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Prerequisite

Candidates for Grade 6, 7 or 8 exams must already have passed ABRSM Grade 5 (or above) in Music Theory, Practical Musicianship or a solo Jazz instrument. For full details including a list of accepted alternatives, see Regulation 1d.

Syllabus

Viola Grade 8 Viola

Viola Grade 8 exams consist of three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests.

Total marks in all individual Practical exams are 150. You need 100 marks to achieve Pass, 120 marks to pass with Merit and 130 marks to pass with Distinction.

Viola Grade 8 (2020–2023)

Pieces

Musicians learn to play an instrument to explore and perform repertoire, which is why pieces are at the core of the exam – candidates are asked to present three at each grade. The syllabus repertoire is organised into three lists which explore different traditions and styles, dating from the Renaissance period to the present day.

Choosing one piece from each list gives candidates the opportunity to play a balanced selection and demonstrate a range of skills. In this syllabus, the pieces are broadly grouped into lists by the characteristics of the music:

  • List A pieces are generally faster moving and require technical agility
  • List B pieces are more lyrical and invite expressive playing
  • List C pieces reflect a wide variety of musical traditions, styles and characters.

Most of the pieces require an accompaniment, as interacting with other musicians is an important musical skill, but there are also opportunities to choose solo pieces and develop confidence with unaccompanied playing.

We hope that by offering this variety in the syllabus, candidates will find music that inspires them and that they enjoy learning and performing.

Grade 8 Pieces

Candidates choose three pieces, one from each list (A, B and C) – 30 marks each. The full requirements and information for the pieces are explained after the lists.

List A

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 J. S. Bach
trans. Rowland-Jones or trans. Forbes
Prelude (SOLO)
from Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008
J. S. Bach: Six Cello Suites, trans. Rowland-Jones
Peters (EP7489)

More details
J. S. Bach: Six Cello Suites, trans. Forbes
Chester (CH01401)

More details
2 J. S. Bach Vivace
1st movt from Sonata No. 3 in G minor, BWV 1029
J. S. Bach: Three Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Viola), BWV 1027–1029
Bärenreiter (BA5186)

More details
J. S. Bach: Three Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Viola), BWV 1027–1029
Henle (HN 684)

More details
3 Grazioli
arr. Marchet or arr. Tertis
2nd movt And 3rd movt
from Sonata in F
Grazioli: Sonata in F, arr. Marchet
Stainer & Bell (5569)

More details
A Second Lionel Tertis Album
Weinberger

More details
4 Handel
trans. Arnold
Allegro
3rd movt from Concerto in B♭
Handel: Concerto in B♭, trans. Arnold
Viola World (MUSVWP000079)

More details
5 Hoffmeister Rondo
3rd movt from Concerto in D
Hoffmeister: Concerto in D
Peters (EP9857)

More details
Hoffmeister: Concerto in D
Henle (HN 739)

More details
6 Schubert
arr. Forbes
Sonata Movement
D. 471
Schubert: Sonata Movement for Viola, arr. Forbes
Stainer & Bell (H194B)

More details
7 A. Stamitz Rondeau
3rd movt from Concerto in B♭
A. Stamitz: Concerto in B♭
Schott (VAB 29)

More details
8 Telemann Adagio (Dolce) And Allegro (SOLO)
1st movt And 2nd movt from Fantasia No. 7 in A♭, TWV 40:20
Telemann: 12 Fantasias For Unaccompanied Viola, arr. Arnold
Viola World (VWP100188)

More details
Telemann: 12 Fantaisies pour alto, TWV 40:14– 40:25, trans. Lainé
Billaudot (GB1584)

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9 Telemann
trans. Vieland
Lento And Allegro
1st movt And 2nd movt from Cello Sonata in D, TWV 41:D6
Telemann: Sonata in D, TWV 41:D6, trans. Vieland
IMC (IMC1147)

More details
10 Zelter Allegro con fuoco
1st movt from Concerto in E♭
Zelter: Concerto in E♭
Kunzelmann (GM-557)

