New Piano Syllabus Repertoire Champions Continuity and Change

The Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Fats Waller, Razaf & Brooks and new commissions by emerging composers Kristina Arakelyan and Shruthi Rajasekar are amongst pieces to feature in ABRSM’s eclectic new piano syllabuses. The 2023 & 2024 repertoire balances continuity with change, with 70% of the previous repertoire retained but a far greater choice of music for candidates, with 30% more pieces than before and almost 50 composers – including Scott Joplin, Dame Fanny Waterman, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and musicians from ABRSM’s Composer Mentoring scheme – featured for the first time.

The syllabus repertoire includes:

  • A total of 351 pieces, with a choice of 39 for each grade
  • Works by Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Tchaikovsky and other traditionally featured composers
  • Works by 47 composers never previously featured for piano by ABRSM
  • Arrangements of traditional music from countries around the world
  • Eight new commissions (six new pieces and two arrangements)

ABRSM’s Academic Director, Philippa Bunting, said: “With our new syllabuses, Piano 2023 & 2024, we have gone deep and wide in search of music from diverse traditions, and by composers from across the globe, with pieces originating from Cairo to Colorado, Kingston to Kinshasa, and Melbourne to Montreal.”

“We understand the importance of establishing a personal connection with the music you play, and seek to open our musical horizons as learners open theirs. At the same time, we have thought carefully about the needs of both teachers and learners choosing our syllabuses. As a result, we have included pieces that we know have previously been popular and successful exam pieces. We have also extended the life of most pieces from the 2021 & 2022 syllabus to allow more time to explore them.”

There are many more pieces by women composers, including Kristina Arakelyan and Shruthi Rajasekar who were amongst six young composers taking part in ABRSM’s inaugural Composer Mentoring scheme. The scheme aimed to help equip composers from a wider range of backgrounds with the skills and knowledge needed to write music for education.

Kristina said: “Writing for the ABRSM syllabus has been an absolute joy for me, both as a composer and as a music teacher. I strongly believe that all music students should try the exhilarating experience of composing and improvising as it is a wonderful way to express ourselves. The writing process of my composition, Daydream (Grade 2, piano), was inspired by precisely this idea – it is about getting lost in our creative thoughts, discovering a world that is within us, and expressing it through music. It is really wonderful to be incorporated into the syllabus as a living composer because I hope that it will encourage others to give composition a go.”

ABRSM’s new piano syllabuses have previously always seen a 100% change of repertoire. The decision to simply refresh the 2021 & 2022 lists with new pieces brings the approach for piano closer to that of other instruments and is designed to address some feedback that the piano repertoire changes too frequently.

The new repertoire lists take effect on 1 January 2023 and apply to both Practical and Performance Grades.