from the Spring 2002 issue

What are your students' favorite recital pieces?


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Introduction by Marvin Blickenstaff

electing recital repertoire is an awesome responsibility.
Will the piece capture the interest of the student, sustaining the investment required to prepare the piece for performance? Does the piece capitalize on the student's strengths? Is it constructed so that memory comes easily? Will the piece have audience appeal? Does the repertoire selected give balance to the entire program, representing a variety of styles?

Four outstanding, experienced teachers have been asked to list their students' favorite recital pieces. (Note the emphasis on the students' favorite pieces.) To make the list more "user-friendly," these student favorites are placed in categories: Classical Favorites, Contemporary Favorites, Favorites by Educational Composers, and Jazz-Pop Favorites. The writers have then added a list in the form of a P.S., mentioning some studio favorites which recently have come into their teaching repertoire.

If you have not yet selected your spring recital repertoire, this list may serve you handsomely. If your recitals are planned and underway, keep this list close at hand. These "student favorites" suggested by colleagues are likely to be duplicated in your studio. Your response to this list of repertoire may be similar to mine: a "rush" order to your music dealer.

Two footnotes: (1) There were only two duplications in the listings given by the writers. One was the Chopin "Waltz in A Minor," and the other was Melody Bober's "Canyons and Waterfalls." (2) Pieces listed without a source and publisher indicate repertoire readily found in numerous anthologies.

I. Classical Favorites (including Baroque, Classical, and Romantic composers)

"Minuet in D Minor" by Bach

The gentle melodic rise and fall and detailed articulation make this a winner.

"Sonata in C Major, K95, L358," by Scarlatti (Recital Winners Book I; Alfred)

A showy piece with the RH crossing over the LH.

"Pastorale" by Le Couppey (Very First Classics; Boosey & Hawkes)

Older beginners appreciate the mature classical sound without the tangle of too many notes; when taught by rote, young beginners experience the thrill of playing a "grown-up" piece.

"Solfeggietto" by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Students love playing the fast arpeggios that are divided between the hands.

"Allegro Scherzando in F Major, Hob. III 75/4" by Haydn

Sounds playful, even frolicsome. It effectively uses dynamic contrasts and an energetic ending of pedaled quarter-note chords.

"Waltz" by Clementi (Celebration Series, Book 2; Frederick Harris)

Sparkling piece. Easily learned and reaches lively performance speed in short order.

24 Short and Easy Pieces by Reinagle (Alfred Masterwork Edition; Alfred)

These easy pieces fit nicely at the beginning of a recital without sounding "babyish."
Number 10, the "Minuetto" is a favorite.553k, WAV sound filePianist: Hannah Hill, age 10
Also Number 14, "Allegro" 383k, WAV sound filePianist: Hannah Hill, age 10

"Für Elise" by Ludwig Van Beethoven

Both audiences and students know and love this staple in the repertoire.

"Sonatina III in A minor" by Georg Benda

The toccata-like writing, broken chords and hand crossings all contribute to the excitement of a recital performance.


"Allegro Burlesco, Op. 88, No. 3," by Kuhlau

Lives up to its humorous title with its many grace notes, octave intervals and descending scale passages.
1.5MB, WAV sound filePianist: Kimberly McGrath, age 16

"Waltz in A Minor, Op. Post." by Frederic Chopin

Late elementary-early intermediate students are especially pleased to perform a piece by Chopin. (Parents and friends are impressed!)

"Prelude in B Minor" by Alexander Morowsky (Easy Keyboard Music Ancient to Modern; Alfred)

The melancholy LH theme creates a haunting sound underneath a very simple RH broken chordal accompaniment. The expressive nature of the piece enables the most inhibited performer to sound musical. 680k, WAV sound filePianist: Hannah Prince, age 13

"Puck, Op. 71, No. 3" by Edvard Grieg

Appeal comes from the mischievous and animated writing and from the reference to Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream." Memorization is never a problem due to the repeated patterns throughout.

"L'Orage, Op. 109, No. 13" by Friedrich Burgmüller

Students love the many dynamic changes that make the piece so dramatic. The fast tempo makes it very exciting to play.

"Spinning Song" by Albert Ellmenreich

This is an ever-popular student favorite. Students like the ascending thirds on the off beats and the accented RH chords.

II. Contemporary Favorites

"Le Petit Nègre" by Claude Debussy

Students like the syncopated rhythm.

"Playing Ball" (from 24 Inventions) by Ross Lee Finney (Peters)

The immediate appeal is the title. Many triads, the fanfare style of writing, and the stepwise sixteenth note movement in the LH make this an impressive recital piece for the younger student.

"Novelette" (from Op. 27) by Dimitri Kabalevsky

This is a wonderful piece for students who play expressively. They love the haunting melody and the drama of the chromatically ascending bass line in the middle section.

