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The Guide to the Best Pianists in the World

By Yann, published on 04/09/2018 We Love Prof - IN > Music > Piano > A Tour of the World of Piano

“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.” – Thelonious Monk

Piano ownership in the UK varies greatly according to social class. You’ll see how obvious this is if you look at how much some of the instruments can cost. The price of a Steinway or Yamaha grand piano might make your eyes water.

However, you don’t need to spend a fortune to learn about classical piano or modern piano music.

For one, upright pianos are cheaper than grand pianos and you don’t necessarily need to buy a new piano if you’re just starting out. Of course, the strings will probably need tuning by a piano technician if you get a second-hand piano that hasn’t been played in a while.

That said, you don’t necessarily have to buy an acoustic piano. You can always opt for a digital piano or a keyboard as they tend to be much more affordable.

Of course, before you start eyeing up that Kawai piano for sale, you should probably learn more about the piano itself. Learning to play the piano involves learning about musical culture in the same way that you’d learn about the culture of a certain country when you study a language.

In this article, we’re going to have a look at piano virtuosos throughout the centuries as well as the most beautiful piano music.

The Best Pianists of All Time

Unsurprisingly, most of the world’s greatest pianists are classical musicians. With sonatas, concertos, and solos, famous pianists have charmed us over the years with their magical, soothing, and bewitching works.

Who are the most famous piano players ever? There are far too many great pianists to fit in just one article! (Source: Free-Photos)

Like all rankings, this one is very subjective and you could easily add a mountain of other pianists who are also worthy of making the grade.

However, here are 8 of the greatest pianists of all time:

  • Frédéric Chopin: With unparalleled musicality, an out-of-the-ordinary improvisational ability, and a clinical touch, Chopin amazed with his playing!
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: The Viennese classicistic created pieces with incredible harmony. He is without a doubt one of the greats.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: An unmatched pianist who created many amazing piano pieces and was a prodigy from a very young age.
  • Peter Bence: An expert in piano technique. According to Guinness World Records, he’s the fastest pianist in the world with 765 strokes a minute.
  • Martha Argerich: Started playing the piano aged two and a half. Argerich quickly became a master of the instrument and won two competitions within two weeks aged just 16.
  • Art Tatum: Certainly one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. He’s gifted with a fantastic ear for music.
  • Sonya Belousova: A young prodigy, Belousova became a master both in terms of composition and improvising.
  • Yiruma: having played since the age of 5, he’s known from the Twilight films with the song River Flows in You.

Of course, there are so many other pianists that are also worthy of this list such as Thomas Waller (Fats Waller), Haydn, Gluck, and Prokofiev.

When you learn piano techniques, you’ll also learn to play songs that you like; songs that move you, inspire you and leave you energised.

Which are the most popular piano pieces? The piano gets to be in the centre of the stage, where it belongs. (Source: WikiImages)

Since the piano is a moving musical instrument, there are a variety of famous pieces that are suitable for absolute beginners and others that are reserved just for the very best pianists.

  • Mozart, Turkish March: A classical music classic. This is not really one of the easiest songs to play for beginners.
  • Beethoven, Fur Elise: This piece is probably better suited to beginners. Can you play it by ear?
  • Renaud, Mistral Gagnat: What would this fantastic French song be without the piano chords? Far from chamber music, this contemporary piece will give you the chills.
  • Ludovico Einaudi, Divenire: This piece was featured on the film Intouchable and will definitely move you. Why not try to play one of Ludovico Einaudi’s pieces for yourself?
  • Ray Charles, Hit the Road Jack: To practise your rhythm and timing, there’s nothing better than jazz classics. This piece has a tempo that beginners can have a go at.
  • Toto, Hold the Line: While the cadence is quite complicated to follow in this song and the right-hand and left-hand parts require a lot of concentration, it’s worth having a go of if you fancy a challenge.
  • Alicia Keys, If I Ain’t Got You: This piece from the talented singer Alicia Keys is great for those wanting to work on both their piano playing and their voice.
  • Adele, Someone Like You: If you prefer pop music, this song by Adele is a must. A lot of her songs are great for pianists.
  • Yann Tiersen, Comptime d’un autre été l’après-midi: The simple and moving piano pieces from this French pianist were featured in the unforgettable soundtrack for the film Amélie and the artist regularly performs them live.
  • Maurane, Le prélude de Bach: This singer with an unforgettable voice was accompanied by a great piano piece.

