Author Topic: Piano Diploma  (Read 2262 times)

CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Piano Diploma
« on: April 15, 2020, 10:12:01 pm »
Well - have firmed up a list of pieces for my Trinity College Piano Diploma and am using the additional lockdown time to start getting the pieces in order.  For Grade 8 my pieces lasted about 12 minutes, for the ACTL they last 35 minutes.  So far practice for half the material takes a good 90 minutes to practice.  For the record the pieces are:

Poulenc - Trois Novelettes - 1 & 2
Beethoven Piano Sonata no5 Op 10 no1  in C Minor
Brahms - Intermezzo OP 118 No2 in A Major
Prokofiev - Visions Fugitives Op 22 Nos 10, 8, and 14
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hellymedic

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2020, 10:15:46 pm »
Good Luck!

Hope this lock-down is creative and productive!

Will you YouTube your efforts?

nicknack

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2020, 10:35:29 pm »
Good luck with that!

I intended to do a diploma after grade 8 but got bored with playing the same stuff over and over again. Not my thing really I think. I wish you well.  :thumbsup:
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Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2020, 10:40:11 pm »
I love that Beethoven sonata. I think it was the second of his sonatas that I learned (Op 49 no 1 was the first, not surprisingly!), but I have always struggled to get the 3 triplets against 4 semiquavers in the last movement.

I did a Brahms intermezzo for my LGSM but I just checked and it was one from op 119. I ballsed it up spectacularly and have hardly looked at it in the intervening 39 years. I still managed to pass though, on the strength of playing Beethoven's Pathétique from memory and Bach's prelude & fugue in B flat major from Book 1 quite assuredly. Mine was a teaching, rather than a performance, diploma so the viva voce counted for quite a lot and I scored well with that.

IIRC the pass mark was 75%. I scored 77%.
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CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2020, 11:18:11 pm »
I thought about the Pathetique as I have played it before, although not to exam standard, and it was my mum's favourite piece, but my teacher advised me against it as it is so well known that every mistake is immediately obvious, whereas there is a bit more leeway in less well known parts of the repertoire.

Op 5 is in my favourite key (C Minor) and has big structures that play to my strengths - the Poulenc is much more of a challenge.  I'd happily learn all of the Vision Fugitives - I bought the music my a very lucky mistake in 1984 and those are the only pieces that aren't new to me.  No 10 has several three part sections, which challenges my not particularly high level of coordination but is coming together.  (when looking at pieces the two things I find most difficult are 3 parts spread across two hands and bits where there are 4 or 5 notes against 3 between the two hands - there's some of that in the Brahms.

I've never really played Brahms before and have been more in the Liszt camp when listening, but the Intermezzo is absolutely beautiful, although will need a lot of work to get it to the right precision.

I hadn't thought about YouTube but might have Vision Fugitive no 8 up to scratch soon.  These pieces were written in 1915-17 and I always have a vision of novice soldiers trying to march in step and meeting Norman Wisdom like fates.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2020, 10:33:50 am »
I suppose when I did the Pathetique it wasn't so well known as it was a relatively new work...  :P :P
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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2020, 10:56:22 am »
I suppose when I did the Pathetique it wasn't so well known as it was a relatively new work...  :P :P

It was written in 1798 so you are older than you look, Wow.

Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2020, 08:24:55 pm »
I suppose when I did the Pathetique it wasn't so well known as it was a relatively new work...  :P :P

It was written in 1798 so you are older than you look, Wow.
Well it was well under 200 years old when I played it for my diploma. Now it's well over 200 years old.

If you look at Bach's keyboard music, much of it wasn't even published until at least 50 years after his death. The odd 50 years here and there do make a difference.
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hellymedic

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2020, 09:28:37 pm »
(click to show/hide)

Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2020, 11:21:16 pm »
You guys must be virtuosos, I've taken it up again during this epoch but am nowhere near your level! I got to grade 5 when I was a kid.
I find a lot of it is being able to read the music (recognise the notes) fast enough. My sister's husband is reasonable at it but can't read music at all, just learnt some pieces from watching YouTube apparently...he does also tend to have a habit of playing with the pedal down all the time which makes everything around very ... legato  :)
I quite like blues as well as classical.
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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2020, 08:36:08 am »

I find a lot of it is being able to read the music (recognise the notes) fast enough.
I can recognise the notes; it's playing* them quickly enough to keep up with the rest of the orchestra.

*double bass grade 4.

CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2020, 09:50:24 am »
You guys must be virtuosos, I've taken it up again during this epoch but am nowhere near your level! I got to grade 5 when I was a kid.
I find a lot of it is being able to read the music (recognise the notes) fast enough. My sister's husband is reasonable at it but can't read music at all, just learnt some pieces from watching YouTube apparently...he does also tend to have a habit of playing with the pedal down all the time which makes everything around very ... legato  :)
I quite like blues as well as classical.

I can't read the note fast enough either.  Especial when Brahms in a key signature with 3 sharps adds 4 sharps as accidentals to one chord and then 4 flats to the subsequent chord.  And that's just the right hand.  The practice I am doing right now is pretty much developing the muscle memory so that the fingers know where to go.  The real virtuosos are those who can pretty much look at a Beethoven Sonata and give it an adequate rendering. 

But that's no different from cycling.  When I was at my best, we had a certain Richard Prebble training with our club in preparation for a successful tilt at the national 100 mile TT championships.  He could ride away from me on any terrain - and then I had to remember that even a non-climber like Mark Cavendish would have dropped Richard on our local hills.  In piano terms there are those (the two I have heard accounts of are John Ogdon and Franz Liszt) who could pretty much perform anything at first sight.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2020, 11:08:44 am »
You guys must be virtuosos, I've taken it up again during this epoch but am nowhere near your level! I got to grade 5 when I was a kid.
I find a lot of it is being able to read the music (recognise the notes) fast enough. My sister's husband is reasonable at it but can't read music at all, just learnt some pieces from watching YouTube apparently...he does also tend to have a habit of playing with the pedal down all the time which makes everything around very ... legato  :)
I quite like blues as well as classical.

I'm way, way off being a virtuoso. My sight reading is far too weak. This was brought home to me with a vengeance when our choir's Mus. Dir. came round a year or so ago to play some Mozart duets. Some of the easier ones I could do up to a pedestrian standard, but there were long periods in which I simply couldn't follow at all in the harder sections and he was playing on his own whilst I tried to be ready for the next easier bit! He told me afterwards that when he was at University, he used to sight-read duets with another student (it's possible he wasn't sight-reading I suppose) and then, when they had finished, they would play it again but transpose it up or down a semitone. That's a mind-bending skill. His duetting partner then got a job as an accompanist at the Royal Opera House.

With enough effort I can learn a piece which is perhaps not out of place in a concert hall (various Bach pieces, some Mozart sonatas, some Beethoven sonatas) and then, after enough effort, play them from memory. One of the biggest problems I am aware of is that my concentration goes and I make mistakes. I really don't like playing in front of other people, or recording myself, for this reason, and I tend to make more mistakes when I've got a microphone switched on. Mostly, my youtube recordings of me playing are a testament to Dez's editing skills as much as my proficiency. I recall the first time he made a video of me, it took about 2 hours of me playing so that he could condense it into 8 minutes or so for a Schumann impromptu. We had forgotten to move the clock on the mantelpiece and as I progress through the piece you can see the hands darting this way and that as he edited out my mistakes!

I am in awe of true virtuosos. I look at people like Andras Schiff or John Lill and their mastery shines through. When Schiff played the whole of Bach's preludes and fugues at the Proms, book 1 in 2017, book 2 in 2018, I marvelled that, firstly he was capable of memorising 2 hours' music without having to look at the score, but also that he had that many pieces "concert-ready" in one sitting. I wonder how many hours a day he has to practise in order to achieve that? I'd guess probably far fewer than one might expect. Something like the Goldberg variations is even harder in my view: it's technically more difficult than the preludes and fugues, and there's still an awful lot to play.

I was at a John Lill concert a couple of years ago and in the programme it stated that he was going to play a certain selection of pieces, but when he got to the platform he told us that he was expecting to play something else. He actually asked the audience which they would prefer to hear! I've forgotten now whether he stuck to the published programme or the one he was expecting, but it just goes to show exactly how good these people's memories must be that they have such a massive mental library of pieces that the can reel off without apparently batting an eyelid. If I remember correctly, he played a Haydn sonata, Beethoven's Appassionata, Brahms variations & fugue on a theme by Handel, and all 15 pieces from Schumann's "Kinderszenen".
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Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2020, 11:40:42 am »
@Crazy English Triathlete - am I right in thinking that the Trinity diploma is what used to be the Guildhall diploma? I think I read somewhere that the Guildhall no longer issue diplomas, so the LGSM is a thing of the past. My diploma is an LGSM.