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List B

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Berlioz
arr. Macdonald
Sérénade
3rd movt from Harold en Italie
Berlioz: Harold en Italie, arr. Macdonald
Bärenreiter (BA5457-90)

More details
2 Bloch Meditation
from Meditation and Processional
Bloch: Meditation and Processional
G. Schirmer (HL50286260)

More details
3 Brahms Andante un poco adagio
2nd movt from Sonata in F minor, Op. 120 No. 1
Brahms: Two Sonatas, Op. 120
Peters (EP3896)

More details
Brahms: Two Sonatas, Op. 120
Henle (HN 988)

More details
4 Fauré
trans. Katmis or arr. Szeredi-Saupe
Elégie
Op. 24
Fauré: Elegy for Viola, Op. 24, trans. Katmis
IMC (IMC896)

More details
Music for Viola III, arr. Szeredi-Saupe
Editio Musica Budapest (Z.13397)

More details
5 Glazunov Elégie
Op. 44
Glazunov: Elegy, Op. 44
Belaieff (BEL 200)

More details
Glazunov: Élégie, Op. 44
Henle (HN 1241)

More details
6 Joachim No. 3
from Hebräische Melodien (Hebrew Melodies), Op. 9
No. 3 from Joachim: Hebrew Melodies for Viola, Op. 9
IMC (IMC3272)

More details
No. 3 from Joachim: Hebrew Melodies for Viola, Op. 9
Breitkopf & Härtel (MR 1828)

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7 Nikolay Kapustin Largo
2nd movt from Sonata, Op. 69
Nikolay Kapustin: Sonata for Viola, Op. 69
Schott (ED 22918)

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8 Mendelssohn Adagio: Allegro
1st movt from Sonata in C minor
Mendelssohn: Sonata in C minor
IMC (IMC3354)

More details
Mendelssohn: Sonata in C minor
Henle (HN 1035)

More details
9 Tchaikovsky
arr. Ducrocq
Melodia
No. 3 from Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op. 42
Tchaikovsky: Melodia for Viola, arr. Ducrocq
Billaudot (GB8457)

More details
10 Villa-Lobos
arr. Primrose
Aria (Cantilena)
from Bachianas brasileiras No. 5
Villa-Lobos: Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 for Viola, arr. Primrose
AMP (GS22443)

More details

List C

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Leroy Anderson
arr. Arnold
Fiddle-Faddle
Leroy Anderson: Fiddle-Faddle, arr. Arnold
Viola World (VWP100210)

More details
2 A. Beach
trans. Grant
Mazurka
No. 3 from Three Pieces, Op. 40
No. 3 from A. Beach: Three Pieces for Viola, Op. 40 , trans. Grant
Spartan Press (SP1389)

More details
3 N. Boulanger
trans. Leduc
Pièce no. 3 en C♯ mineur
from Trois pièces
N. Boulanger: Three Pieces for Viola, trans. Leduc
Leduc (AL 30767)

More details
4 Britten Reflection
Britten: Reflection
Faber

More details
5 Rebecca Clarke Morpheus
Rebecca Clarke: Morpheus
OUP

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6 Husa Marciale
3rd movt from Suite, Op. 5
Husa: Suite for Viola, Op. 5
AMP (AMP 8264 / HL50490684)

More details
7 Robin Ireland Metre Change Study 1 (SOLO)
from Étude No. 9
Robin Ireland: Concert Etudes for Viola
Spartan Press (SP1237)

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8 Reger Molto vivace (SOLO)
4th movt from Suite No. 1 in G minor, Op. 131d
No. 1 from Reger: Three Suites for Solo Viola, Op. 131d
Peters (EP3971)

More details
9 Rimsky-Korsakov
arr. Szeredi-Saupe
The Bumble-Bee
Music for Viola III, arr. Szeredi-Saupe
Editio Musica Budapest (Z.13397)

More details
10 Vaughan Williams Christmas Dance
No. 3 from Suite for Viola, Group 1
Vaughan Williams: Suite for Viola
OUP

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Viola requirements and information: Pieces

Programme planning: Candidates must choose one piece from each of the three lists (A, B and C). In the exam, candidates should tell the examiner which pieces they are performing, and they are welcome to use the Exam programme & running order form for this.