Whether you like classical music, contemporary pop, or jazz, you’ll find plenty of interesting piano pieces that’ll get stuck in your head.

Famous Piano Composers

When you talk about the piano, you have to talk about the famous composers, those who are often some of the best pianists at the same time.

Who are the greatest composers for the piano? The piano is a colourful instrument, which is why so many composers favour it. (Source: b1-foto)

Don’t be shocked to see some of our greatest pianists make another appearance on our list!
Here are some of the greatest composers of all time:

  • Joannes Brahms: This composer and conductor was often compared to Beethoven, much to his dismay.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: He started composing at the age of 12 and his works continued to evolve over time.
  • Joseph Haydn: Considered the father of symphony, he also instigated the shift from baroque music to Romantic music.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: the epitome of genius! Although he died young, he left behind 600 musical works!
  • Robert Schumann: He recreated poems musically and was an absolutely fantastic composer.
  • Frédéric Chopin: An unparalleled pianist and composer, Chopin was a spontaneous creator and could spend hours locked in a room with the sole goal of creating music for his wife, George Sand (real name Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin).
  • Piotr Ilyich Tchaïkovski: You can’t talk about the best composers without mentioning Tchaïkovski. The composer was at the forefront of Romanticism and known for his eclecticism.
  • Giuseppe Verdi: The Italian school also had its fair share of talented composers, including Verdi who created many operas that are still performed today. He was notably influenced by Wagner even though the two were contemporaries.
  • Ludovico Einaudi: We have to also include Ludovico Einaudi, a contemporary composer, in this list. He’s known for his minimalist melodies that are found in films such as Mommy.

I could have also added Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Chostakovitch, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov.

The Best French Pianists

We need to give a special mention to some of the amazing pianists from across the channel. Let’s have a look at some of the greatest French composers! If you want to see some pianists from closer to home, check out our article on the best British pianists.

How do you write music for the piano? Once you know who the greatest pianists are, you’ll be inspired to start writing your own music! (Source: kdasomee1)

The country is full to the brim with talented pianists. Here’s a quick list of some to check out:

  • Yann Tiersen: We mentioned him previously for comptine d’un autre été l’après-midi. Yann Tiersen is a pianist, violinist, and accordionist. He’s got more than just one trick up his sleeve!
  • Khatia Buniatishvili: While Khatia is actually Georgian, she became a naturalised French citizen in 2017, effectively making her viable for this list.
  • Christian Ivaldi: Having studied at the Conservatoire de Paris, it’s hardly surprising to see Ivaldi in this list. While approaching the age of 80, he’s still a professor of piano.
  • Marielle and Katia Labèque: These two sisters play the piano with four hands as a duo.
  • David Kadouch: The prodigy played at Carnegie Hall in New York aged just 13. Need we say more?
  • Dominique Merlet: In addition to being a talented pianist, he’s also a consultant and educator for young artists around the world.
  • Marguerite Long: A friend of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, she created, along with Jacques Thibaud, the Concours International Long-Thibaud, an international music competition.
  • Bertrand Chamayou: At the age of 15, Chamayou played his first recitals and performances and won 4 prizes at the Victoires de la musique classique classical music awards.
  • Erik Satie: He was kicked out of the Conservatoire as he was judged to have no talent. Have a listen and you’ll quickly see that this isn’t the case.

If you have a quick look online, you can also find plenty of other amazing pianists with checking out.

Of course, we couldn’t fit them all in just the one article!

Piano Vocabulary

If you want to really get to know the great pianists, you need to learn how to play the piano. Additionally, you’ll need to know what the words and vocabulary mean.

Allegro

Allegro comes from Italian and means cheerful. It means to play fast, quickly, and bright.

Homophony

This is when different parts are supported by other parts that flesh out the harmony.

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