Do you think it is better to play three shorter and not-too-difficult pieces that you can play well? Or would it be better to play one longer piece that is really hard so you probably won't play it that well?
Monica, I don't know what the requirements are for your competition, but here are some guidelines from former judges:
1. Formal works always carry more weight over the less formal works.
2. Typically longer works are weighed more heavily over shorter works.
3. Shorter and more technically challenging works carry more weight over the longer and less technical works.
4. One long and difficult work carries more weight than multiple short and less difficult pieces.
5. Almost every competition requires a Mozart or Beethoven Sonata, and a Chopin Etude(s).
6. Certain works in the piano repertoire are a "real world" measure of greatness of a pianist's debut: Beethoven Sonatas; Chopin Preludes Op. 28, Etudes; works of Liszt.
7. Make sure you know all the pertinent requirements of the competition, judges, piano, hall.
Whatever you're worrying about now, just REELLAAAAXX........ If there are multiple rounds in the competition, then you don't need to show up to a race in a Ferrari in the first round of the competition. The first round will screen out the one's who will make mistakes. Keep it simple, predictable, and clean. Save the most difficult repertoire for the final round.
When you're on stage, there is no guarantee that you'll play 3 shorter and easier pieces better than 1 longer and more difficult one. From a judging standpoint, it will weigh less heavily in your favor. Statistically, I'd say you have a better chance to play 3 shorter and simpler pieces better than 1 longer and more difficult one. In some circumstances, when you play a group of seemingly easier pieces, it may be more difficult to excel on every piece equally in public, because I think we psychologically prepare ourselves differently with easier pieces, and there is also an issue with consistency. Years ago, I was faced with a similar situation in deciding which Beethoven Sonata to play in the final round. I chose the easier one. I was told that it was the deciding factor in my placement. The pianists who placed 1st and 2nd clearly played the more difficult sonatas brilliantly. However, had I chosen a more difficult sonata, and didn't play it well, I would have dropped down considerably from 3rd. Well, even still... Not bad for Jerry's kids?!
In the meantime, pick and chose various passages within your repertoire to make sure your fingering and fluidity is intact to remove any doubts. Make sure your muscle memory in the fingers is just as confident as the notes in your brain. Remain calm, collective, patient, and focus intently - live vicariously in the state of mind of the composer when you're playing for them on stage - allow yourself to feed the music as if you were the composer. Don't worry about nerves, every pianist in that hall will have it. The difference lies in how you allow yourself to be free in spirit, and yet not allow your focus to wander under pressure. Try practicing with distractions and noises to practice on your focus - it will help you maintain that essential focus in the event you do
have an unexpected distraction. Competitions are respective to one's cumulative musical experience - you're an avid recorder of music, great pianist, and all that hard labor will show... At the very end, you will do amazing things that will even surprise yourself... Save us a front row seat!