Experienced concert programme note writers will have the notes at their fingertips. They just need to copy and paste into a new document. Most of us, however, start from scratch.
Having determined the order of pieces in a concert, it’s time to research the programme notes.
There are many ways to do this.
One way is to find as much as you can about each piece — the composer’s name, birth and death dates, opus numbers, circumstances surrounding the piece, who premiered it, where it was first performed or published, and anything that’s controversial or juicy for the audience to know. Such information puts the work in perspective. Interesting tidbits engrave the piece in the listener’s mind.
While most information is easily found on the Internet (wikipedia for instance), I prefer to “triangulate” — i.e. double check various sources. The opus numbers may be mistyped and propagated. People do fall into the lazy habit of copying instead of reinventing the wheel.
To avoid plagiarism, I would rewrite the sentences and paragraphs so there is no sign that I’ve copied word for word. This takes some practice.
To make the programme consistent, I would ensure that no work gets more attention (word length) than others, unless one piece is deliberately featured. If there is a theme to the concert, the text should fit to the theme.
For the two cello piano concerts in Warnsveld, we weren’t requested to produce programme notes. Yet it was a good exercise to come prepared. Sometimes we learn in hindsight what would have been a better order. In this case, there were several pieces to do with love and marriage — Chanson Triste (the end of a love), La Cinquaintaine (50 years of love and marriage), and Salut d’Amour (the beginning of love). It would have been a nice story to begin with Salut d’Amour instead of Chanson Triste.
The three page programme notes can be found in a PDF.