Every effort has been made to feature a broad range of repertoire to suit and appeal to candidates of different ages, backgrounds and interests. Certain pieces may not be suitable for every candidate for technical reasons or because of wider context (historical, cultural, subject matter of the larger work from which it is drawn, lyrics if an arrangement of a song etc.). Pieces should be carefully considered for their appropriateness to each individual, which may need consultation between teachers and parents/guardians. Teachers and parents/guardians should also exercise caution when allowing younger candidates to research pieces online (see www.nspcc.org.uk/onlinesafety).

Accompaniment: A live piano or string (where the option is listed) accompaniment is required for all pieces, except those which are published as studies or unaccompanied works (these are marked SOLO in the lists above).

At Grades Initial–3, candidates may perform some or all of their pieces with a string accompaniment. Pieces that are published as duets (or with string accompaniment only) are marked DUET in the lists above. Pieces that are published with piano and string accompaniment options are marked PF/VA in the lists above, and may be performed with either accompaniment in the exam.

Candidates must provide their own accompanist(s), who can only be in the exam room while accompanying. The candidate’s teacher may accompany (examiners will not). If necessary, an accompanist may simplify any part of the accompaniment, as long as the result is musical. Recorded accompaniments are not allowed.

Exam music & editions: Wherever the syllabus includes an arrangement or transcription (appearing as ‘arr.’ or ‘trans.’ in the syllabus list), the edition listed in the syllabus must be used in the exam. For all other pieces, editions are listed for guidance only and candidates may use any edition of their choice (in- or out-of-print or downloadable). For full details on sourcing exam music, see Obtaining exam music.

Interpreting the score: Printed editorial suggestions such as fingering, bowing, metronome marks, realisation of ornaments etc. do not need to be strictly observed. Whether the piece contains musical indications or not, candidates are encouraged to interpret the score in a musical and stylistic way. Examiners’ marking will be determined by how control of pitch, time, tone, shape and performance contributes to the overall musical outcome.

Vibrato: The use and control of vibrato, and its effect on tone and shape, will be taken into account by examiners, who will be assessing the overall musical outcome. Pieces that are heavily reliant on vibrato for their full musical effect tend not to appear in the syllabus before around Grade 5.

Repeats: Unless the syllabus specifies differently, all da capo and dal segno indications should be followed but other repeats (including first-time bars) should not be played unless they are very short (i.e. a few bars).

Cadenzas & tuttis: Cadenzas should not be played unless the syllabus specifies differently. Accompanists should cut lengthy orchestral tutti sections.

Performing from memory: Candidates may perform any of their pieces from memory; if doing so, they must make sure that a copy of the music is available for the examiner to refer to. No extra marks are awarded for playing from memory.

Page-turns: Examiners will be understanding if a page-turn causes a lack of continuity during a piece, and this will not affect the marking. Candidates (and accompanists) may use an extra copy of the music or a photocopy of a section of the piece (but see ‘Photocopies’ below) to help with page-turns. Candidates and accompanists at Grades 6–8 may bring a page-turner to the exam if there is no solution to a particularly awkward page-turn (prior permission is not required; the turner may be the candidate’s teacher). Examiners are unable to help with page-turning.

Photocopies: Performing from unauthorised photocopies (or other kinds of copies) of copyright editions is not allowed. ABRSM may withhold the exam result where it has evidence of an illegal copy (or copies) being used. In the UK, copies may be used in certain limited circumstances – for full details, see the MPA’s Code of Fair Practice at www.mpaonline.org.uk. In all other cases, application should be made to the copyright holder before any copy is made, and evidence of permission should be brought to the exam.

Viola Grade 8 Viola

Viola Grade 8 exams consist of three pieces, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, and aural tests.

