There's a sense of excitement and anticipation among my littlest pups, as this syllabus will be their first foray into standardised piano assessment. I think it's going to be harder for them than the ones who took Grade 1 on the last syllabus, both in terms of choice and technical challenge...
What we like to play when it comes to pieces and what we would like to see on a syllabus is a subjective matter. On the whole I like the selected pieces (see below for less enthusiastic responses), although the more challenging the grade, the more enjoyable they seem to get.
Not so A3 necessarily...La donna e mobile, from Rigoletto, might appeal more to older beginners. It's definitely one for listening to different vocal interpretations, and a discussion of melody and accompaniment, before launching in. Not only has it to be appreciated vocally, thinking of the orchestra in bars 16 and 17 (complete with echo!) is important to the overall operatic feel of the piece. I would advocate feeling the left hand lifts in the first 8 bars as one-in-a-bar, rather than three. That way, the second section can really broaden towards the lingering top A.
I like the folk-song base for the questions and answers approach of B2, Gypsy Song. It reminds me of the Shepherd with his Pipe from the last syllabus Grade 3 piece, and I would visualise it in the same way - a pastoral. Bringing out the melody in the left hand well when it returns in the bass will be one of the challenges, as will differentiating between the tenuto marks and accents in the mid-section. This is definitely one for picture-playing. Very nice piece.
Would you go for B3 In the Distant Forest? Again, it is one for exploring question and answer dynamics and balance between the hands when the 'cuckoo' comes back in the bass. Perhaps if you have chosen Canaries in A section you might want to have a complete contrast! It's my second favourite in this selection, with scope for duet playing with teacher to explore the dynamics.
C2 Skipping Rope is very quick, quasi Presto. Thinking ahead to the articulation changes between left and right will require careful practice, so slowly does it and only speed up later when notes are secure.
C3 When the Saints is another for exploring different interpretations to see how the swung rhythms fit. Timings will be the main focus for practice as fluency will enable the joyful nature of the gospel tune to swing along. A nice one for those who don't have Piano Time Dance for the C4 alternative.