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This week I began choosing repertoire for my 2010-11 solo concerts.  The unsettled nature of the process makes me crazy.

The plan is to find several groups that can be mixed and matched, depending on the requirements of each concert series.  Almost every concert needs to be a different length of time, for example.

I hope that telling you what’s in my brain during this time, with all its variables, will help you choose a program, or raise a few questions, or encourage you to think.

What follows has been expanded from my practice log, Tuesday through Friday.


My goal was to practice for at least an hour.

I played all Bach, all the time, reading through 5 Bach Preludes and Fugues.

Opening a program with Bach works very well for me.  There was no need to eliminate pieces yet, so I only wrote down my choices for the day.

Total time:  1-1/2 hrs.  I love it when that happens!


I read Messiaen’s Fantasie Burlesque well enough to hear harmonic changes.  Where to place this on a program is an open question right now.  I like the piece, and don’t think audiences would know it.

One concert series I’ve played on twice features performances as an extended prelude to the church service.  This piece wouldn’t work there.

Next, I read through some music with an “Internet Group” in mind.  There are a few composers I’ve communicated with via Twitter whose music I’m interested in.

This idea led to reading one piece from a set, and 3 variations from a different composer.  The general mood seemed to be about nocturnes.

So then I thought of following those pieces with Gershwin’s Sleepless Night. That one should be a slam-dunk ~ an easy mood to call up!

A good followup to that might be Spanish Prelude, also by Gershwin. Upon reading through it, the music seems much easier to play than listening caused me to think.

And then I looked at Schumann’s Kinderszenen.  I’ve read some of it in the past, but never felt comfortable.  Maybe it need to cook in the back of my brain.  Today it felt good. So I read more movements than previously.

Today, these pieces felt like character songs, something I’ve had lots of experience performing.  Also, they are more laid back than the music on concerts I’ve played recently.

Goal for tomorrow:  think about Kinderszenen as the core of a program.


Today looked like a good time to narrow the Bach choices to 2.  I concentrated on runs, playing hands separately and focusing on fingering.

My inner sight-reader loves to take over when I’m learning music.  To keep a lid on this tendency, I hold the tempo and stay alert, practicing short phrases.

For example, when there is an octave, thumb to 5th finger in the right hand, sometimes the next passage is a scale upward from the 5th finger’s note.  If I don’t pay close attention, I’ll be sitting on that note with my thumb!  It’s much easier to get the right notes when sight-reading that way, but it won’t be legato, and may even create an unwanted accent.

When a sight-reading glitch happens, I will back up, find a fingering that works for the music, and get that into my hand.

I’m happy to have the time to notice!  Learning music during “crunch” times is different, more pressured.

Some fingerings provided by the publisher don’t fit my hands.  So, by playing under tempo, I can feel the sweep in my hand and hear what works and what doesn’t.  Then I write in the fingerings that work for me.

That comes from experience.  By now, I know very well what my hands will do on stage, whether I’ve practiced a certain fingering or not!  So it saves a lot of time to deal with that right from the start.

After making some decisions about Bach, I tried a little Messiaen again.  I still think it’s a nice piece.

Then I decided to read all the Theme and Variations. That worked very well, and will fit in with the Bach and Schumann.  So it looks like the other “Internet” composer I’d been considering will work better another time.

Finally, I worked on the 2nd movement of the Schumann in detail, mostly hands alone.  I’d never read it before that I can remember.


Everything still has to be timed.  But it is looking like the 1st Bach choice will be enough.  The Prelude is fairly long.

With Schumann as the main event on the program, it’s important to protect its character.  Preceding it with something too showy will cause the audience to have difficulty hearing it.  So, in that case, the 1st Bach Prelude is the better choice.

In the Bach, I practiced fingering and listened for legato.  Again, it’s important for me to avoid the morph over to sight-reading mode.

After that, I got going on more movements of the Schumann:  #’s 8, 2, 9, and 3.

Then I translated the titles.  Even though these are instrumental pieces, it’s crucial to translate everything. How else do you know what you’re playing about?

How about you?  Please share your experiences with programming in the comment section below!

Also, do you find yourself sight-reading when learning notes and fingerings?  How do you handle that?

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