The 25 greatest pianists of all time (2023)

February 18, 2022, 10:54 am | Updated June 21, 2022 at 11:21 am

The 25 greatest pianists of all time (1)

Who are the greatest pianists that ever lived? After a heated debate among Classic FM's moderators, this is the list of piano icons they have compiled (in alphabetical order).

We asked our Classic FM presenters for their favouritePianosymbols. Without further ado, here is our list of the greatest pianists of all time.

1. Leif Ove Andsnes (1970.-)

BrightNorwegian pianistHe became famous as one of the greatest musicians of our time, not only through his recordings of Beethoven's piano concertos with Mahler's chamber orchestra. critic forgramophoneThe magazine called the series "a remarkable achievement."

Read more:16 of the best compositions EVER written for piano

2. Martha Argerich (1941.-)

The world woke to the phenomenal talent of the Argentine pianistMarta ArgerichIn 1964, at the age of 24, she won the International Chopin Piano Competition. Arguably the greatest living pianist today, she can sell out concerts in minutes.

Read more:This piano has no black keys. How will it sound?

3. Claudio Arrau (1903.-1991.)

It is said that this great Chilean pianist could read music before he could read words. It wasn't long before he was playing works like a virtuosoTranscendental EtudesafterLiszt. He is perhaps best known for his musical interpretationsBeethoven. Legendary conductor Colin Davis said of Arrau, "His sound is incredible and all his own...His devotion to Liszt is extraordinary." He refines this music in a way no one else in the world can.

(Video) The greatest pianists of all time

4. Vladimir Ashkenazy (1937.-)

Ashkenaziis one of the heavyweights in the world of classical music. Born in Russia, he now holds both Icelandic and Swiss citizenship and still performs as a pianist and conductor around the world. In 1962 he was joint winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition (along with John Ogdon, see below) and the following year he left the USSR to live in London.

His extensive catalog of recordings includes complete piano worksRachmaninoffIChopin, all Beethoven sonatas,Mozart'sPiano concertos and works by Scriabin, Prokfiev and Brahms. He has worked with all the great names of the 20th century, including conductors Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta and Bernard Haitink.

We recently asked a great pianist (and now conductor!) to share his advice for pianists.

5. Daniel Barenboim (1942.-)

In 2012, Ban Ki-moon, Haile Gebrselassie and Doreen Lawrence were accompanied by an Israeli-Argentinian conductor and pianistDaniel Barenboimwhile carrying the Olympic flag to London Stadium. Barenboim's international fame is now due in part to his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - which he co-founded with Edward Said and which is made up of musicians from across the Middle East. But it also produced some of the greatest recordings ever made and secured its place in the history books.

6. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770.-1827.)

BeethovenHis playing differs so much from the normal use of the piano that it seems as if he has embarked on a completely new path. These are the words of a contemporary of Beethoven, Carl Ludwig Junker. We may not have recordings of Beethoven's performances, but we do have the virtuosic and imaginative music he wrote for the piano and accounts of people who heard him play. Now better known as a composer, the man was admired for his use of legato and the vocal tones he could produce.

7. Alfred Brendel (1931.-)

"If I belong to a tradition, it is a tradition that ensures that the masterpiece tells the performer what to do, not the performer tells the work what it should be." These are the words of the brilliant Mr. Brendel himself. He can turn to music of all epochs, but is valued above all for his interpretationsHaydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Liszt.

8. Frederic Chopin (1810.-1849.)

The most famous Polish composer was also one of the great piano virtuosos of his time. The vast majority of his works were for solo piano, and while there are no recordings of his playing (the earliest sound recordings date from the 1860s), one contemporary said: "You could say that."ChopinHe is the founder of the piano school and the composition school. True, there is nothing that can compare to the ease, the gentleness with which the composer performs the prelude on the piano; Beyond that, nothing can compare to his works full of originality, nobility and beauty.”

(Video) Piano Professor Breaks Down 16 Legendary Pianists’ Techniques

9. Glenn Gould (1932.-1982.)

If ever there was a pianist who divided classical music lovers,Glenn GouldIs it. The Canadian pianist is best known for his interpretations of the music of J.S. known. Bach, and above allGoldberg Variations. But he is also known for humming while playing, playing in a small chair that he took to all his concerts, and for his strict recording and performance requirements.

10. Myra Hess (1890.-1965.)

Dame Myra Hess, as she later became, is best known not so much for winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music at age 12 as for performing there with legendary conductor Sir Thomas Beecham at 17 years - except for the concert series she put on at the National Gallery during World War II. During the war, music venues in London were closed to avoid mass casualties when bombs hit them. Hess had the idea of ​​using the gallery for lunchtime concerts. The series lasted six and a half years and Hess himself appeared in 150 of them.

11. Vladimir Horowitz (1903.-1989.)

There are strong arguments for Vladimir Horowitz to be crowned the greatest pianist of all time. He made his debut in 1920 with a solo concert in Kharkiv. In 1925 his fame grew considerably and he went west saying he wanted to study with Artur Schnabel in Berlin - but he decided to leave for good and stuffed American and British money into his shoes. He made his US debut at Carnegie Hall in 1928 and subsequently became an American citizen. He is best known for his performances of romantic works, including music by Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Schumann.

12. Stephen Hough (1961.-)

British pianistStephen Houghis an excellent soloist and chamber musician who enjoys playing romantic concertos just as much as a piano quintet or a miniature by Massenet orRavel. "Hough is one of those keyboard players who gets along well with the music they play," wrote one reviewer. Oh, and did we mention he also composes and paints? A true Renaissance man.

