Question is mentioned in the title, any help would be great!

It would be nice if you could also explain why certain pieces are seldom publicly performed in comparison to certain pieces that are almost always played in recitals.

Thank you!

  • 3
    This seems extremely broad. – user28 Mar 15 '16 at 4:35
  • 1
    What kind of recital? What instruments? What genre? Ballet? Piano? Orchestra? Choir? Cowbells? – Todd Wilcox Mar 15 '16 at 6:54

Here are some quick bullets:

  • Length (How long will it be?) If it's greater than 45min you need an intermission. Plan 1 intermission for every 45 minutes. While the chosen pieces typically dictate recital length, sometimes you don't have that luxury and you must have a recital be a certain length, which determines your pieces.

  • Where (Where will you perform?) Schedule your venue and figure out all logistics as soon as humanly possible.

  • When (How far in advance are you planning?) A quiet piece is a public area could be dreadful. Plan music accordingly. Also, more lead time gives you more time to undertake more intricate / difficult musical projects.

  • Who (Who is your audience? / Who is playing with you?)

  • What (What will you play? Does your recital have a theme?)

  • Recital Programming Typically, you can/should break up a recital into four basic parts: 1) Lighter music 2) Emotional music 3) Cerebral music 4) Virtuostic / Fun / Amusing

A well-known conductor once told me there are basically three kinds of music: Head Music (intellectual), Heart Music (emotional), and Foot Music (light, catchy, and dance-y). Though there are obviously no hard-and-fast rules for programming, a balanced recital will have these things in equal measure.


  • Always always always give your performers / accompanist a thank-you note. If you're paying them, or it's a paid gig, give the money / thank-you note to them before the performance on the performance night. If there's no money, either give them a little cash (enough for a meal / drink) or a gift card. ALWAYS thank them with a card and thank them publicly as well (public thanking should be done before the last piece / encore).

  • If you have a reception afterward, get some volunteers to set it up prior to your last piece (and thank your volunteers).

  • Figure out your logistics as soon has humanly possible - scheduling the venue, scheduling rehearsals, getting musicians, catering, equipment/rentals, transportation, etc.

  • Be organized. Intensely organized.

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Reasons why some pieces are popular in recitals:

  1. It's already familiar, so the audience knows how the piece should sound and have a better idea of what is a mistake and what is a stylistic choice of the performer.
  2. It's a piece that most people consider to sound really good.
  3. It's a piece that most performers consider fun to play.

Reasons why some pieces just aren't heard:

  1. It's new. No time to gain traction outside the composer's inner circle and prove that it's playable by the wider world.
  2. It's in a style that isn't popular (with either the audience or performers).
  3. It's excessively complicated and the amount of effort required to perfect that particular piece would reduce the available effort to bring the rest of the selections up to par.
  4. The composer isn't well-known.
  5. It's too easy.
  6. No good reason whatsoever (or bad luck, whichever you prefer).
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  • 1
    I would add to 3. that the effort required to prepare a piece is often (a) unconnected to its perceived difficulty in the minds of the listeners and (b) independent of its general popularity. So the neglected pieces are those that require much effort for little payoff w.r.t. impressing and pleasing the audience. – Kilian Foth Mar 15 '16 at 9:02

We appreciate music because it's a balance of what we expect and surprises. A good recital program does the same; some of the material should be familiar (or at least easy to listen to!) and some should be more challenging to the audience. Of course, you also have to balance programming choices with your technical limitations and how much time you have per piece to prepare. Hope that helps!

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Pick pieces that show what you can do.

Don't pick any pieces that show what you can't do.

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