Total marks in all individual Practical exams are 150. You need 100 marks to achieve Pass, 120 marks to pass with Merit and 130 marks to pass with Distinction.

Viola Grade 8 (2016–2019)

Pieces

Three pieces: one chosen by the candidate from each of the three Lists, A, B and C - 30 marks each

List A

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 J. S. Bach
trans. Rowland-Jones or Forbes
Allemande and Courante
from Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008
J. S. Bach: Six Cello Suites, trans. Rowland-Jones
Peters (EP 7489)

More details
J. S. Bach: Six Cello Suites, trans. Forbes
Chester (CH01401)

More details
2 J. S. Bach Vivace
1st movt from Viola da Gamba Sonata No. 3 in G minor, BWV 1029
J. S. Bach: Three Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Viola), BWV 1027–1029
Bärenreiter (BA 5186)

More details
J. S. Bach: Three Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Viola), BWV 1027–1029
Henle (HN 684)

More details
3 Beethoven
arr. Primrose
Theme and Variations
6th movt from Notturno, Op. 42
(omitting Var. 1 and observing Marcia)
Beethoven: Notturno, Op. 42, arr. Primrose
Schott (ED 10091)

More details
4 Boccherini Moderato
1st movt from Sonata in C minor
Boccherini: Sonata in C minor
Schott (VAB 46)

More details
5 Hoffmeister Rondo
3rd movt from Concerto in D
Hoffmeister: Viola Concerto in D
Peters (EP 9857)

More details
Hoffmeister: Viola Concerto in D
Henle (HN 739)

More details
6 A. Stamitz Rondeau
3rd movt from Concerto in B♭
A. Stamitz: Concerto in B♭
Schott (VAB 29)

More details
7 Telemann
arr. Arnold
Siciliana and Vivace
1st movt and 2nd movt from Fantasia No. 9 in E minor
Telemann: 12 Fantasias For Unaccompanied Viola, arr. Arnold
Viola World (VWP100188)

More details

List B

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Brahms Vivace
4th movt from Sonata in F minor, Op. 120 No. 1
Brahms: Two Sonatas, Op. 120
Peters (EP 3896)

More details
Brahms: Two Sonatas, Op. 120
Henle (HN 988)

More details
2 Coates First Meeting (Souvenir)
A Lionel Tertis Album
Weinberger

More details
3 Glazunov Élégie
Op. 44
Glazunov: Élégie, Op. 44
Belaieff (BEL 200)

More details
Glazunov: Élégie, Op. 44
Henle (HN 1241)

More details
4 Jansa Cantilène
Op. 84
Jansa: Cantilène, Op. 84
Amadeus (BP 1762)

More details
Jansa: Cantilène, Op. 84
Schott (BSS 53719)

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5 Nedbal Romantisches Stück
Op. 18
Nedbal: Romantisches Stück, Op. 18
Doblinger (DOBL 3579)

More details
6 H. Ritter Pastorale and Gavotte
Op. 32 No. 1
Solos for Young Violists, Vol. 4
Alfred–Summy-Birchard (18750X)

More details
7 Tchaikovsky
arr. Davis and Borisovksy
Nocturne
Op. 19 No. 4
Tchaikovsky: Nocturne, Op. 19 No. 4, arr. Davis and Borisovksy
IMC (536)

More details

List C

No. Composer Piece information Publication(s)
1 Leroy Anderson
arr. Arnold
Fiddle-Faddle
Leroy Anderson: Fiddle-Faddle, arr. Arnold
Viola World (VWP100210)

More details
2 Bloch Affirmation
3rd movt from Suite Hébraïque
Bloch: Suite Hébraïque
G. Schirmer (GS28608)

More details
3 Rebecca Clarke Untitled
Rebecca Clarke: Shorter Pieces for Viola
OUP

More details
4 Finzi
trans. Leigh Jacobs
Fughetta
No. 5 from Five Bagatelles
Finzi: Five Bagatelles, trans. Leigh Jacobs
Boosey & Hawkes

