Programming is an art in itself, and choosing music for a program is always a fun challenge.
A program is like a menu: all the components have to fit for it to be satisfying. I always try
to start my programs with an "Appetizer" - a piece or two which will immediately make an audience
happy they came to the concert. Follow that with the "Main Course" - a sonata, suite, or collection
of pieces which are the "meat and potatoes" of the program - the main body around which everything
else revolves. There must be several "Side Dishes" - pieces which complement the main course, but
which also have enough merit and substance to be enjoyable on their own. And lastly, a "Dessert" - a
closing piece which leaves the audience feeling satisfied and which completes the menu by leaving
a good taste in the mouth (or ear!) If an audience desires an encore, it should be a light,
enjoyable piece which leaves a nice finish.
For my programs, I like to choose pieces which have some sort of connective tissue to tie them
together. It doesn’t have to be the same throughout the program, though the Italian and French
programs were certainly mono-thematic. However, finding combinations of works which fit together
nicely is a wonderful way to show the different flavors of music while still exhibiting the
uniqueness of each nationality, compositional period, or style. For example, having a set of
Nocturnes by three different composers can show the evolution of the form over time, while
still retaining the mood of a "night song" in each. Or perhaps combining two composers from
different eras whose music contains common threads. Even key signature sometimes plays a role.
Whatever process is used in determining a program, the end result should always be something
that will be enjoyable to the audience, as well as being stimulating to the performer. If everyone
involved in the concert can walk away happy at the end of it, it may be considered successful!