This is the second in my 3-part blog series about the music in the new AMEB Series 17 publications released in November 2014. My first part, showing my favourite pieces for Grades P-3 is here.
In this article, I'll be focussing on the music found in Grades 4 - 6, with some of my thoughts and a video of a performance of the piece so you can get a feel for it yourself.
Study Op 46 No 1 - Heller
This piece is great for developing finger work equally in right and left hand and is naturally segmented into very practice-able chunks. I think the speed in the video is definitely pushing the Grade 4 boundary, so don't base your teaching on this tempo!
Kleine Studie (Little Study) Op 68 No 14 - Schumann
It's great to see some lyrical Schumann at this level and this piece won't disappoint. Students will really enjoy the flowing sound of the arpeggios and the rich chord changes. Great for teaching about pedalling, chords and inversions and fluid motion of the arms and wrists.
Bourree - TWV 32:4 No 12 - Telemann
I think this piece will appeal to a wide range of students and I thoroughly enjoyed playing it. The baroque harmonies and sequential passages that traverse through the circle of fifths are both aurally and physically satisfying to play, falling under the hands well. Students will need to be comfortable with octave arpeggios in both hands.
Sonatine No 6 in Dm from 34 Sonatines - Benda
I wasn't very familiar with the music of Georg Benda until Series 17 and have very much enjoyed getting to know his music. This is a versatile Sonatina that will challenge students in balance, articulation and control and will require both attention to detail and sensitive playing.
Bolero Op 35 No 4 - Casella
I was so pleased to see this back on the list as I'd played this when I was a student! Great fun with repetitive LH bolero pattern and some unusual melodic figurations over the top. Also a great opportunity to discuss and explore more Latin music.
Gavotte Op 123 No 4 - Chaminade
Very much in the classical style, this is a fun piece with both flowing lines and big chords that will appeal to many students. Just watch that it's not too similar to your List A or B choices.
La source Op 109 No 5 - Burgmuller
Getting the balance right on this little gem of a piece may be quite a challenge for many students given that the RH melody is right in the middle of the texture. Excellent teaching piece for control of the fingers and balancing melody v accompaniment. Good enough to be a professional encore!
Gigue No 4 - Tansman
Very much channelling Bach (despite being written in the 20th Century), this great little Gigue is fun to play and will be enjoyed by many students. Challenges of running passages in 6/8 and adding dynamic interest and keeping the melodic interest balanced as it's shared between the hands.
Allegro Moderato Op 168 No 4 - Diabelli
There's a fair bit of Diabelli in Series 17 and with good reason: his music is engaging and an excellent way to learn the classical style in preparation for Haydn and Mozart (both of whom are also found at this level). This is a challenging but satisfying piece to learn and play and an excellent teaching piece.
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Rondo 2nd Mvt Sonatina No 6 Op 20 - Dussek
This piece was completely new to me and I'm so glad I've found it. It's a really beautiful example of the early classical style and will appeal to students of all ages. A must-learn piece at this level.
Alla Tarantella Op 39 No 2 - MacDowell
Challenging piece (esp at Prestissimo speed), but one that many students will enjoy the thrill of playing. Reminded me of a Moskowski etude. Good challenge in control and coordination, especially in sections where the hands are in sync playing octaves.
Gigue from French Suite No 6 BWV 817 - JS Bach
This is one of my favourites from my own piano studies. I remember learning this for my own Grade 6 exam, so it's great to see that it's back in the syllabus book. I think just about every teacher will already know this piece as it's a real crowd-pleaser and a great introduction to Bach's writing at this level.
Etude Op 45 No 20 - Heller
Heller is one of the great writers of student etudes and this is a case in point. Musical, challenging, grand and interesting, this will be a winner for many students at this level. It involves lots of octaves, so might not be suitable for really young pianists.
Etude Op 45 No 20 - Heller
If you're looking for something completely different for a List A piece, then check out this piece by Maddox (b. 1936). It is a study in playing even, alternating dyads in one hand with a melody in the other (the opening reminded me of a 21st Century slow version of the Chopin Etude in 3rds!). Not for everyone, but definitely interesting.
Rondo Op 18 No 1 - Vorisek
While there are two well-known pieces by Beethoven and Haydn on the list at this level, I quite enjoyed exploring this piece that I didn't know by Jan Vaclav Vorisek. It has a rollicking rhythm in 6/8 and flows well under the hands. Students will enjoy experimenting with fingering of the repeated notes and the challenge of incorporating all the dynamic shifts.
Allegro Moderato Op 3 No 5 - Greig
Grieg is a master of small pieces that are particularly appealing around the Grade 5-7 level. This one features a mixture of sections and challenges, all with that distinct Norwegian style.
Allegro Moderato Op 3 No 5 - Greig
This is a quirky piece that caught my attention. It's a bit of a challenge to pull-off (and the boy in the video does it extraordinarily well, in my opinion) but a great piece, especially for someone who has studied the Mazurkas of Chopin in the past.
Soir Op 65 No 22 - Prokofiev
Not your usual Prokofiev by any means. This piece is a little gem. In simple Ternary form with a pedal-like middle section and straightforward accompaniment in the A section, this is very achivable at this grade level and will be thoroughly enjoyed by students. Definitely consider this for your programs.
Conclusion & Where to buy
I've been really enjoying delving into Series 17 and feel the consultants, editors and publishers have done a great job putting this mix of music together. Definitely worth checking out in your studios this year and remember that you can still use the previous two Series and the manual list with your students.
There is no doubt that out of all the exam boards I've used and compared, the AMEB has by far the largest selection of pieces available.
You can purchase these books at any Australian book store, or online via the AMEB website. Teacher and student packs are available, offering groups of books and lesson packs for students with diaries, etc.
Have fun and let me know your favourites by leaving a comment below.