More details
5 Gordon Jacob Dance
from Air and Dance
(starting at b. 54)
Solos for Young Violists, Vol. 4
Alfred–Summy-Birchard (18750X)

More details
6 W. Lloyd Webber Vivo
3rd movt from Sonatina
W. Lloyd Webber: Sonatina for Viola
Stainer & Bell (H369)

More details
7 Vaughan Williams Galop
No. 3 from Suite for Viola, Group 3
(observing cadenza)
Vaughan Williams: Suite for Viola
OUP

More details

Viola requirements and information: Pieces

Programme planning: Candidates must choose one piece from each of the three lists (A, B and C) in each grade. In the exam, they should inform the examiner which pieces they are performing, and they are welcome to use the Exam programme & running order form (PDF) for this purpose.

Accompaniment: A live piano accompaniment is required for all pieces, except those which are published as studies or unaccompanied works. Candidates must provide their own accompanist, who may remain in the exam room only while accompanying. The candidate’s teacher may act as accompanist (examiners will not). If necessary, the accompanist may simplify any part of the piano accompaniment, provided the result is musically satisfactory.

Exam music & editions: Wherever the syllabus includes an arrangement or transcription, the edition listed in the syllabus must be used in the exam; in all such cases the abbreviation ‘arr.’ or ‘trans.’ appears in the syllabus entry. For all other pieces, the editions quoted in the syllabus are given for guidance only and candidates may use any edition of their choice (in- or out-of-print or downloadable).

Interpreting the score: Printed editorial suggestions such as fingering, bowing, metronome marks, realization of ornaments etc. need not be strictly observed. Whether the piece contains musical indications or not, candidates are always encouraged to interpret the score in a stylistically appropriate manner. Ultimately, examiners’ marking will be determined by consideration of pitch, time, tone, shape and performance, and how control of these contributes to the overall musical outcome.

Vibrato: The use and control of vibrato, and its effect on tone and shape, will be taken into account by examiners, who will be assessing the overall musical outcome. Pieces whose full musical effect is heavily reliant on vibrato tend not to appear in the syllabus before around Grade 5.

Repeats: All da capo and dal segno indications should be observed but all other repeats (including first-time bars) should be omitted unless they are very brief (i.e. of a few bars) or unless the syllabus specifies otherwise.

Cadenzas & tuttis: Cadenzas should not be played unless the syllabus specifies otherwise. Lengthy orchestral tutti sections should be cut.

Performing from memory: Candidates are free to perform any of their pieces from memory; in such cases they must ensure that a copy of the music is available for the examiner to refer to if necessary. No additional marks are awarded for playing from memory.

Page-turns: Examiners will be understanding if a page-turn causes a lack of continuity during a piece, and this will not affect the marking. A variety of solutions for awkward page-turns exists, including the use of an additional copy of the music or a photocopy of a section of the piece (but see ‘Photocopies’ below). In cases where candidates believe there is no solution to a particularly awkward page-turn, they may apply to bring a page-turner to the exam. The request must be made to the Syllabus Department no later than the closing date for entry, and details of the piece, edition and nature of the difficulty should be given. If permission is granted, a confirmation letter will be issued which must be taken to the exam as verification. Examiners are unable to help with page-turning. In a Grade 8 exam, a candidate’s accompanist is permitted to bring a page-turner to assist with page-turns in the piano part (prior permission is not required).

Photocopies: Performing from unauthorized photocopies (or other kinds of copies) of copyright editions is not allowed. ABRSM may withhold the exam result where it has evidence of an illegal copy (or copies) being used. In the UK, copies may be used in certain limited circumstances – for full details, see the MPA’s Code of Fair Practice at www.mpaonline.org.uk. In all other cases, application should be made to the copyright holder before any copy is made, and evidence of permission received should be brought to the exam.

Publications & audio

Supporting applications

Speedshifter

A practice tool that allows you to vary the speed of audio without altering the pitch.

 

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