13. Lang Lang (1982-)

Lang LangWith his inimitable skills on and off the stage, he changed the world of classical music forever. Thousands of children in China began playing the piano in what became known as the "long-long effect." Like his style or not, there's no denying the impact Lang Lang has had on the classical scene.

14. Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

Franz Liszt, the Hungarian composer, teacher and pianist, competed with Chopin for the crown of the greatest virtuoso of the 19th century. Among his most famous works are his fiendishly difficult onespilgrim years, Piano Sonata in B minor and hisMephisto-Walzer. And as an artist, his fame was legendary – a word was even coined for the madness he unleashed: Lisztomania.

15. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756.-1791.)

Again, this is not a pianist that anyone alive today has had the privilege of hearing, but by all accounts - and judging by the piano music - he was privileged to hear itMozartwrote - could rival anyone on this list. Just listen to his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 21 to find out what the most famous composer of them all might have sounded like...

(Video) 10 Great Pianists Of The 20th Century

16. John Ogdon (1937.-1989.)

Ogdon belonged to a new generation of musicians as he studied alongside Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies and Alexander Goehr at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester in the 1950s. He could play almost anything that came to mind and was known for his incredible memory for music. In 1962 he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition together with Vladimir Ashkenazy and recorded numerous works by Rachmaninoff.

17. Murray Perahia (1947.-)

I know you are exAlthough he started playing the piano at the age of four, he says it wasn't until the age of 15 that he became seriously interested in music. In 1972 he became the first North American to win the Leeds Piano Competition and the following year he worked with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears at the Aldeburgh Festival. In 1992, his arm became swollen due to a bone abnormality, forcing him to take time off from performing. At this time he found solace in the music of J.S. stream. His Bach recordings are considered some of the best ever recorded.

18. Maria João Pires (1944.-)

The Portuguese pianist is valued for her interpretations of Chopin, Schubert and Mozart, among other things. critic inTimesaid: "She lets you hear Schubert's genius with fresh ears."

She also appears to have an incredible memory - remember the time she prepared the wrong concert for a concertAnyway, I played the right thing?

19. Maurizio Pollini (1942.-)

When Pollini won the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1960, Arthur Rubinstein apparently said, "This boy can play the piano better than any of us." Since then, Pollini has steadily built his reputation as one of the greatest pianists of our time, performing with conductors Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic. In 2010-11 London's Southbank Center organized The Pollini Project, a series of five concerts featuring music from Bach to Stockhausen.

20. Sergej Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

It is well known that Rachmaninoff could comfortably stretch the 13th note on the piano (five notes more than an octave), and even a cursory glance at the etudes and concertos he wrote makes a compelling argument that this fact correct is. Fortunately, recordings of this brilliant pianist in action have survived. Arthur Rubinstein said of Rachmaninov: "He had a golden, lively tone that came from the heart."

21. Svyatoslav Richter (1915.-1997.)

One of the many greats vying for the title of greatest pianist of the 20th century, Richter is one of a handful of influential Russian pianists to emerge in the mid-20th century. However, he was not a big fan of the recording process, which is why his best albums are recordings of his live performances, including those in Amsterdam in 1986, New York in 1960 and Leipzig in 1963.

(Video) The Fastest PIANO Forever by LANG LANG, The Most Professional Pianist in the World 4K UHD

22. Arthur Rubinstein (1887.-1982.)

This Polish-American pianist is often cited as the greatest Chopin interpreter of all time. It was discovered at the age of two that he had perfect hearing, and he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic at the age of 13. He was tutored by pianist Karl Heinrich Barth, who was a student of Liszt, meaning Rubinstein was part of an impressive pianistic tradition.

23. Clara Schumann (1819.-1896.)

One of the few pianists to compete in the predominantly male 19th century music world,Klarawas a superstar of her time. Her talent far surpassed that of her composer husband Robert. She has also written her own music - you can hear an example in the video below.

A critic of the time said: "The performance of this artist can be considered epochal... In her creative hands the most ordinary passage, the most routine motif takes on momentous meaning, a color bestowed only on those of the most perfect meaning." can give.

24. Jean-Yves Thibaudet (1961.-)

The great pianist Vladimir Horowitz once said that he heard Thibaudet's fingers do things that his own could not do with LisztFaust Waltz. And Horowitz was undoubtedly one of the greats...

25. Mitsuko Uchida (1948.-)

Japanese-British pianistMitsuko UchidaShe was recently made a Dame - a testament to her vital importance to the music world. She studied in Vienna and gave her first concert in the city when she was only 14 years old. Best known for her interpretations of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, she has also made excellent recordings of works by Schubert and, more recently, Schumann.


1. Great Pianists' Early vs Late Recordings
(Ozan Fabien Guvener)
2. How Much Do Great Pianists REALLY Practice?
(Bibi Pelic)
3. 30 Most Famous Classical Piano Pieces
4. | The Greatest Pianists
5. The 25 best piano players of all time
6. The Best of Piano - 50 Greatest Pieces: Chopin, Debussy, Beethoven, Mozart...


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Van Hayes

Last Updated: 27/07/2023

Views: 6428

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Van Hayes

Birthday: 1994-06-07

Address: 2004 Kling Rapid, New Destiny, MT 64658-2367

Phone: +512425013758

Job: National Farming Director

Hobby: Reading, Polo, Genealogy, amateur radio, Scouting, Stand-up comedy, Cryptography

Introduction: My name is Van Hayes, I am a thankful, friendly, smiling, calm, powerful, fine, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.