would probably lead to a rejection letter! For example, if I had an audition tomorrow and was required to play three contrasting works, I would play a composition of my own, Earl Wild's transcription of Rachmaninoff's "On the Death of a Linnet," and my own transcription of Poulenc's "Nous avons fait la nuit" (I'd have to stay up all night long making the arrangement first!). I think that would be the perfect way for me to represent myself at this exact moment; it would certainly be a fast-path to the essence of "Greg."

Unfortunately, juries don't really work the same way I think audiences do! Most audition panels would be offended by my seemingly slight program - the short pieces, my own compositions(!), two (count them: one, two) transcriptions, the sentimentality, the avoidance of anything pre-1900, my failure to showcase the extent of my technique, etc. Instead, I can tell you right now that the audition panels are going to want to hear you play a Beethoven Sonata and a substantial work by either Chopin, Schumann, or Brahms (or possibly Liszt or Mendelssohn). Juries seem to find that through these two categories, they can most easily asses a student's proficiency and musicianship. In the past, I have followed that formula to the best of my abilities and it has always worked for me. In your case, the third piece is flexible; it is less important, but it says more about who you are as a person. (It's usually safer to highlight your sophisticated side.) To contrast the Beethoven sonata and the Romantic work, I would recommend anything by Bach, Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev, or Bartok, or a sophisticated work by a well-known modern composer.

(There are, of course, exceptions to the above; however, I believe it to be the most straightforward a safe way to go about building an audition program.)

A jury forms many assumptions about a student just by looking at his or her program. Try to find three pieces (preferably within the confines mentioned) that represent you, compliment and contrast one another, and create a striking and memorable impression. Then: play well!

Good luck!!

- Greg

"Novel" Audition Repertoire Suggestions

Added on by Greg Anderson.

Hi Greg,
I am writing a novel in which a character is auditioning for Juilliard. She is a pianist. I have all the information on requirements, but I'm looking for specifics on what audition day is how is the panel, etc. I also need suggestions for the pieces she might play, particularly categories 3 and 5. If anyone can help me out, it would be much appreciated.
Thanks, Laura Covault

Dear Laura,

My perception of my Juilliard audition is likely very different from what actually happened. In reality, the jury is filled with nice, intelligent, and compassionate faculty members. (I'm serious, they really are.) From the piano bench, they appeared larger-than-life... terrifying... crotchety. In reality, the process is as fair as it could be -- there are multiple rounds (a tape round, preliminary round, final round, and a brief interview), and several faculty members are on every panel. It is incredibly time consuming and stressful for the faculty to sort through the hundreds of applicants, but they do a thorough job because they are genuinely searching for the most talented of the bunch. They do it with humility, however, because they've all been through it themselves; they are fully aware of the hopes and fears most applicants harbor. From my perspective, of course, things didn't feel so fair. "I didn't get to play the development of the first movement -- that was my best part!" "They asked me to start in the middle of the piece; I wasn't expecting that!" "I had to wait outside the jury room for 20 minutes; my fingers got cold!" "The interviewer asked me trick questions!" The call-back process draws the day out pretty long. It's terrifying enough to walk into a large room -- a piano on one side and a lineup of highly respected individuals on the other -- and prove yourself in a mere 10-15 minutes. But then you must wait several hours for the call-back list to be posted (terrifying! -- it's out of your hands at that point!), and if you're lucky (?!@#$%), you get to do it again later that evening.

I've written about my audition repertoire elsewhere on this site. I'll repost it here:
 "As for your audition repertoire, play whatever it is you want to play (in other words, play pieces that reflect you as a musician), and when your audition rolls around, play well. That's all that matters. My undergrad audition program consisted of the following pieces: Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor from WTC I, Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata, Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses, Liszt's Transcendental Etude No. 4 -- "Mazeppa", and Prokofiev's Third Piano Sonata. I'm not sure whether this was the greatest audition program, but I loved performing all of the pieces and I played them well."

I hope that helps you!

