Top 10 Greatest Piano Pieces in Classical Music

Published on 14 May 2020 at 14:17

The piano is the world's most played instrument and that is partly due to the amazing pieces that have been composed for it. To guide you through the best of it, here is a Top 10 of the Greatest Piano Pieces in all of Classical Music.

It didn't take long for the piano to get recognition of its value to the musical world after the invention of its first version; the fortepiano (1698-1709). Although there had already been another instrument which works similarly to it called the harpsichord, the fortepiano was a truly revolutionizing instrument. It was played by musical geniuses like Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and it started developing into how we came to know it, now.

The competition between composers became fierce because of the potential it had. You had acces to a very wide range of notes and composers were able to accompany themselves with great harmony. Composers always tried to outdo each other by coming up with new techniques and structures and it resulted in true forms of art passed on by millions of people to this day. To find a more elaborate selection, click here.

1. Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

It is one of the most popular pieces composed by Franz Liszt and you're very likely to already know it. And rightfully so. Liszt is known for writing the most challenging and demanding pieces in the world and it gets showcased perfectly by this excellent performance, by a pianist who has pretty much made his excellent cadenza the norm: Marc-André Hamelin.

2. Tchaikovsky - Piano Concerto No. 1

Arguably the greatest piano concerto ever written by the greatest pianist in history: Martha Argerich. It's only a mix of these ingredients that are able to produce such amazing recordings. You are really carried along the storyline and there is not one moment of distraction, especially throughout the first movement. Part of what makes this piece truly great, are the various themes that it brings along. Several different melodies keep wandering in your head and they simply won't get you bored.

3. Bach Concerto For 4 Pianos, Bwv 1065

It should be noted that this concerto wasn't orginally meant to be played on a piano. It is part of a set of keyboard concertos (BWV 1052–1065) in which this concerto is intended for the harpsichord. Although opinions may differ, this is a rare world class performance by some of the greatest pianists the earth has ever seen, playing one of the greatest composers in history. Martha Argerich and Evgeny Kissin are just 2 of these outstanding pianists with Mischa Maisky playing the cello. The more famous Brandenburg Concerto tends to overshadow this piece and that's a real shame. So in honor of this piece, it gets a spot right over here.

4. Chopin - Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. 66

You simply can't leave Frédéric Chopin out of this top 10. It's such an exciting piece while at the same time introducing the listener to the most amazing phrasing and virtuosity within one piece. It really shows off so many aspects of emotions that a piece can entail and that's part of the reason why it's especially great for people who are new to classical music. It really highlights many of the things that make classical music so great.

5. Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata (No. 14)

This is the famous 'Moonlight Sonata' and it's the most famous classical piano piece in history with a staggering 143 Million views. You had to be living under a rock if you don't immediately recognize this piece by now and it very well deserved its reputation. The repeating, very moving structure of the first movement lays in fierce contradiction with the excitement of the third movement and although it gets played so often, it's hard to get bored by it. Beethoven certainly knew how to move people.

6. Chopin - Polonaise in A flat Op. 53

Although the interpretation of this piece is a bit controversial in connection with the fact that it's a polonaise, I think it's definitely worth to add this one to the list. Lang Lang gives a strong impression of the way he sees the piano within these pieces. He truly 'plays' the piano. He sees it as a tool to display his joy for classical music and that's what he brings over to the audience. This piece has been the gateway for many outsiders to classical music and has probably brought about thousands of new enthusiasts. It's something which Chopin and Lang Lang both have the tendency to do which in my opinion, is greatly applaudable.

7. Beethoven - Sonata No. 8 'Pathetique'

This is one of the greatest examples to display the true artistic talent that Beethoven had. Barenboim has an extraordinary sophisticated interpretation of this piece and although his latest couple of performances sparked some controversy, it is difficult to top this performance. The emotion it reflects is truly amazing.

8. Liszt/Paganini - La Campanella

The melody of this piece comes from Niccolò Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor composed in 1826 with Liszt deciding to compose it for the piano in 1851. It has become one of the most recognizable pieces in all of classical music and the view count, upwards of 18 million, is well deserved. The translation 'The little bell' gets recognizable in about 15 seconds into the piece and stays there as a theme throughout the piece. It's part of the reason why it gets so catchy.

9. Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No. 2

You simply can not ignore this piece in this list. It wouldn't be a valid list without Rachmaninoff and the 26 million views prove me right. This piece goes beyond just the classical music community. It reaches people well outside that border to get more and more people into classical music. It serves as one of his most popular pieces, although his 3rd piano concerto doesn't underperform either. Definitely worth the listen.

10. Paganini/Liszt - Etude 6

This piece falls right into the habit of Liszt. The arpeggios. It's gives a strong impression of grandiosity and virtuosity and the piece makes use of pretty much the whole range of the piano in this piece. The style of Paganini and Liszt are closely related to each other in the way that they're both really showing off in pushing the limits of the instrument. Paganini's 24th Caprice is a perfect candidate to showcase this.

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Mr A N Matthews
3 years ago

Bad choices. Hammerklavier? Opus 111? Gaspard? Wanderer fantasie? Schumann carnaval? Oh i forgot it is all matter of opinion and opinions can never be wrong. All stupid people hid behind that maxim.

3 years ago

Are you serious??!!!!

3 years ago

Inspired me to learn moonlight sonata, thanks for the list!