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#1988561 - 11/19/12 01:58 PM Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose?
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 622
Loc: Norway
I'm considering to register for the Piano Bridges amateur pianist competition next summer. In case it will be the first time I try something like this, and although I don't have any great ambitions to be among the winners, I hope to avoid doing really badly. This competition runs in two rounds. For the first round a programme of 10 - 15 minutes is required, and for those making it to the second rouund a 20 - 30 minute programme should be prepared.

I have listened to some recordings from the 2012 competition, and find that pieces selected differ quite a lot in length and difficulty. I think I go for pieces that are not too difficult. I'm considering a Bach Partita and a Haydn Sonata. However, another option is to combine shorter pieces from different composers. For instance some Songs Without Words of Mendelssohn, some Grieg, and perhaps a Faure composition. This competition also honours pieces written by composers related to Saint-Petersburg, and it is perhaps a good idea to include such a piece.

Do anyone have any experience with such competitions? Any idea what a mixed programme should contain? Are there any recommendations about the order in which the pieces are performed? And do anyone know what the jury tends to focus on?

Any input about this is welcome.

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#1988585 - 11/19/12 03:13 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17966
Loc: Victoria, BC
It's pretty difficult to answer your question, not knowing what your level of performance is, nor what composers you feel comfortable playing, nor what you already have in your repertoire, nor how long it might take you to learn and totally master some new material.

For something like this, I would think it would be highly advisable to play music that you know very well and particularly enjoy playing.

That said, I don't think that a Bach Partita and a Haydn Sonata would be a particularly good combination :
- First : A (complete) Bach Partita and a (complete) Haydn Sonata would take more than 15 minutes to perform, even without repeats.
- Second : I would think you would want to contrast the Baroque or the Classical with a Romantic, Impressionist or Modern piece for a greater sense of your handling of different styles.
- Third : In some competitions, you cannot repeat what you play in the first round for the second round which means that you have to decide on two different programs, with appropriate contrasts in each.

What repertoire do you already have that could be suited for this competition? What does your teacher say about your possible choices? Surely he/she knows your strengths, weaknesses, learning patterns better than strangers on an Internet forum.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1988599 - 11/19/12 04:15 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 622
Loc: Norway
Bruce,
I didn't expect very specific recommendations about what to select for the competition, and I find your reply quite useful. It is actually a very good point that I should select music that I'm comfortable playing. This should be self-evident, but it is very tempting to be over-ambitious and select pieces that are maybe too difficult.

I also agree that the combination Bach + Haydn is perhaps is not the best one. The compositions I have in mind are, however within my "comfort" range, and I can perhaps select one of them, or just play some of the movements.

Finally I got the point of including pieces from different periods and not just play early music. I love playing Shostakovich preludes, but maybe this is risky business in front of a Russian audience....

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#1988604 - 11/19/12 04:23 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17966
Loc: Victoria, BC
Do the competition rules specify anything more than program length?

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#1988612 - 11/19/12 04:53 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 622
Loc: Norway
Not really. It should be from the classical repertoire, and pieces by Saint-Petersburg composers are particularly welcome.

Moreover there are two classes, one for amateurs with a diploma, and one for non-educated amateurs. I belong to the last group, and have been working mostly alone without supervision.

You may check out details about the Piano bridges event under the events/competitions forum. It takes place in Saint-Petersburg and is pretty convenient for me since it isn't more than two hours flight from Oslo.

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#1988773 - 11/20/12 01:00 AM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
Mark_C Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 19743
Loc: New York
Main thing: In your program planning, concentrate mainly on the 1st round, and most especially on your first piece.

Next highest priority: In your program planning, concentrate mainly on the 1st round, and most especially on your first piece. grin

I'd say it a third time if I didn't think it would be ridiculous.

To this extent, in my opinion the planning the program for an amateur competition is entirely different from planning the program for a solo recital. It took me a while to realize it. When we plan a recital, most of us usually think of the overall thing, the overall arch, and that was how I initially planned my competition programs too. But here's the thing....actually a few things.

First of all, in most of the competitions, the majority of contestants don't get past the first round. Reaching the second round is a major accomplishment, and to a surprising extent, it requires something special -- I don't mean unusual, just real good in a way that sounds both competent and interesting. And also, if we put ourselves in the place of the judges, it's not hard to imagine that first impressions are extremely important. They are sitting there listening to dozens of contestants -- amateur contestants -- and I think they wouldn't be human if they didn't look for shortcuts in their task. One of the main shortcuts for most judges, I think, is gathering an opinion of each contestant very quickly -- I mean within seconds. While this may seem unfair, and maybe even impossible, I think most of us do it all the time when we hear someone for the first time, even if we don't think of it that way: we get an idea of what kind of pianist we're hearing almost immediately. That doesn't mean we can't revise the opinion as we go along, or that we don't write off an initial stumble to "nerves" and give the person another chance in our minds, but we do form quick impressions, and usually they stick -- among other reasons because usually they're accurate. Your first piece is very important, and the opening of the first piece is especially important.

