On the RCM Piano Syllabus, for most of the etudes it states "Students must prepare two technically contrasting etudes from the following list." What does it mean for two pieces to be technically contrasting?
It means they expect the musical choices to display different aspects of piano technique.
For example, the Level 3 list (page 35) contains
- "Arabesque" by Johann Burgmüller (SCORE)
- "Allegro in A Major" by Johann Hässler (SCORE)
- "Morning Prayer" by Cornelius Gurlitt (SCORE)
"Arabesque" and "Allegro" are technically similar in that both feature chords in one hand against fast scalar passages in the other. One would probably not choose both of these.
By contrast, "Morning Prayer" is slow and lyrical, emphasizing phrasing, dynamics, and touch. This would be a good choice to contrast with "Arabesque" or "Allegro".