When parents are already paying for the various activities that create pressure on timetables and purse strings, not least piano lessons, as a teacher sometimes it's difficult to suggest that they buy volumes of piano repertoire for the sake of one piece... They can have these copies and explore everything in them - in an ideal world that's what a teacher would love to do. But we are often faced with realities. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day or money in the coffers for the extra editions that include 'other pieces for Grade 2'. The cynic in me says that the big music publishers and exam boards must be in cahoots to ensure a steady stream of punters, and that's why the syllabus includes Schott, Faber, Chester et al. If the volumes are already on our bookshelves, all well and good...BUT most students decide to focus their attention on the selected pieces for an exam, so they hope they have a good range to choose from. The pieces in the alternative list do seem enticing to me for this grade, though.
Teacher and students at Durbin Towers are not overly enthralled by the A list in the Grade 2 selected pieces except for A3. A1 Allegretto is a bit 'twee' and repetitive, being built on the classic I-V-I and I-II-V-I progressions. But boring is as boring does, they say. There is much that can be made of the dynamics, not only in the contrasts shown, but also with the addition of 'rise and fall' within the phrases. The descending passage from bar 18 should herald the arrival of the main theme with some grandeur. Lightness and grace in the left hand figures will show how much the beginners have mastered the earlier broken chord patterns and that they are beginning to recognise balance between the hands in melody and accompaniment pieces.
A2 Ein Madchen has obviously been arranged to make the most of articulation contrasts and signals the move towards operatic pieces in the new syllabus. This one demands even more feel for the melodic line and a sense of Mozart's operatic style. Listening to the original, so that Papageno's bells can be imagined in performance too, would be a good move. Relaxed wrists are essential in this piece to enable the delicate phrasing in Mozart's orchestrations to come out. The middle section, bars 9 - 15, is marked forte, but of course there are shades of forte to be explored here...The ending should be delivered with orchestral aplomb.
A3 La Mourisque sounds so grand, like a triumphant entrance/court processional. This piece has scored a hit with at least one of my pupils already. Is it because one can imagine such an entrance? Or is it the tambour-like feel? Or is it because it's in C major (!)? If they think it's easier, they are mistaken. The thirds must be played precisely for a start, so some Hanon-type exercises with looking and listening to the fingers are called for. The formal dance can be rehearsed by tapping rhythms in advance of practising pitch; this will signal where due accent should fall. Dynamic contrasts can be explored through open fifth and sixth exercises too. We like this one.
When it comes to the alternative pieces in this list, the Clarke Prince of Denmark's March, with its lovely ornaments, the Mozart Polonaise with exercises in thirds and sixths, and the Telemann Dolce, with its delicate, crisp, dotted rhythms, are all lovely. Decisions, decisions...
B1 Reinecke Song is dreamy, with lyricism and warmth. It's a super exercise in controlled legato and maintaining a light left hand thumb, while the melody should sing out in Mendelssohn style - indeed the melody line should be sung, lots of times, with attempts made to imitate the dynamic shading through the keys. My students are used to my vocal demonstrations, so we'll enjoy that!
B3 The Stowaway is such a fun choice and a great change to have so much interest down in the hold of the piano 'ship'. The picture is full of atmosphere if painted effectively, with the dynamics and staccato well controlled. I appreciate pieces that inspire students to get to know the bass clef a little more - so often it's bass notes that catch them unawares during sight reading. There is room for a little variation in the pp dynamic in the left hand scale passages. I think the slower metronome mark suits it better.
C1 with a 'wild Scottish groove'(!) is the Piper o' Dundee. Very much a pipes and drums marching band image, but not my favourite in this list. The staccato drumbeats are obvious, as are the left/right marching couplets. It's a style you either like or don't - you might take the high road while I take the low road - one that the boys might go for, but the other two choices in the selection are good ones, so I think pupils might opt for those.
Now then....The Cat, from Peter and the Wolf, offers many opportunities for C2 - listening to the original with narration is a must! As it is a storytelling piece, it is appropriate to have words included, and although it says that they shouldn't be read out in the exam, it's a good reminder that the imagination of a story or moving picture is vital to the performance of any descriptive piece. I always advocate writing a story/drawing a picture alongside a piece in the B or C list wherever suggested. It's been adapted from the Boosey and Hawkes edition I own; I have had many an enjoyable music lesson with it in primary schools and am pleased I can use it again here. Great choice for the extroverts, this one.
I think this will be a popular choice.
Razzamajazz by Sarah Watts for C6 is a good fun edition to have around at any time, but there are a couple of good choices on the C list for exam repertoire purposes.