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#420005 - 09/22/05 10:00 PM most difficult piece ever
TheAsianPianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/05
Posts: 129
Loc: Michigan
In your opinion, what is the hardest piece to perform out of all of the classical pieces? I know there will be a variety of answers, but I want everyone to consider the tempo, technique, and musicality required to perform the piece.

My vote is for a piece on Vladimir Horowitz's Legendary RCA recordings CD, track 9 on disk 2 (don't know the name, the numbers aren't listed). Anyone else heard of it?
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#420006 - 09/22/05 10:02 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Maybe Bartok 2nd Concerto? I haven't played it (of course :p ), but it certainly sounds the hardest of all the music that I've heard.
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#420007 - 09/22/05 10:33 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
Well, if this is the disk you mean http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/det...nce&s=classical then track 9 is from Kabalevsky's preludes. I don't know them, so I can't comment - but I don't think the excerpt I heard on amazon, while difficult, would qualify as the toughest piece ever.

Balakirev's Islamey is generally considered one of the toughest. Ravel wrote his Gaspard de la Nuit to be tougher than that, though - and that suite is pretty darn tough. Another notable mention would be Sorabji's Opus Clavicembalisticum. While I've never heard it (and don't plan on it), it is reputed to be ridiculously hard. I've glanced at the score and I'd tend to agree. It's hard - and it's ridiculous... Of course, Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto is a monster, as is the Brahms PC No. 2 and the Bartok #2.
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#420008 - 09/22/05 10:41 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5062
Loc: Philadelphia
If you're speaking of Horowitz's "Legendary RCA Recordings" on which disc one has the Tchaikovsky and Rach 3 concertos, then track 9 of disc 2 would be Prokofiev's Toccata. I would have to disagree with you.

I think, quite simply, for each person, the 'hardest piece in the world' is the one they want to play but can't. ;\)
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#420009 - 09/23/05 12:24 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
C.V. Alkan Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/05
Posts: 827
Loc: Denver, Colorado
I still hold that Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano (movement 1, and 3 to a slightly lesser extent) is the most difficult piece ever written for the piano. Many would say that some of Sorabji's works are more difficult, but, seeing as how I haven't played either of these works, I really couldn't say.
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#420010 - 09/23/05 06:31 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
jon-nyc Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/09/05
Posts: 2022
Loc: the left bank -- of the east r...
Here's a measure from Sorabji:

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#420011 - 09/23/05 08:14 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
sandman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/13/01
Posts: 605
Loc: toronto
taking sheer musicality, technical dificulty and grasp of large form, and stamina I would certainly add Beethovens Hammerklavier Sonata Op 106,

Rzewski's 'The people united will never be defeated' sure belongs in this list as well, it also combines a blistering technique with the above qualities.

Boulez Sonata #2 is incredibly hard
most of Messieans works also could be added

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#420012 - 09/23/05 09:20 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
David Ramezani Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/05
Posts: 226
Loc: Sweden
Liszt Don Juan Fantasie
Godowsky-Chopin Études (particularly the étude in A flat, Opus 25, No. 1)
Brahms-Paganini variations
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#420013 - 09/23/05 09:40 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
kathyk Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/19/03
Posts: 6971
Loc: Maine
Hmmm - anybody try anything of Nancarrow's?

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#420014 - 09/23/05 12:54 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
Max W Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/02
Posts: 2846
Loc: RHUL
As far as solo works go, the Sorajbi O.C. is about as hard & demanding (and impossible unless you're a real psyco?) as it gets. I think there are only 2 or 3 pianists that have recorded it. Fortunatly it's a pretty gross piece of music so you're not missing out on much...

And concertos, my vote goes to the Busoni Piano Concerto. But all the others mentioned (apart from the Rachmaninoff) are definatly up there too.

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#420015 - 09/23/05 01:13 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Oh my. That excerpt from the Sorabji piece just about made me faint. Think I'll skulk back over to the Adult Beginner's forum where I belong. \:D

By the way, can anybody tell me what you call those "sixthlet" things? (The run of notes that looks like a triplet but there's six of them and it has a little 6 underneath it.) "Sixthlet" is all I could come up with, but that's not a stuffy enough term so it can't possibly be correct.
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#420016 - 09/23/05 01:26 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
With the exception of of the term "triplet", I don't ever use terms to denote "irregular" groupings of notes. For instance, in Chopin when it's not uncommon to see 29 against 4, there's no point in coming up with a name for that - it's just "29 against 4".

A grouping of 6 against 4 is certainly common enough to merit a name - so I'd guess hextuplet?

Oh, and I think the Sorabji is enough to make even accomplished pianists faint, you're not alone... \:\)
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#420017 - 09/23/05 01:46 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
pianomad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 309
Loc: USA
Herma

Eonta

both by Xenakis

I've actually seen the score for Eonta, and I haven't the faintest clue how anyone can play this. I have a recording by Yuji Takahashi, and after following along in the score for a few seconds I just put the score away; it was futile.
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#420018 - 09/23/05 04:17 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 349
 Quote:
Originally posted by kathyk:
Hmmm - anybody try anything of Nancarrow's? [/b]
Yes. In a Juilliard class I was assigned one of his player piano studies, transcribed for 4 hands.

A fine piece, but a pointless performance exercise. It's music for machines, and humans can't possibly play it as well as a machine can.

I know that Nancarrow wrote some pieces for sentient pianists, but I've never heard any of them.