"Andantino" (also sometimes titled "Ivan Sings") by Aram Khachaturian

Calling for balanced hand control, it fosters listening for a projected melody above the accompaniment as well as clean pedaling.

"Etude" (Children's Album, Vol. 1) by Aram Khachaturian

An exciting piece with its accents, almost continuous staccatos, and rhythmic drive.

"The Blacksmith" by Samuel Maykapar

A great recital piece for the insecure performer, for it gives the student time to take control before the imitative B section.
850k, WAV sound filePianist: Christy Bellamy, age 16

"Etude Allegro" (Japanese Festival) by Yoshinao Nakada (MCA)

Students love the contrast between the technical brilliance of the A section and the lyrical B section. This piece sounds impressive!
1.7MB, WAV sound filePianist: Brian Blume, age 16

"Valse" by Francis Poulenc

Audience members have been known to laugh aloud during performances of this very humorous piece. Students love the rebellious spirit and satirical writing in a waltz gone awry! 1.3MB, WAV sound filePianist: Abbey Jones, age 16

"Rain and the Rainbow, Op 65, No. 8" by Prokofiev

The appeal of this short (22 measures) piece is the pitter-patter of the rain. The students like the dissonant clusters imaging the splashes of puddles. The B section has a descending melody that spans two octaves as if arching across the sky.

"The Bear" by Rebikov

Low LH left broken octave ostinato, sempre staccato. The RH is also in the bass clef with a tenuto articulation.

"Alnitah" (The Three Maries) by Heitor Villa Lobos; (Carl Fisher)

This piece is an attention grabber from the opening sfz sixteenth note until the ending accented C octaves. It features perpetual motion sixteenth note movement with a syncopated short theme.

III. Favorites by Educational Composers

"Prelude to a Fairy Tale" by Denes Agay (Schirmer)

This piece provides a challenge for the more musical students. They relish the contrast between the lyrical and the dramatic sections.

"A Touch of Gold" by Dennis Alexander (A Splash of Color; Alfred)

Loved by parents and students alike, this reflective waltz has lovely color and feels wonderful in the hand.

"The Bee Hive" by Hansi Alt (Willis Music Co.)

The agitated bees heard in the minor 2nds sting and attack. The piece uses ascending, descending, parallel and contrary motion chromatic scales.

"Vacation Sunrise" by Bruce Berr (At the Seashore, Volume 1; FJH Music, Inc.)

Beautiful and gentle, musicality easily comes to the fore. Patterns are easily taught and pedaling is accessible. Ideal for an older beginner's first recital piece. 680k, WAV sound filePianist: Meghan Palmer, age 10
Also found in the collection is "Igor the Crab."
Great tone painting and humor. SNAP! 553k, WAV sound filePianist: Meghan Palmer, age 10

"Canyons and Waterfalls" by Melody Bober (FJH Music, Inc.)

The construction of this solo allows the student to focus in the A section on arm weight, in the B section on a singing melody, and in the C section on cascading arpeggiated figures. The Coda concludes with majestic chords.

"Rush Hour" by Kevin Cray (Carl Fisher)

The title says it all. Composed almost entirely of seconds and chromatic scale fragments with accents and staccatos, "Rush Hour" has a frantic, hectic feel.

"Cat Prowl" by Nancy Faber (FJH Music, Inc.)

One hears the cat prowling and springing on its prey. The use of contrasting dynamics, wide range of keyboard topography, and pedal in the B section all contribute to the students' wide range of motion. The last measure crashes with the RH crossing over the LH to the lowest key on the piano.
553k, WAV sound filePianist: Dylan Kenny, age 11

"Chopsticks de Luxe" by Louise Garrow (Program Solos Book, Level Three; Belwin Mills/Warner Bros.)

This set of variations makes the familiar sparkle. The book has many other interesting pieces.
1020k, WAV sound filePianist: Jill Jourdain, age 12

"Jealousy" by Margaret Goldston (Romances, Book 2; Alfred)

Students love the driving rhythm and excitement generated by the repeated octaves and running eighth notes. This piece is a real audience-pleaser.
680k, WAV sound filePianist: Kelly Moffitt, age 13

"Eye of the Storm" by Randall Hartsell (Alfred)

The piece requires speed, but the patterns make it easy to move in parallel octave jumps followed by descending scale work. The constant swirls of sound mimic a raging storm.

"Fantasia" by Walter and Carol Noona (Heritage Music Press)

The fanfare introduction sets the stage for the improvisatory A section characterized by hand crossings. Sixteenth note accompaniment becomes quarter note melody in the more lyrical B section.

