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Dinu Lipatti said that you should break the piece down into many small parts, then thoroughly master each part, then start to string them together. It's the method I use, just slog through a few bars, or even one bar, at a time until mastered. Well, in my case it's more like memorised than mastered. Just constant repitition, I guess. I do notice that sometimes the most simple phrases are the most difficult!
By the way Lipatti was asked to perform the Tchaikovsky B flat m concerto, when he was already at his peak. He replied that he would need three years for preparation, and for the Beethoven Emperor four. In the end he performed neither.