When we are still in school studying for a degree there are specific repertoire requirements that we need to fulfill in order to graduate. This repertoire can be assigned to us by our teachers or dictated by the school curriculum. In either case, less responsibility is put on us when we choose our repertoire, since part of the choice is often made for us. Once we graduate, we have all the freedom and responsibility to choose our own concert program, not bound by specific time period or compositional style. What we program in our concerts is just as important as how we play our program. When choosing a program for an audience outside of our school, it’s important to be mindful of the different tastes of the audience. Of course, it is important to play music that is special to us and that we enjoy playing and practicing, but we should also think about the overall programing and how balanced it is.
It is true that we can’t please everyone, but if we incorporate pieces that showcase our instrument in different ways, it is possible to create a program that will be accessible and satisfying for everyone. I like to make sure that the pieces I play in concert are diverse in style and character. I try to include pieces from different time periods – baroque, classical, romantic, and 20th century. I also try to balance that repertoire. This means that I try to keep to one lengthy classical piece, or baroque sonata, so time wise the program is not lopsided with any one specific style. Now this is a personal preference, but I found it to be a good tactic to keep the program balanced.
In addition, depending on the venue we play in, we might have to adjust our program to accommodate the taste of that audience. However, I don’t think this necessarily means we have to default to “easy to listen to” pieces. I’ve played in places where most of the people in the audience had never been to a classical guitar concert. My initial instinct was to play only pieces that are very easily accessible and not too “modern”. I was a little hesitant to play Rodrigo’s Invocacion y Danza, for example, because I thought that it might be more difficult to understand. However, since it is one of my alltime favorite pieces, I decided not to take it out of the program. After the concert I was surprised when majority of the people who came up to me, specifically pointed out Invocacion y Danza as one of their favorites. I’ve also attended a concert where the members of the audience had never been to a classical music concert and weren’t even used to the “classical concert etiquette.” In that particular setting one might shy away from playing an entire Sonata by J.S. Bach, but yet again the audience surprised the performer by their true appreciation of the Bach. This shows that we can’t always anticipate what our audience will like or dislike. Sometimes the pieces that we play might need a special introduction or some background information which will help the audience to truly enjoy the music. That said, we shouldn’t underestimate people’s tastes and ability to comprehend the more “challenging” repertoire.
So when putting a program together, pick pieces from different time periods and styles, but most importantly pick pieces that you love playing. Because if you love your repertoire, you will put your heart into it, and when you put your heart into it, any audience will be able to appreciate it.