How to program a solo recital

July 18, 2019, 7:02 PM · I need advice on how to go about picking out repertoire for a future recital next year.
How much should the repertoire be contrasting or non-contrasting? How do professionals usually go about programming concerts and recitals?

Replies (9)

Edited: July 18, 2019, 7:31 PM · From the recitals I've seen, it usually goes like this:

Classical "appetizer"

Famous classical sonata

Boring contemporary piece that the performer seems to enjoy more than the audience

Another "short and sweet" classical piece

Scherzo Tarantelle and Hungarian Dance

And three rounds of applause.

July 18, 2019, 8:30 PM · Most recitals these days are 60 or 90 minutes (including intermission), rather than 2 hours. A professional two-hour recital will often have a "serious" first hour (sonata-heavy) and a "showpiece" second hour.

If you are doing an undergrad solo recital, it likely has requirements that will determine your program, which you will figure out with the guidance of your teacher. In many cases, undergrad recitals have a concerto requirement; by contrast, in modern "professional" recitals, a concerto-with-piano is basically never okay.

July 18, 2019, 10:28 PM · I have this idea of planning a recital around some motto to theme. A half serious example: The theme would be "coup de foudre" ("falling in love" does not quite have same ring).

It would start with Tartini's "Didone abbandonata", followed by one of the sonatas Mozart wrote for and played with Regina Strinasacchi (to whom--like to many women--he was strongly attracted). The program would close with Othmar Schoeck's sonata in D, which he dedicated to Steffi Geyer.

BTW Steffi Geyer was a famous Hungarian violinist at the time. Bartok was very much in love with her and so apparently was Schoeck who dedicated to her not only the sonata but also his fist violin concerto--with no amorous success. She came to Zurich, Switzerland I believe at first to avoid World War I. Eventually she married a lawyer, stayed put and taught at the conservatorium. One of her students was Aida Stucki who in turn was the teacher of Anne Sophie Mutter. Geyer is Mutter's violinistic grandmother.

My project was never quite serious and failed to get off the ground for lack of a pianist who could handle the Schoeck.

Edited: July 18, 2019, 10:37 PM · "I have this idea of planning a recital around some motto to theme."

If I were planning a recital, my theme would be "Stuff I can play pretty well." I recommend, if you have not done a lot of recitals in the past, to concentrate most of your planning bandwidth on practicality.

Edited: July 19, 2019, 10:31 AM · For a student/college recital you have to have a variety of techniques and music eras, so it will not have an aesthetic focus. For my faculty recitals I like to have a theme. Last year I did stuff from Spain and Latin America. My next one will be music from East Europe; Bartok, Enescu, etc. What really helps is that I will not be trying to play anything beyond my technical limits, and I want my shows to be entertaining (!).
July 19, 2019, 3:14 AM · The late Aaron Rosand had his own preference on how to program a recital. You can find it in a video he did for the Violin channel on youtube.

Here's the link:

July 19, 2019, 10:10 PM · Thank you all for taking the time to respond, a lot of helpful and interesting info!
July 20, 2019, 8:24 AM · Recitals I heard generally started with something baroque - but that's before period instruments swept all before them!
July 20, 2019, 8:36 AM · Please--for the love of all things sacred (and profane)--don't do all the repeats if you program a Bach solo sonata.

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