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Writing Program Notes

What information should I include?

Some examples:

The composer of the work

  • Include relevant biographical information about the composer

The title of the work

  • Make sure to include all the details in the title, like key, opus number, etc. 

Structure/form of work and instrumentation

  • List the movements and what instruments are being played

Historical context

  • What was happening when this was composed? Was there a war? Was the composer censored?

Translation, if the text is written in another language

  • This is especially important for vocal music!

Information on why was it written

  • Was it written for a church service? In memory of someone? To evoke a certain emotion?

Things that the audience should listen for during the performance

  • Does an instrument or voice imitate something else? Does it quote a common tune that the audience would recognize?

Any particular part or aspect you really like about the piece

  • Do you have a favorite section? Why?

Any other interesting facts on the piece

  • Information about the first performance - how was it received? Did someone notable perform it?