 - Greg (Jan. 10, 2009)


Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
Hi Greg, Noticing that you play the Saint-Saens Ctos. 2 & 4, I'll ask you something I've wondered over as a listener for years. The Ctos. 2 & 4 consistently get all the attention while the 3 & 5 get relatively ignored. Why I wonder this is, taking the Cto 5 with those exotic sounds in the middle movement (harmonics?) are so unique in the repertoire that they still sound somewhat revolutionary to me against other Romantic Ctos. All the best.
 - Bill Shurtleff

Dear Bill,

I love your question! Those who know me well know of my passionate advocacy for Saint-Saëns' fifth and third piano concertos. They're wonderful pieces, but they do have their share of weaknesses. Most people consider the second and fourth concertos to be more consistent from beginning to end. Nevertheless, the fifth and third concertos have some unimaginably beautiful and inspired moments. I particularly love the entire second movement of the third concerto and the ending of the fifth concerto's first movement. The second movement of the latter concerto does, indeed, feature some exotic and awesome sounds, but it was hardly revolutionary when compared to other music written at the time. Believe it or not, the work was composed after Prokofiev's first piano concerto, after the first version of Prokofiev's second piano concerto, after Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, after Debussy's Preludes, Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, and many other revolutionary works of the early twentieth century!

Pieces enter my repertoire for a variety of reasons - some complex reasons and some simple. The pieces listed on my repertoire page are, by no means, a complete listing of the pieces I love. There are countless works on my "repertoire wish list" that I have yet to learn, and with some luck, I will have many years ahead of me to make my wishes a reality. Learning repertoire is a time consuming process; the notes can be learned in a matter of weeks, but it usually takes years of "living with a piece" before it becomes something I'm proud to share with the public. Incidentally, my "wish list" is still growing, and I seriously consider all of the suggested offered by visitors of this website. Recommend music here!

- Greg

String Quartet

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hey Greg,
My school has an athletic requirement which means I have to do two seasons of sports this year, but in the spring I'm doing an independant performing arts project. I'm so excited! I'm working on the Bach Concerto in F Minor S.1056. I wanted to do the entire concerto, but I may have to just do the first movement. Anyway, as far as accompianment goes, my teacher said I could either get a string quartet or another pianist. I would rather go with the strings, but I'm having a really hard time finding musicians for it. Should i settle with the piano accompianment? What do you think?
 - Caitie

Athletic requirements are a good thing! I'm all for Americans finding enjoyable ways to stay healthy!

You ask whether you should work with a piano accompanist or a string quartet. As a potential audience member, I would be more inclined to come to the concert if I saw you were playing with a string quartet. That said, if you can't find a string quartet, enjoy yourself with the piano accompaniment!

- Greg

Repertoire List

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hi Greg,
I saw your amazing repertoire list and I just want to ask you this: 1. Are you able to play all these peaces any time when someone picks up a piece? 2. Do you need to prepare them all over again? 3. What is the repertoire list for if you anyway practice one program at the time?
 - Laurana

Dear Laurana,

The pieces on my repertoire list have been "field-tested;" this means that for any given work on the list, I've probably spent a great deal of time thinking about what the piece means to me, I've memorized it, performed it publicly, and worked out the technical kinks. I certainly can't play most of the works at the drop of a hat, but they usually come back to my fingers pretty quickly when I invest the proper energy into relearning them. In fact, I find that when I relearn a work, it somehow happens to feel markedly better than it did before; it's as if my mind had been practicing it all along.

I like to cater my programs to particular audiences, venues, and concert series, so it's rare that I trot the exact same recital program around with me from city to city. My repertoire list is mostly used by concert presenters when they make requests. I can always learn new music, but it's not reasonable to learn entirely new programs for every performance. The chamber and concerto repertoire lists are particularly helpful when events are planned last minute, such as when an immediate replacement is needed.