I've just had a look at the syllabus. I see that the Trinity have 3 different diplomas. For the LGSM, there was just one level, but Trinity doesn't seem to offer a teaching diploma. I think you could choose any Beethoven sonata with the exception of the Moonlight and op49. I think any Bach prelude & fugue was acceptable. Then there was a 3rd piece. I opted for the Brahms op 119 no 2 (or at least, I followed my teacher's suggestions). I recall there being a discussion in my group (I studied for this as an evening class at the Southend college) that the Schubert Impromptus were conspicuous by their absence in the approved list.

Best of luck with it all! Keep us informed re how it's going. Do you have a plan yet for when you will take the exam? I think I studied for mine for about 2 years.
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CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2020, 05:59:55 am »
There are three levels of diploma offered by Trinity (I'm not sure if Guildhall was one of their antecedents:

ACTL - this is undergraduate level - I think achievable for me
LCTL - degree level - I have learnt one or two pieces on this list, but only for me to play to me, would take a lot of work to get to examination standard and I am not sure I could commit to that (even then I might not be successful)
FCTL - professional pianist level - big feature pieces such as the Appassionata Sonata and scary show-off pieces that top pianists record for their debut album when they get a recording contract - like Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition or Balakirev's Islamey - for true virtuosos only.

Lockdown means I'm not travelling for work (although my work is continuing) so I am getting a good hour and sometimes more a day seven days a week to practice and therefore I'm making more progress than I expected.  The challenge with piano is the time it takes to learn pieces - a three minute piece played hands separately and hands together at 1/3 speed will take 30 minutes of practice, so a 35 minute programme would take 6 hours at that speed.

Fortunately I already knew some of the Visions Fugitives (not to exam standard) and then started with the Poulenc.  So on alternate days I do "B" composers (Beethoven and Brahms) and "P" composers (Poulenc and Prokofiev).  The P composers are harder for me.  Prokofiev (IMO) was far too brainy for his own good and a minute of a Visions Fugitive has as many musical ideas as the beautifully structured Brahms Intermezzo.  With so many ideas you wouldn't pick them up on a casual listen, but to exam standard I need to bring them all out.  Poulenc marries classicism and dissonance, which makes it hard to learn, the brain wants to play an octave but the music has a 9th (my music teacher is jealous of my octave and two stretch - which is very handy for the Poulenc).

I'm finding the Brahms and Beethoven easier to learn, because they are more classical and straightforward, but I think the challenges there will come when polishing them - there will be no room for error, especially in the slow movement of the Beethoven.  And that is my main worry.  My last music lesson was two months ago and it will be easy for me to develop bad habits with the pieces that will then take a lot of unlearning.

All that said, I feel on track to take the exam in Spring 2021 and that's what I am working towards.  As it is possible for me to work from home, it is likely that my employer will have me a long way back on the list of people that need to return to the office, so I'm reckoning I will have most of the summer with time to practice, which I hope means I will get to the point where I can play all the pieces at a reasonably speed and it is then working them up to perfection.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #15 on: May 08, 2020, 08:46:46 pm »
Can your teacher not teach you online? Either live or by recording to Youtube and via email?

Small point about Prokofiev's braininess: he played chess to a very high standard, equivalent to an English county first team player and was on good terms with World Champions Capablanca and Botvinnik.

https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/prokofiev.html
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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2020, 01:27:47 am »
You might enjoy 'Play it again' by Alan Rusbridger.

In 2010 a keen amateur pianist gives himself a year to play Chopin Ballade no 1 in public.

In 2010 our keen amateur pianist is Editor of the Grauniad. He knows he has to manage Wikileaks, News of the World hacking story, and Grauniad going digital. He doesn't know he will have an Arab Spring, a Japanese Tsunami and some English riots...

In the meantime he finds time to practice 20 mins every day, choose a new piano, and meets a series of international concert pianists to discuss their thoughts on the piece and their differing approaches to it.


hellymedic

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2020, 02:27:18 am »
David is giving remote piano lessons via Zoom. He has a webcam fixed over the keyboard and other piano teachers I know are also teaching remotely. It's obviously not the same as face to face but must be better than nothing.

Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #18 on: May 09, 2020, 02:55:49 am »
Yeah, I'm getting cello lessons via zoom. It's not very good, but it keeps me moving forward.

CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2020, 08:34:08 pm »
Can your teacher not teach you online? Either live or by recording to Youtube and via email?