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#420019 - 09/23/05 10:24 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
TheAsianPianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/05
Posts: 129
Loc: Michigan
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
If you're speaking of Horowitz's "Legendary RCA Recordings" on which disc one has the Tchaikovsky and Rach 3 concertos, then track 9 of disc 2 would be Prokofiev's Toccata. I would have to disagree with you.

I think, quite simply, for each person, the 'hardest piece in the world' is the one they want to play but can't. ;\) [/b]
I mean when I first heard it, it sounded so chaotic and there is so much going on that I don't think I could comprehend even how to play it. Vladimir Horowitz is up to his usual best in his legendary recordings, and I'd think that only he could perform the hardest the best.
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#420020 - 09/23/05 10:27 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
TheAsianPianist Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/17/05
Posts: 129
Loc: Michigan
Also, does anyone here agree with me that Liszt's "La Campanella" is extremely hard? I mean I've heard Yundi Li play it and he had his fair share of mistakes. I'd think that Lang Lang could also perform it pretty close to perfect (I mean he can do it if he could perform Liszt's transcription of Don Juan)
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#420021 - 09/23/05 10:48 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
There is a DVD with Evgeny Kissin performing La Campanella as an encore piece. Very, very good performance.
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#420022 - 09/24/05 12:14 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
8ude Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 2050
Liszt's La Campanella and Don Juan Fantasy are both quite difficult pieces, but I don't think they'd qualify as the hardest piece ever. Tough as his music is, Liszt knew how to write for the piano and his stuff is very pianistic.
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#420023 - 09/24/05 12:39 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5062
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
There is a DVD with Evgeny Kissin performing La Campanella as an encore piece. Very, very good performance. [/b]
I'm dying to listen to Kissin. One of the few pianists I want to listen to, and whom I still haven't had the opportunity. (Oh, sure those little 50 second clips at amazon, et al, but we both know that doesn't cut it compared to a complete performance. ;\) )
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#420024 - 09/24/05 12:51 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
You've never heard a Kissin CD?

His DVD, the Gift of Music, is great. It's a "documentary", but there's more performance on there than there is documentary.

He's one of my favorite pianists.
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#420025 - 09/24/05 03:08 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
David Ramezani Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/19/05
Posts: 226
Loc: Sweden
The search for the most difficult piece ever is quite useless. It doesn't say anything about the quality of the piece. I could write down the most difficult piece right now, if I wanted to. But it would sound like garbage.
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#420026 - 09/24/05 03:14 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
bach enthusiast Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/02/05
Posts: 847
Loc: Tucson Arizona
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
Kissin. He's one of my favorite pianists. [/b]
Yup. Same here.
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#420027 - 09/24/05 03:19 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5228
Loc: McAllen, TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by Lemon Pledge:
Yes. In a Juilliard class I was assigned one of his player piano studies, transcribed for 4 hands.

A fine piece, but a pointless performance exercise. It's music for machines, and humans can't possibly play it as well as a machine can.

I know that Nancarrow wrote some pieces for sentient pianists, but I've never heard any of them. [/b]
The Bugallo-Williams duo would like to have a word with you.
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#420028 - 09/24/05 11:43 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
Lemon Pledge Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 349
 Quote:
Originally posted by Brendan:
The Bugallo-Williams duo would like to have a word with you. [/b]
I had to Google that one. Clearly they're an accomplished and dedicated pair who have found an interesting professional niche. More power to them for having attracted an audience.

I couldn't find any audio clips. But I have heard others attempt transcriptions of Nancarrow's studies, and I can't imagine how these fascinating examples of concrete music could benefit from human interpretation. I'd be happy to have my attitude about that changed, of course.

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#420029 - 09/24/05 09:20 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
John Citron Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
I wouldn't say that this is the most difficult piece ever, but it's sure up there in the top tier:

Buson's transcription of the Bach Chaconne.

John
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#420030 - 09/24/05 09:37 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
TS Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/04
Posts: 869
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by jon-nyc:
Here's a measure from Sorabji:

[/b]
For lack of a better phrase: Holy F!

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#420031 - 09/24/05 11:29 PM Re: most difficult piece ever
WCSMinorCircuit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/04
Posts: 1124
Loc: California
As hard as Sorabji's O.C. is, I think it sucks as far as musicality is performed. Way too long and bad sounding (sorry for my bad articulation).
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#420032 - 09/25/05 12:01 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
Derulux Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 5062
Loc: Philadelphia
 Quote:
Originally posted by TS:
 Quote:
Originally posted by jon-nyc:
Here's a measure from Sorabji:

[/b]
For lack of a better phrase: Holy F! [/b]
To borrow from Monty Python, "I've had worse."
"No, you haven't. Your arm's off."
"It's just a flesh wound." :p ;\)
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#420033 - 09/25/05 10:06 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
mrenaud Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/29/02
Posts: 1305
Loc: Switzerland
I think that this Sorabij example suffers from exceptionally poor engraving more than from anything else.

Besides, I recently heard the Boulez sonata no. 2 in concert and have to agree that it's extremely difficult. I'd also nominate the Ives Concord Sonata as one of the hardest pieces out there.
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#420034 - 09/25/05 10:58 AM Re: most difficult piece ever
Skriabin Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/05
Posts: 551
Loc: li, new york
 Quote:
Originally posted by Derulux:
 Quote:
Originally posted by TS:
 Quote:
Originally posted by jon-nyc:
Here's a measure from Sorabji:

[/b]
For lack of a better phrase: Holy F! [/b]
To borrow from Monty Python, "I've had worse."
"No, you haven't. Your arm's off."
"It's just a flesh wound." :p ;\) [/b]
"Thats a dead horse."

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