"Toccatina" by Susan Ogilvy (Alfred)

Driving and energetic; rhythmic alternating chords explore full range of the piano. Very exciting with lots of audience appeal.
1.1MB, WAV sound filePianist: Alex Engler, age 11

"Nocturne" by Lynn Freeman Olson (Alfred)

Students never seem to mind that this expressive piece is in the key of D-flat major. A beautiful melody in harmonic sixths unfolds above a repeated D-flat, A-flat bass line making memorization easy. The contrasting B section adds excitement to this lovely night song.

"On the Run" by Lynn Freeman Olson (Carl Fisher)

Elementary level. Its use of 5ths throughout provides an excellent study for shaping the outside of the hand. Children love the octave jumps preceded by a rest that gives time to prepare it visually. The dramatic ending with the hands five octaves apart gives the student a sense of controlling the entire keyboard. 510k, WAV sound filePianist: Dylan Kenny, age 11

"Sonatina in A Minor" by Lynn Freeman Olson (Beginning Sonatinas; Alfred)

Elementary students especially like the energetic opening rhythmic figure.

"The Duke of Bedford's March" by John Robert Poe. (Myklas)

Students enjoy the medieval sounds of the open fifths and working on the control of the two- and three-note slurs.

"Waltz" by Catherine Rollin (Spotlight on Romantic Style; Alfred)

A wonderful Chopinesque waltz that is accessible to the late intermediate student. Almost plays itself, and is just as fun to listen to. "Sunlight Waltz," also by Rollin, is a great first waltz for an older beginner who can handle pedaling. (sheet music; Alfred).

"Waterwheel" by Bernard Shaak (Events, Book 2; Moonstone Press)

As the name suggests, the motion is continuous with a RH eighth note triplet accompaniment throughout. The LH projects the melody as it crosses back and forth over the RH.

"Sunrise" by Paul Sheftel (Merry and Mellow; Alfred)

A gem! A classic! This can be taught by rote to the youngest student with stunning, expressive results. Audiences give a collective sigh of approval every time. 723k, WAV sound filePianist: Marianna Papageorge, age 9

Preludes, Volume 1 by Robert Vandall (Myklas Press)

Always on the most-requested list, these preludes range from pensive to driving. Numbers 1, 3, and 6 are favorites of the speed demons, but require precision and rhythmic vitality. Number 7 is a lovely melancholy ballad, with a "Moonlight" introductory figure.
#16 is in Db 1.2MB, WAV sound filePianist: Meghan Palmer, age 10

"Hurry-Scurry" by Robert Vandall (Myklas)

Students hear this piece at a recital and immediately ask to play it. They love the accents and the staccato sounds.

"Lady Allyson's Minuet" by Robert Vandall (Myklas)

This piece is a wonderful introduction to the minuet style with its appealing, gentle melody.

"Toccata in F Minor" by Robert Vandall (Myklas)

One student told me that this was her all-time favorite piece. It features a driving rhythm and big chords.

IV. Jazz and Pop Favorites

"Reciprocal Rag" by Dennis Alexander (First Ragtime Pieces; Alfred)

This collection has several rags which my students enjoy, especially the happy sounds and bouncy rhythm of this piece.

"Rio" by Steve Bach (Alfred)

Syncopated rhythm, improvisatory writing, along with parallel seventh chords give this early intermediate composition an irresistible jazz flavor.

"Agent X" by Melody Bober (FJH Music, Inc.)

My students say that this piece sounds "sneaky." They love the dynamics.
935k, WAV sound filePianist: Carmen Danhauser, age 13

"Rusty Rag" by Melody Bober (FJH Music, Inc.)

Students love both the infectious rhythm of this piece and its dynamics.
765k, WAV sound filePianist: Tony Colalillo, age 12

"Just Struttin' Along" by Martha Mier (Jazz, Rags, and Blues, Book I; Alfred)

My students love to play the swing eighth notes and enjoy the use of accents and syncopation. This collection has many other pieces that are fun to play.

"Canon in D" by Johann Pachelbel, arr. Nancy Faber (FJH Music, Inc.)

Most students request "Canon in D" at some point in their piano study. The Faber pop-jazz arrangement is grandiose and an audience favorite. Difficult syncopated and dotted rhythms along with tricky technical passages make this piece a challenge for the intermediate student.
1.6MB, WAV sound file (partial performance)Pianist: Caroline Worley, age 14

"Autumn Harvest" by Michael Scott (Mosaics, Book 3; Warner Bros.)

