Grade 8 repertoire

Welcome to my new series on repertoire from the Royal Conservatory of Music violin syllabus. One of the easiest things you can do to improve your violin playing is to listen to recordings of the music you are learning. Henceforth, I will be publishing a selection of repertoire from each grade list, from Preparatory through Grade 10. Starting today with Grade 8, because yours truly decided to work towards her ARCT after all this time.

I chose to start with Grade 8 because the repertoire is attainable (for me) within a relatively short practice timeframe and it will allow me to get a feeling for the exam format before attempting something more challenging. Since I am the teacher, as well as the student, I curated my repertoire selections myself.

RCM repertoire is organized by “lists”. For the Grade 8 exam, a candidate must select repertoire from each of 4 solo repertoire lists: List A Concertos, Airs variés and Fantasias; List B, Sonatas and Sonatinas; List C, Concert Repertoire; and List D, Unaccompanied Repertoire as well as two selections from the Orchestral Excerpts book.

For lower grades, you will get to see Miss Jetske in action, but for today, I’ve chosen to showcase some of my own idols.

List A – Concertos, Airs variés and Fantasias

J. B. Accolay – Concerto in A minor – Itzhak Perlman

No list of my heroes would be complete without Itzhak Perlman. I have loved his performances since I was a small child. I was lucky enough to see him in concert at the National Arts Centre once.

Although I can’t recall what he played that day, I do remember he played a Paganini caprice for an encore.

List B – Sonatas and Sonatinas

Mozart – Sonata No. 18 in G major, K301 – Hilary Hahn

Hilary Hahn is an impressive violinist with a lovely sound. Although she is an advocate for contemporary music, I’m glad to see that she still performs the classics. The grade 8 syllabus requires either the first or second movement.

List C – Concert Repertoire

Massenet – Meditation de Thais – Yo Yo Ma

I have always loved this piece and I’m breaking with tradition here by linking a cello version. Yo Yo Ma is of course the master, and the sound of the cello brings a lovely warmth to this piece.

List D – Unaccompanied Repertoire

J.S. Bach – Partita in E major, BWV 1006 – Itzhak Perlman

And it’s back to Itzhak Perlman. This is an older recording but I love the video because it shows him grinning to himself as he plays. I feel like Bach partitas are meant to be fun so seeing him smile makes me think maybe he agrees with me?

For this partita, the only movement to be performed at the exam is the 6th mouvement “bourree”.


Starting in Grade 7, the violin exam includes a section on orchestral excerpts. In grade 8, candidates have to perform two contrasting orchestral excerpts.

W. A. Mozart – Symphony No 25 KV 183 – Salzbourg Orchestra

There are several recordings of this first selection on youtube and I chose this particular one because of the level of expression in the first violin section. Orchestral excerpts are generally quite short (a few dozen measures) and have sections removed so as to only reflect the portion being played by the 1st violins which is to be evaluated. In this case, I will be playing parts of the first movement.

J.S. Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major – Orchestra Mozart

I enjoyed this last piece because baroque music sounds so nice with a harpsichord accompaniment. The section to be played on the exam is portions of the third movement.


Here’s hoping my music selections go over well (and technically perfect!) on exam day.