The next installment in my exploration of the new ABRSM syllabus features the main pieces in the Grade 7 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 (click here for links to previews for other grades):
The complete video walk-throughs for a selection of four of the ABRSM Grade 7 pieces are now available on the Online Academy. These include detailed video walk-throughs with practice suggestions, tips on style and interpretation. Please click here to view if you are an Online Academy subscriber or click here if you’d like to to subscribe.
New workshop series!
As a complement to my Online Academy resources, I am also running a series of online workshops. These workshops will cover repertoire in addition to topics such as scales, sight-reading and preparation. The format will be interactive with opportunities for questions and answers. Please click here further information.
Grade 7 Repertoire Overview
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):
J. S. Bach: Sinfonia No.15 in B minor, BWV 801
Bach’s aims for the Inventions and Sinfonias were to encourage composition (an understanding and appreciation of musical structure), to foster good playing in two and three parts (or voices), and above all “to arrive at a cantabile style of playing”. Apart from good tone, a singing style relies on phrase shaping, an appropriate range of dynamics and colour, as well as articulation.
Beethoven: Bagatelle in Eb (No.1 from Seven Bagatelles, Op. 33)
Beethoven wrote short pieces (which he called “trifles”) throughout his creative life, which he published in three collections. This piece is the first from the earliest set, op. 33. In rondo form (ABACABA with a generous coda), Beethoven brings variety to the main theme whenever it comes back. Graceful throughout with touches of humour, the player will need to respond imaginatively when phrases repeat.
A3 Telemann: Vivace
Georg Philipp Telemann was an exact contemporary of J. S. Bach, and in his day the more famous of the two. This energetic Vivace, from a set of Fantasias for the harpsichord, is in Italian concerto style, where we feel the effect of tutti and solo sections in alternation. There is plenty of scope for a wide dynamic range, at the discretion of the performer.
Fauré: Andante moderato (No. 5 from Pièces brèves, Op. 84)
Originally written as a sight-reading test for the students of the Paris Conservatoire, this piece requires a sensitive ear for tone, colour and layering of sound as well as considerable delicacy with the pedalling. The pedal markings given in the score are by no means comprehensive but serve as a starting point. I recommend some hand redistributions for the rising arpeggio figures, allowing the left hand to take some of the notes.
Grieg: Sarabande (No. 2 from Holberg Suite, Op. 40)
Grieg’s Holberg Suite is neo-baroque in style. It is as though the composer was looking for inspiration from Baroque forms and elements of Baroque style (contrapuntal lines, ornaments, clear cadences into related keys, and so on). The Sarabande still has all the hallmarks of Grieg’s style – inventive melodic lines, generous pianistic textures and Romantic harmonies. Plenty of pedal is required to bring this piece off; timing the pedal to avoid blurring the ornaments will require practice.
Ni Hongjin: Cradle Song (No. 3 from Suite of the Zhuang People’s Village)
Chinese pianist and composer, Ni Hongjin composed her suite in 1979, giving a musical account of the village life of the Zhuang people from southern China. Do not be put off by the six sharps in the key signature of Cradle Song; pieces with lots of black notes lie very nicely under the hand, and the feel of F# major is actually very comfortable. The left hand contributes much to this piece, and there are a variety of different pedalling possibilities depending on the player’s good taste.
Madeleine Dring: Pink Minor (No. 1 from Colour Suite)
Pink Minor comes from Madeleine Dring’s Colour Suite, composed in 1963. A study in rhythm, this jazz-style piece is in rondo form, the main theme varied each time it returns. Even though there is no comment in the score, the dotted rhythms work best when they are not too sharp but realised as triplets.
Ibert: Le petit âne blanc (No. 2 from Histoires)
This charming character piece is full of colour and contrasts, inviting the performer to come up with their own imagery, or a story line from the imagination. Make this as vibrant and detailed as you can! The mood is happy at the start, but after a while the little donkey’s delicate trotting (and occasional contented braying) is disturbed by a dark, chromatic inner voice that leads to a middle section that is much livelier and more exuberant. The player will need to develop control over light, bouncy staccato notes, and repeated chords.
Rhian Samuel: The Therapy of Moonlight (No. 1 from A Garland for Anne)
The title of Welsh composer Rhian Samuel’s piece comes from a poem by Anglo-American poet Anne Stevenson, describing the winter landscape of her home in Snowdonia. This beautifully constructed, atmospheric piece makes full use of the different registers of the piano, exploring a dynamic range from ppp to fff.