Although Mosaics is billed as a "New Age" collection, two pieces, "Autumn Harvest"
1.2MB, WAV sound filePianist: Ryan Hedges, age 10
and "That Grace May Abound" do not represent that stereotypical "spa" music. Lyrical, melodious, and timeless, these two always make their way to the top of the favorites list. 1.4MB, WAV sound filePianist: Merry Batter, age 8

"Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Hal Leonard)

Students like to show off with the big chromatic chords in the introduction. Repeated low bass notes in the verses give a bass guitar effect. Audiences appreciate Broadway favorites, even those who prefer classical pieces. "Phantom" is available in Big Note, Easy Piano, Piano solo or Piano-vocal.

"Mississippi River Rag" by Judy East Wells (Myklas Music Press)

An allegretto, easy swing tempo with pedal ad lib attracts the late elementary student who likes rags but prefers not to perform anything too familiar.
723k, WAV sound filePianist: Clayton Greene, age 17

V. Favorites I have recently discovered

"Pioneer Spirit" by Melody Bober (Standing Ovations; FJH Music, Inc.)

A rousing romp, and a kick to play! The infectious theme is developed with increasing range and energy, through exciting modulations to a finale that will bring the house down! Although wonderfully crafted to make it very playable, it still requires a bright talent.

"Nocturne in C Minor, Op. Post." by Frederic Chopin (Chopin an Album; ed. Phyllis Lehrer; C. Fischer)

Recently I was pleased to discover this beautiful and accessible Chopin nocturne. Students enjoy working out the sixteenth and thirty-second note passages above an eighth note bass accompaniment. Although the right hand melody is quite florid, it fits the hand well.

"Summer Song", Op. 45, No. 3 by Agathe Grondaho (At the Piano with Women Composers; Alfred)

Alternating sixteenth note thirds and sixths in the right hand provide accompaniment for a beautiful LH melody. The 6/8 time signature and andante semplice tempo contribute to the overall song-like character.

"The Gypsies, Op.138, No. 17/2" by Stephen Heller (Masterpieces with Flair Book II; ed. Jane Magrath; Alfred)

The energetic chord work presents a façade of difficulty, but the use of parallel music for each hand contributes to ease in learning. Fluctuation of tempi and dynamics with alternating syncopated dance and carefree two-note slurs and staccatos interspersed with dolce and con forza contribute to a wide variety of moods.

"Etude, Op. 1, No. 4" by Franz Liszt (Piano Repertoire: Etudes, Level 9; ed. Snell; Kjos)

Intermediate students who have heard Liszt pieces are thrilled with this Etude. Ascending parallel thirds that travel back and forth between the hands and a B section with octaves make this piece sound deceptively advanced.

"Russian Dance, Op. 39, No. 24" by Hugo Reinhold (Recital Gems, Book I; ed. Bigler and Lloyd-Watts; Alfred)

An energetic dance with its steady ostinato bass building toward a climactic finish.

"Aria" by Scarlatti (The Baroque Spirit, ed. Nancy Bachus; Alfred)

An expressive melody over a running eighth note bass.

"Lotus Land, Op. 47, No.1" by Cyril Scott

Marked andante languido, it is filled with rich chords, cascades, arpeggios and glissandos. The overall ethereal spirit convinces me that "Lotus Land" will be a future favorite in my studio. 1.5MB, WAV sound file (partial performance)Pianist: David McPherson, age 17

Biographies of Teacher-Contributors

has a large private studio in Logansport, Indiana. She is the state Junior Festival Chairman for the Indiana Federation of Music Clubs and is a former state board member of the Indiana Music Teachers' Association. She has a B.A. in instrumental music education from St. Olaf College and a MM in piano performance from Boston University. Her students who are performing on this website:

Brian Blume
Tony Colalillo
Carmen Danhauser
Kelly Moffitt


SISTER JANE MARIE MCGETTIGAN SSJ, NCTM, has degrees from Chestnut Hill College and St. Charles Seminary. A board member of Philadelphia Music Teachers Association, where she served as president for three terms, and Northern Delaware Valley Music Teachers, Sister is currently certification chairperson for both. Her private teaching experience spans fifty-five years. Her students who are performing on this website:

Jill Jourdain
Dylan Kenny
Kimberly McGrath


ROSEMARY OLSEN lives in the Boston area where she maintains a busy private studio. A graduate from Brigham Young University, she has taught for 25 years and is currently at Lesley University in Cambridge completing her Masters in piano pedagogy. She serves on the Board of NEPTA. Her students who are performing on this website:

Merry Batter
Alex Engler
Ryan Hedges
Hannah Hill
Meghan Palmer
Marianna Papageorge


DONNA SANDERS, NCTM, has been a private piano teacher in Tabor City, North Carolina since 1975 where her students have received numerous awards and honors, and many of whom continue in the musical profession. Her students who are performing on this website:

Christy Bellamy
Clayton Greene
Abbey Jones
David McPherson
Hannah Prince
Caroline Worley


For the other featured article in this issue, click here