The next installment in my exploration of the new ABRSM syllabus features the main pieces in the Grade 6 list. In the following video I provide some highlights and tips for a selection of pieces from each of the three lists (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

Pescetti: Allegro (4th movt from Sonata No. 8 in C

There is plenty of scope for experimentation with dynamics and articulation in this lively Allegro by Pescetti. It requires considerable agility in the right hand and solid, rhythmical support from the left.

Mozart: Allegro (3rd movt from Sonata in E -, K. 282) 

Composed when Mozart was just 19, this challenging and brilliant sonata form movement requires precision and clarity in touch, and imagination in characterising the different themes. We find just two dynamic markings (and f), leaving room for the player to add more shadings in between.

C. Nielsen: Snurretoppen (No. 2 from Humoreske- Bagateller, Op.11) 

This witty character piece is based on spinning patterns in the right hand that require a high level of technical control. Once mastered, this piece is great fun to play. Pay attention to details of phrasing and dynamics, carefully indicated by the composer, and enjoy the left hand glissando at the end. 

LIST B

Chopin: Mazurka in G minor, Op. 67 No. 2 

The mazurka is based on the Polish folk dance that originated in Mazovia, near Warsaw. Chopin wrote more than 50 mazurkas and listening to a variety of them will help develop a sense of the characteristic style. This example, in G minor, was written in the last year of Chopin’s life (1849). 

Debussy: Page d’album 

Debussy’s exquisitely crafted late miniature calls for delicacy of touch and sensitivity to the frequent changes in tempo (effectively written-out rubato)The player who chooses this piece will find the piece growing on them as they finesse it – an eye and an ear for detail are absolute requirements. 

Senfter: Erster Schmerz (from Sechs kleine Stücke für Anfänger

We might imagine an oboe solo, with gentle support from strings. Later on, a middle voice joins in and the harmony gets a whole lot more interesting. The rhythmic challenge is to match the tempo of the A section with the B section, bringing flexibility and nuanced phrasing and tonal balance to the outer sections and dignified tautness to the middle. Compare Johanna Senfter’s Erster Schmerz (First Sorrow) with Robert Schumann’s and Sergei Bortkiewicz’s pieces of the same name. 

LIST C

Martha Mier: Opening Night Jazz (from Jazz, Rags & Blues, Book 5) 

This rousing jazz piece is guaranteed to please, and to impress. With relatively few notes, Martha Mier empowers the player to sound amazing.

M. Arnold: The Buccaneer (from Eight Children’s Pieces, Op. 36) 

The Buccanneer is a highly effective show piece. Our slightly inebriated swashbuckling hero is painted in glorious technicolour by Malcolm Arnold. The player will need to be comfortable with fast repeated notes and be able to play melody and accompaniment in one hand.

Karen Tanaka: Lavender Field 

Lavender Field is a gently flowing piece where the composer invites us to “imagine weaving colour and scent with sounds”. Washed with pedal, there are some delicate moments and beautiful harmonic touches. 

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