"The Incredible Shrinking Recital Program!"
After you've picked your recital program, and you've learned all the details of the music by hitting the woodshed, then it's time to shift your practice gradually from detail work towards continuity work. This means playing through longer sections, run-throughs of your pieces, and even entire mock recitals. There are several benefits to this continuity work:
1) It builds your endurance for the big recital.
2) It boosts our confidence that you can play this music convincingly, and you will make it through the entire program.
3) It helps you see the musical "big picture," and you might find new insights and interpretations that you had missed when you were looking at everything under a microscope.
4) Crisis management: You build the habit of getting right back on track after a mistake. This is critical for an effective performance. You may not make the same mistakes in your recital, but if you've practiced this skill, you can overcome just about any on-stage surprises.
5) You learn where your weak spots are, and where you still need a little more detail work. Things feel different in context.
6) The program shrinks!
During this phase of preparing for a recital, I always have the same sensation: that the program is shrinking! This is because I can see the "big picture." I'm looking at the forest instead of the trees. I can imagine the entire program before me, and it seems less daunting and more manageable.
(About this time, you should be designing your recital poster!)
Next in the series: "Visualization and Tapering"