Small point about Prokofiev's braininess: he played chess to a very hight standard, equivalent to an English county first team player and was on good terms with World Champions Capablanca and Botvinnik.

https://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/prokofiev.html

Thank you for sharing that lovely article.  I have a biography of Prokofiev by Daniel Jaffe but have no recollection of it mentioning his chess-playing abilities.  The match against Oistrakh, where the loser had to be a concert would be a challenge for a neutral spectator.  I'd be wanting them to draw and have to play a duet.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2020, 10:08:31 am »
Something has just crossed my mind: what scales and arpeggios are there on your syllabus?

When I was doing my LGSM I calculated that I had to be proficient in more than 400 scales and arpeggios - such a huge number that it was almost impossible to structure the practice. I ended up with some pieces of card in small boxes on top of the piano, drawing one from each box to decide the key, whether I was playing in 3rds, 6th, double-thirds, major, minor, chromatic. One of the questions at the viva (this took place in the Barbican in one of the hexagonal practice rooms, a year or two before it officially opened as a concert venue, making me one of the Barbican's inaugural performers... ;) ) was along the lines of "Do you think it is necessary to practise all the different chromatic scales? Aren't they all the same?" to which my answer was an emphatic "No!" and it gave me the opportunity to explain my randomised scale practice, hoping to give all of them equal weight. They liked that answer.
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CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #21 on: May 15, 2020, 10:35:50 am »
It is a performance diploma.  32 - 38 minutes of music with a variety of styles and moods.

96 marks are for performance, split equally between:

1) Fluency & Accuracy
2) Technical Assurance & Application
3) Musical Sense and Communication

There are then 4 marks for general presentation, comportment and the programme notes.  60 is a pass and 80 is a distinction.  ACTL is undergraduate end of year 1 recital material, whereas the next level up LCTL is undergraduate end of year 3 recital material.  I'm a little nervous about the timings, I might be about 30 seconds short, and have to add something short to get the programme to the right length.  Either that or the molto adagio movement in the Beethoven might have to become glacial, or I could replace one of the easier Vision Fugitives with no 20 and leave the examiner heading off into the ether.
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CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2020, 05:32:19 pm »
Pieces are taking shape.  That is, they now sound vaguely like the pieces they are supposed to be.  I'm finding the Poulenc the hardest, perhaps because it is a style that is new to me.  And the last movement of the Beethoven - prestissimo.  Although that is the one piece that I am playing to its tempo - as fast as I (currently) possibly can.  Piano teacher is still in lockdown, but I think that I still need another month or two to learn the notes and her real value will be turning that raw material into music.

Meanwhile, having been mesmerised by Valentina Lisitsa's slow-paced rendition of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, have order the music for that.  Its on the FCTL (top level diploma) list but I think its put there because of the variations that Keith Emerson so enjoyed showing off.  And if turns out I can get my fingers around Baba Yaga's hut and into the Great Gates of Kiev, then I have piano learning plans well into the decade.
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Wowbagger

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2020, 10:25:38 am »
That sounds encouraging.

I haven't played the piano very much recently for a variety of relatively tedious household reasons, but I quite fancy a look at that Mussorgski. I recall taking our two oldest to a performance of the Ravel orchestration at the Festival Hall about 30 years ago, conducted by Paul Daniel. Our seats were alongside the organ, ad the timpanist was within arm's length. Perhaps not ideal for a rounded appreciation of the balance, but brilliant for a close-up view of the musicians.

I will also dig the Poulenc out. I played a piece of his when I was at college (can't recall what it was called now) which I rather enjoyed, but that's the only piece of Poulenc I have ever learned.
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CrazyEnglishTriathlete

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Re: Piano Diploma
« Reply #24 on: July 08, 2020, 09:06:52 pm »
The sheet music for Pictures at an Exhibition has arrived and doesn't look astonishingly difficult, say in comparison to the Messaien Vingt Regards pieces that are rated at the same level of difficulty.  There doesn't look to be lots of three handed sections or cross-rhythms that usually flummox me.  However, some of the time signatures (alternative bars of 5/4, 6/4, and 7/4) suggest that keeping the structure of some of the 'pictures' will be quite hard.  And I suspect that getting the Emerson Lake and Palmer version (or some of the orchestrated versions) will be hard to do.

I was lucky enough to see Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in his own selection of orchestrations (a eclectic mix of Funtek and Gorchakov versions depending which ones he liked) in the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto.  I was over to run a training course and this happened to be on at the time.
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