- Greg (May 10, 2009)

Backup plans and Audition Repertoire

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
First off, thank you for what you are doing with your talent. We need to break the Victorian paradigms! On to my question: I have just turned 16 and am thinking about colleges. I would love to attend a conservatory, but am worried that it will be all piano all the time and if down the road piano doesn't work out for me, I will have nothing to fall back on. I also have the question of repertoire choices, specifically the Classical sonata. Is the Appassionata too cliched? I absolutely love the piece and think I could give a very good performance of it, but I am worried that it is so well known that everybody has a definitive idea of how it should be played, and if I play it differently, they will not like it. What did you play for your audition to Juiliard? What about other people? I know a Prelude and Fugue, Chopin's first Ballade, and his Etude Op. 25 No. 12. For a modern piece, I think I will do the Bartok sonata. Do you have any ideas on these? Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!!!
 - Jon B.

Dear Jon,

When it comes to careers, I really can't tell you what to do! One of the many great things about life is that you can often change your mind. So often we feel like we are locked in, but really, we have the ability to start fresh whenever we want. I've seen a number of inspiring forty-year-olds go back to school to pursue a different avenue in life; a friend of mine did her undergrad and master's degrees at Juilliard and now she's in dental school; Aspen Music Festival accepts adult piano students. You're in control.

You also have the power to make your college experience amazing, no matter what school you attend. Alternatively, you can find ways to waste your time at any of the most renowned institutions in America. If you want a well-rounded education, you can get that, whether you're at Juilliard or New York University. Too often I see people complaining rather than using their energy in positive and useful ways.

One word of caution: don't go into music if you want to be a "concert pianist." Even if you've got mad skills, the chances of sustaining a career are next to impossible. Instead, go to college with the dream of playing the piano for the rest of your life! There are loads of uses for pianists in the job market, and if you really love playing the piano and making music, then these can be extraordinarily fulfilling jobs. Who knows, you could become really famous and play solo recitals in Carnegie Hall or you could become an influential piano teacher; in either case, you'll be a satisfied musician. As long as your happiness doesn't rely on fame, there are loads of musically satisfying jobs you could pursue as a pianist.

As for your audition repertoire, play whatever it is you want to play (in other words, play pieces that reflect you as a musician), and when your audition rolls around, play well. That's all that matters. My undergrad audition program consisted of the following pieces: Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor from WTC I, Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata, Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses, Liszt's Transcendental Etude No. 4 -- "Mazeppa", and Prokofiev's Third Piano Sonata. I'm not sure whether this was the greatest audition program, but I loved performing all of the pieces and I played them well.

Best wishes to you as you prepare for your auditions!

- Greg

Solo Recital Programming

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hello Greg,
I am a Senior Music Education student and was wondering if you had any ideas for a senior recital program design. I play the Alto Saxophone but I thought that maybe you'll have some different aspects to bring to it.

Dear Jordan,

Gosh, I can't say I've given much thought to Alto Saxophone programs. The first programming idea that comes to mind is a group of pieces based on song, capitalizing on the lyrical nature of your instrument. You could create your own transcriptions (it's really easy - just play the vocal line). ...perhaps a Schubert song or two, Faure (Apres un reve), Rachmaninoff, even Bach. Then you could include a couple more recent songs - a jazz standard, and a sophisticated pop ballade. A friend of mine played transcriptions of Sigur Ros and Radiohead on his senior recital. Is it sacrilegious to transcribe classical songs for sax? I don't really think so. I think such a program it would highlight just how much today's pop music has in common with 18th and 19th century music.

I wouldn't recommend filling the whole program with song transcriptions - too much of a good thing! You could balance them with some virtuoso showpieces, or a meaty contemporary piece.

You should also toy with finding ways to add your friends to the recital. It's really difficult to program a solo recital that will hold an audience's attention from beginning to end. Continually changing the performing forces is an easy way to prevent monotony. It will also help bring in more audience members! A good rule of thumb is to increasingly add more people to the stage and end with the most, although sometimes the reverse can be surprisingly effective.

I wish you and your audience a wonderfully enjoyable program and performance!