When auditioning for schools, or summer programs, you want to show your best side. Choosing repertory that brings out your strengths is a must. Here are some things to consider:
1. Play music that is suitable for your level.
Struggling through Bach’s very difficult 6th Suite will not make as good an impression as beautifully playing a technically easier suite. You not only want to show your mastery of the instrument, at your particular level, you want to show that you understand you may not be ready to play everything in the repertory. You don’t want to fail playing something for which you don’t yet have the technique.
2. Which concerto should you choose?
You’re in a quandary. You’re comfortable playing Saint-Saëns however, you’re sure most people played it when they were twelve and now are on to Dvorak or Schumann. Will you look like a wimpy kid if you don’t switch pieces? Absolutely not! (See No.1) You will make a better case for yourself playing something in your comfort zone. You might even enjoy the audition with that choice.
3. Don’t sweat the flashy stuff.
If you love playing Paganini or Elfentanz, go for it! If not, then choose something that suits you. There are many pieces that are considerably challenging though they may not be called a showpiece. If you wish to depart from the required repertory, I would recommend you contact the school, or program, to be sure your choice is acceptable. While I do recommend staying with the requirements as much as possible, I recently heard of a program accepting a movement from the Shostakovich Cello Sonata as the technical piece. Though the sonata is not without it’s difficulties, I was quite surprised and my student, delighted. There you go.
4. Choosing an étude.
Popper etudes seem to be often misunderstood when I hear them in auditions. Before you choose one be sure to determine the point of the exercise. Is it speed? Knowing various positions on the instrument? Ease and accuracy of shifting? Intonation? Maybe it’s a good bow stroke, such as spiccato, or martélé? Whichever étude you choose, be sure to play it at an appropriate speed (is it an Allegro, or an Andante?) and phrase it as beautifully as you would the Strauss Sonata (Popper and Strauss were friends after all).
5. The Contemporary Piece. Oops…I don’t really have one.
There are so many great contemporary pieces for you to choose from. The variety is truly vast with something for everyone. It’s a good idea to have one in your fingers at all times. Working on something contemporary can really bring a fresh eye to standard repertory. Here is a brief list of works that are relatively short and range from tonal to experimental.
Benjamin Britten “Tema Sacher” (1976)
Marti Epstein “So Near, So Far” (2011)
John Harbison “Suite for Solo Cello” (1993)
John Kennedy “Even the Stones Breathe” (2011)
Donald Martino “Suite of Variations on Medieval Melodies for Solo Cello” (1952)