Review: Trinity Piano Syllabus 2021-23

Trinity launched its new Piano Syllabus for 2021-23 on 4th August. The syllabus contains ‘more repertoire than ever before’ including a selection of pieces from their Young Composer’s Competition. As a whole the new syllabus features:

  • 35 pieces per grade, including a selection of the most popular pieces from their 2018-20 Piano Syllabus.
  • 12 pieces are included in each book, with a further nine available as an ebook which is included in the ‘Extended Edition’ of the books.
  • The ‘Extended Edition’ of the books contains scales and arpeggios for the grade as well as downloadable audio.
  • All books now include detailed performance notes.
  • Candidates can include a duet or own composition as part of their programme up to Grade 3.
  • A range of free support materials will be offered online.
  • The syllabus represents nine international composers as part of the Trinity ‘Play It Forward’ scheme.
Trinity Piano Syllabus 2021-23 - Grade 5 Book

Overall Impression

Overall, the Trinity Piano Syllabus 2021-23 represents a diverse and exciting range of repertoire across all grades. In some cases, one might argue this is at the exclusion of many familiar composers and styles, and it’s perhaps easy to see how the balance could tip too much. It is clear that unlike ABRSM, Trinity have chosen to include the lesser known, more diverse, and generally more contemporary pieces in their own books.

The inclusion of performance notes is particularly welcome and these give additional context and practical hints for teaching and performing each piece. I felt that the quality of the books had also improved, particularly the interior paper, something which I have always disliked in previous Trinity publications. I hope their other publications will follow this trend.

I found the various book and ebook options somewhat confusing, and it took me a while to get my head around this (I’m still not sure I have!) In some ways, producing two editions, one of which provides access to additional electronic resources feels overly complicated. Do we get to a point where there is too much choice? The syllabus includes lot of material which teachers need access to, and there is obviously time and cost to factor in. Similarly, not everyone will have access to devices from which they can play from the ebook, meaning these pieces are either not an option, or have to be printed out for some candidates. Overall though, the exam materials are all competitively priced and are good value for money.

Overall, the difficulty level of pieces broadly matches the grade, although with such a huge selection of pieces, this was clearly a challenge. The result is that whilst pieces are broadly of similar difficulty levels, there can be huge variation at an individual grade. I felt this was particularly the case at Grade 4. Some of the Grade 5 pieces, whilst not necessarily hard, were quite long. This is something both teachers and candidates will need to bear in mind when devising a balanced programme. I have long felt that Initial Grade is very close to Grade 1, and this year is no exception. On balance, I still find that LCM Step 1 and Step 2 provide a more accessible route to Grade 1.

Trinity Piano Syllabus 2021-23 - Performance notes example

The recent changes to the scale requirements in the 2021/22 ABRSM Piano Syllabus has brought it in line with those of Trinity, though they both have their own ‘quirks’. Trinity’s exercises offer an interesting option for some candidates. They are all very short, and thus require a good deal of precision: there is nothing to hide behind.

As I am one of those dinosaurs who doesn’t yet have a device from which it’s possible to play from the ebooks, I have not been able to go through all the PDF copies of the syllabus books I was sent for review. Rather, I have concentrated only only the standard editions which I purchased myself, the ones which I think most people will still buy. Each includes 12 pieces from the syllabus at each grade. With that in mind, here are my top three repertoire choices at each grade:

Initial Grade

  • Yandell: Echo Dance
  • Walker: Merlin’s Incantation
  • Thuntawech: May Thai (The Boxing Star)

Grade 1

  • Türk: Arioso
  • Holland: Donkey Trot
  • Bober: Stealth Mode

Grade 2

  • Böhm: Minuet in G
  • Yandell: Fun Fair Blues
  • Gumbey: ‘Nuff Said

Grade 3

  • Loeschlorn: Study in D minor
  • Bartók: The Highway Robber
  • Tadman-Robins: Ballad

Grade 4

  • Crosland: Lights in the Rearview
  • Petot: Please Count
  • Misfud: Remembrance

Grade 5

  • Tchaikovsky: Sweet Reverie
  • Gerou: March of the Roman Legionaries
  • Goodwin: Settle Down

Grade 6

  • le Fleming: Lullaby for Oscar
  • Béra-Tangrine: Terminal 2
  • Huang-Hsu: Epilogue

Grade 7

  • Bullard: Prelude no. 8 in G
  • Poulenc: Assez modéré
  • Botterill: Soho

Grade 8

  • Bartók: Dance in Bulgarian Rhythm No. 2
  • Granados: Andaluza
  • Dring: Blue Air

Summary

There is much to celebrate in the 2021-23 Trinity Piano Syllabus. Grade 7 in particular should be singled out as an absolute triumph. The repertoire is wide and diverse representing a huge range of composers from across the globe. This has, perhaps, resulted in a somewhat bewildering number of options which may require some unpicking. Overall though, if we had a centre which didn’t normally involve a 3-hour round-trip, it’s definitely a syllabus I’d consider using with my own students.


I was sent PDF review copies of these books free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.


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