Continuing my exploration of the new ABRSM syllabus, this week I am having a look at the pieces in the main book for Grade 5 (click here to view my previous post featuring Grade 4, click here for Grade 3, and click here to view Grade 2). The following video is a preview where I pick out a selection of pieces from each main list (A, B, and C) for the grade:

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The following are brief overviews of each of the main pieces (an index with links to the full videos on the Online Academy is available here):

LIST A

J.F.F. Burgmüller: La chevaleresque (No. 25 from 25 études faciles et progressives, Op.100) 

The last étude from Burgmüller’s evergreen op. 100 set, La chevaleresque. We can see the little horse trotting – maybe in a circus or maybe showing off at a dressage event. Either way the moves are highly organised, elegant and controlled. Sometimes translated as “The Spirit of Chivalry” the title has connotations of gallantry (courtesy between men and women).

T. A. Arne: Presto (2nd movt from Sonata No. 6

A lively and joyous English jig from the composer of Rule, Brittania!, there are plenty of opportunities to explore various different touches, textures and articulations. Don’t let the ornaments put you off – trills placed on quavers may be played as acciacaturas (crushed notes). 

Handel: Toccata in G minor, HWV 586 

From the verb toccare (to touch), this Toccata offers vast scope for clarity in the ornamentation, phrasing and subtle articulation. Depending on the player’s choice, it may be played expressively and on the slow side, or faster and sprightlier. 

LIST B

A. Beach: Arctic Night (No.1 from Eskimos, Op. 64)

This descriptive piece by American composer Amy Beach is full of colour and expressive possibilities. The player will need to respond to the changes in the bleak landscape, using the pedal sensitively. 

Nevada: Starry Dome (No.15 from Piano Meditation

This meditation for piano is rather hypnotic and will be a popular choice because of its technical accessibility and the calming mood it creates. There is a rhythmic challenge with the syncopations in the 5/4 bars, and pedalling will need some care. 

Tchaikovsky: Douce rêverie (No. 21 from Album pour enfants, Op. 39) 

From Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young, this beautiful piece requires sensitivity of touch, careful balance between the hands and attention to phrasing and pedalling to bring out its many expressive qualities.

LIST C

Gillock: Mister Trumpet Man (from New Orleans Jazz Styles

In this effective recital piece we hear a jazz trumpeter in dialogue with the band. The main melodic line requires a degree of freedom within the swung style (triplet quavers). Pay close attention to the dynamic changes, and the accents. 

Heather Hammond: Changing Times (from Cool Piano 5)

We find two time signatures – 4/4, featuring an expressive RH melody with a flowing LH accompaniment in quavers, and then a contrasting jazz waltz in 3/4, faster and with zingy syncopations. 

Prokoviev: Tarantella (No. 4 from Musiques d’enfants, Op. 65) 

Prokoviev’s Music for Children was composed in 1935 and contains 12 pieces with descriptive titles. The Tarantella is one of the best examples of this type of dance piece, featuring spinning patterns in both hands and plenty of quirky harmonic and rhythmic features that make Prokoviev’s style so engaging. 

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