In the current age and time, more and more people around the world are having the privileged to learn music. Just piano alone, there were already thousands of people across the world learning it.
Among this huge community of piano players, there must surely be a selected few who are many cut above the rest – especially in terms of musical and technical aspects. In this article, I will list out the best classical pianists of all time which I think you should know especially if you are a piano lover like myself. Unfortunately, some had passed away but I believe you can still easily find their recordings on the web – especially Youtube.
This list is non-exhaustive and the pianists are not ranked in any specific order. Personally, I think each of the pianists listed has its own unique interpretative style and character; What made them appear in my list is the fact that each of them had displayed super virtuoso skill both in terms of technicality and musicality.
This is a very valued skill that all budding pianists should strive to aim for and I hope this list will be inspiring to you.
In not particular order:
Read on to find out why I think they are the greatest.
Note: No doubt there were many more elite pianists that were missed out in this lists. Feel free to comment below to chip in the discussion on who you think should be in this list. After all, this is not meant to be a list to showcase ALL the virtuoso pianists but just a selected few which I think is noteworthy.
Martha Argerich , an Argentine piano virtuoso , was borned on 5th June 1941. She is the first of the two female pianists on this list and definitely one of the most famous in the world. She won the 7th International Chopin Piano Competition in 1965 at age 24 and had went on to record many more works by Chopin , Ravel , Brahms, Prokofiev and among many others.
Check out one of her recordings in 2010. This video showcases her virtuosity in handling a difficult Chopin Piano Concerto. The sparkling scale runs at the beginning contrasting with the lyrical opening… It is no wonder she won the Chopin Piano Competition. A truly undisputed champion.
Next on the list is the Isreali-Russian-British Pianists : Evgeny Igorevich Kissin . Borned in 10 October 1971 , he was a child prodigy and he is famed for his interpretation of musical works in the romantic era – particularly, Chopin, Rachminoff and Liszt. In addition, his supreme virtuosity and touch at the piano is often accredited to the training he received at the Russian Piano School.
I first saw his playing on Youtube a few years ago , performing Die Fledermaus Op. 56 Arranged by Grunfeld , at the BBC prom. This is one of my favorite pieces of ALL time. The music simply reminds me of ice skating and Tom and Jerry. Needless to say, it is also extremely difficult to play.
Moving on to the next pianist, we have Alfred Brendel. Borned on 5 Jan 1931, he is an Austrian pianist famed for his recordings of Mozart, Schubert , Schoenberg and ESPECIALLY Beethoven.
He is one pianist who had been awarded many honorary doctrates from universities around the world – including London , Yale , Oxford ( just to name a few). Furthermore, He was also awarded the Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE;1989). And, he was also ranked 8th best pianist of all time by Limelight in a 2012 survey.
Still not convinced? Watch him play the Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto.
Radu Lapu , a romanian pianist borned on 30 Nov 1945 , had won 3 prestigious awards in the classical music field. Although he has limited repertoire and recordings, he is famed for his interpretation of Schubert , Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart.
I was first introduced to his playing in my piano lesson as I was attempting to play Brahm’s Intermezzo Op 119 No 1 and I was absolutely blown away by his touch sensitivity at the piano. The sublime tone and musical phrasing were simply too beautiful. His playing of Mozart was equally as beautiful and it is hard not to wonder how does he achieve such tone.
Borned in 5 Jan 1942, Mauricio Pollini is an Italian pianist that possess exceptional technique. He won the Grammy award for solo music without orchestra for his series of Chopin Nocturnes. More notably, he had also won the Ernst Von Siemens Music Prize in 1996. Never heard of the Ernst Von Siemens Music Prize? Simply put. It is like winning the Nobel Prize For Music.
Here, is a playing of him playing my favourite Chopin Nocturne – Op. 27 No. 2
Another Grammy award winner on the list is none other than Emanuel Ax. Borned in 8 June 1949, he is a teacher at the faculty of music at the famous Julliard School. He is a supporter for contemporary music such as Hindemith and also traditional composers like Haydn, Brahms etc.
His playing is very precise and full of emotion and vigor. The emotional interpretation of his playing is always convincing and one can easily relate to the emotions he is trying to convey at the piano. A no easy feat to pull off!
One of my personal favourites of all time, Dame Mitsuko Uchida ( a Japanese borned pianist ) is definitely one you should not miss. She had won many accolades and one of which is the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She is very famous for her interpretation of Mozart Piano Sonatas and Concertos. Among others include Schoenberg etc.
In my opinion, she has the best interpretation for Mozart’s music. If I ever want to listen to Mozart, she is my go-to pianist.
Glen Gould, a canadian pianist borned in 25 sept 1932 , has the most unorthodox piano playing style in the list. Although often criticized for his strange behavior at the keyboard, he is often hailed as the best Bach’s interpreter. His ability to play polyphonic textures and bring out each singing voice clearly is undisputed. Till this day, it is hard to find anyone who can do the same.
Krystian Zimerman , borned in 5 Dec 1956, was hailed as one of the finest living pianist in the world. Also a winner at the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1975, his interpretation for Chopin’s music is one of the most impressive.
His delicate touch and convincing musical phrasing is what makes you want to listen to his playing over and over again.
Vladimir Horowitz ( borned in 1903 ) , was definitely the most legendary pianist in the 20th century. He is famed for his virtuoso technique and the ability to express a huge range of tone color and dynamics at the keyboard. Bringing out the fulling contrasts and tonality of the music of each of the pieces he play.
Unsurprisingly, he had won a long list of awards for his legendary piano playing skills. Till date, he was often recognized as the greatest piano player of all time.
This marks the 10th greatest piano players of all time and understandably, there are still more which I think is also noteworthy. In no particularly order, they are
B) Yundi Li
D) Lang Lang
I hope this list had been an eye opener to fellow piano players. It is often inspiring to know just how much one could achieve at the piano. Well? It’s time to practice the piano!
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