So: The main consideration for the first round is that the piece(s) be very comfortable and secure, and (similar to what Bruce said) that it be music that you love. Absolutely don't pick pieces that you think will be impressive unless you really love them, and that you're secure with them. Otherwise, it's unlikely to work. Unless you're a spectacular pianist (in which case it doesn't matter what you pick because you'll do well regardless), the judges won't be very impressed just because a piece is "impressive." (If you love Shostakovich and feel quite secure with it, that would be great.)

Also, most contestants are most likely to feel most nervous in the 1st round (please pardon the three "mosts") grin ....so this is an extra reason to pick pieces that are among your best and most comfortable. If you get past the 1st round, you will probably relax considerably and feel like you're on a roll, and that the rest is gravy. In the 2nd round you should still pick pieces that are quite comfortable, but you probably can afford to be at least a little more adventurous.

Good luck!

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#1988857 - 11/20/12 08:36 AM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
RonaldSteinway Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1486
FIrst of all, you have to know your ability. As I had said many times, there are four levels of amateur pianists:

1. First rounder - These people will never go to the second round.
2. Second rounder - These people will have big chance to advance to semi, but will never go to final in a big amateur competition, such as Boston, Paris, Chicago, Van Cliburn, etc. They may get into final is small competitions.
3. Third rounder - These people are very good, they can consistently get into final, but will never place.
4. Winner - These people are contenders for prices.

If you think you are type 1 or 2, Mark's advice is the perfect. Don't even bother preparing the final pieces. Most contestants fall into type 1 and 2.

Good luck!

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#1988869 - 11/20/12 09:04 AM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 622
Loc: Norway
Since I never participated before I can't tell in which group I belong. Most important for me would just be to participate and maybe meet other people with the same hobby and get some inspiration.
Focusing on the first round makes sense to me. And I also see the point of making a good first impression.
I don't know how big the St.Petersburg event is, but the jury members are highly merited people. I have not decided yet if I participate or not, but it would be an interesting experience.

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#1988917 - 11/20/12 11:15 AM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
RonaldSteinway Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1486
Actually, it is not difficult to determine in which category you will fall.

1. If you were a prodigy, you are in 3 or 4.
2. If you have a piano degree, you will at least the top of group 1 or the bottom of group 2.
3. If you have a piano degree from top conservatories (Julliard, Moscow, etc), you will be solid 2 or even 3/4.
4. If you are an adult who was always afraid of competing when you were young, or fell apart when you were young (kids), you will be either 1 or the top of 1.

Of course, this is a rough generalization....

Again...have fun!!!!

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#1988940 - 11/20/12 12:18 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 622
Loc: Norway
I have no degree from any music school or conservatory. Fortunately the Piano Bridges competition have one class for people without musical education. The minimum age is 17 years, and this leaves out most of the prodigies.

I'm an adult, but until recently I didn't know that amateur pianist competitions existed. Otherwise I would probably have tried to participate long ago.

Anyhow I seem to be somewhere in the "1" category. Therefore I think it is wise to focus on the first part and try avoid stumbling in the beginning.

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#1988977 - 11/20/12 02:18 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
RonaldSteinway Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1486
For the people falling into category 1 (including me), the most important thing is to have fun, and try to conquer ourselves. As long as we can play well in front of people, it is already an accomplishment. Getting into the second round is equal to winning the competition. Getting to final is very difficult, if not impossible.

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#1988992 - 11/20/12 03:34 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 622
Loc: Norway
I fully agree. Having fun is the primary objective. So then I should select pieces allowing me to have fun in front of the jury and the audience, in other words not too risky stuff.

Do all people participating at such competitions play everything off memory, or do some of them use sheets?

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#1989000 - 11/20/12 03:53 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
RonaldSteinway Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/08
Posts: 1486
Every competition is different, but so far only Houston Chopin Amateur that requires to play by heart. The rests allow us to use book.

For the first round, you need to play the best you can. Playing clean gives better chance to advance for most people than playing something risky, and you cannot play well. Second round, you need to play both well and pretty difficult pieces. St. Petersburg competition is considered a small competition, only two rounds. If you want to join the standard one, you should join Paris or Warsaw.

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#1989013 - 11/20/12 04:37 PM Re: Amateur pianist competition - which music should I choose? [Re: Ganddalf]
Ganddalf Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 622
Loc: Norway
St.Petersburg is fine for me. I would like to also spend some time as a tourist, and this city is very interesting. Besides this I can speak some Russian, and this gives me a good opportunity to get in touch with other participants.

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