Vote for your favorite pianist in our "Great Pianist Poll".
Anyone who has heard the recording of Josef Lhevinne playing the G minor
etude of Chopin must agree that he had one of the greatest techniques of all
James G. Lombardi
San Diego, CA.
The finest live piano performance I ever heard was a recital by
Sviatislov Richter. It was a phenomenal performance that included the
Prokofiev Seventh Sonata and the Bartok 14 Hungarian Peasant Songs. It
sent me to the store to buy the music and made him my immediate idol.
I submit that no-one ever came close to inventing and playing so much
pianistic virtuosity as Romantic composer Franz Liszt. Few can play the
immense repertoire of this very prolific genius. Not only did he
transform the world of the piano recital with his talent, but he also
propelled music itself miles ahead of what it was then. Some thought
that his incredible playing could only be attributed to a man possessed
by the devil...
Freddie Mercury of the rock group Queen is a great pianist. Although he
is most well known for his singing and his flamboyant lifestyle, Freddie
was also an incredible piano player. Since Queen was a rock group, the
piano was not always at the forefront of their music, but when Freddie
did sit down at the keyboard, he was capable of very beautiful and very
I have several favorite pianists and I could argue that any one of them is
the greatest recorded pianist of this century. However, as I sit here
listening to the unbelievably difficult Piano Concerto No. 5 by Prokofiev,
I must give my vote to Sviatoslav Richter. Although largely unknown in
America, he is more respected by performing classical pianists than any
other. There is a story that he moved Artur Rubenstien to tears during a
performance. American pianists who visited Russia, including Van
Cliburn, returned with stories of a giant among pianists trapped behind
the iron curtain. Richter's catalog of recorded music is incredibly long
and all of his recordings that I own feature beautiful playing, powerful
expression, and flawless technique that is one of the best I have heard.
Listen to any of his recordings, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven, Prokofiev,
etc. to see why he should be considered one of the greatest pianists of
You've got to include the Canadian genius Glenn Gould, probably the
greatest contrapuntal pianist of the century. He taught me to love
Bach, after all. He's probably remembered just as much for his
reclusive nuttiness and sense of humor as for his multiple talents,
(lots of both) but nothing takes away from his devotion and technique on
the piano. He had an incredible brain and incredible fingers.
Peter Hale, pianist
West Virginia, U.S.A.
I would like to Nominate Roy Bittan. He is the Pianist of choice for Jim
Steinman who I consider to be the greatest composer who ever lived. I would
have nominated Jim Steinman (a great Pianist in his own right), but even
Steinman would admit his stuff sounds better when played by Bittan. His
best work can be heard on the albums Bat out of Hell (Love that opening
piano work) Bat out of Hell II, Original Sin, and Bad for Good.
My son disagrees with me and would like to nominate Beethoven. He says he
likes his songs the best and hopes to learn to play all of them, right now
only being able to play the first part of Fur Elise.
James Patrick Updike
& Paracelsus Gabriel Storm Updike
Cincinnati, Ohio USA
S. Rachmaninov - The sheer pianistic effects of his 3rd Concerto, and
the 1929 recording of his Concerto No.2 are invincible.
Phillip Carbis, UK
I really like your pages very much. To the list of great pianists I would like to add the swedish pianist
HANS PĹLSSON. He is an excellent interpretor of Beethoven and Schubert. In Sweden he also have
given a series of TV-programs about classical music. I am proud to say that he is my teacher also.
Greatest regards from Sweden
I think that David Lanz should be added to your list of great pianists.
He is carried on the Narada label and his original works are excellent.
Particularly the first piece that attracted me to his work - Cristofori's
I watched David perform in concert and he told the story that inspired
each song he wrote. This particular song was about the man who invented
piano and one night he fell asleep and dreamed of creating the piano and
when he woke up he realized he still just had a harpsichord. In addition
to this, David has quite a sense of humor. When in concert he tells the
audience that he writes music with "lots of notes" so that "you feel like you're getting your moneys worth out of the concert". Superbly talented
and he must have gigantic hands - I'm worn out trying to play his musical
Mary Jo Taft
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was the first American to gain
world acclaim as a pianist and composer. He spent a lot of time
touring the Americas and lived a remarkable, if short, life.
Roger Hatch, Littleton, Mass
I was so shocked at the exclusion of Fats Waller, I sent my previous
email without mentioning:
William "Count" Basie
Nat "King" Cole
Mary Lou Williams
"Great entertainers that play the piano", all.
Randi R. Merrifield
I would definitely add Martha Argerich to the list. Her rendition of
Rach III is considered by many to be the best ever recorded not to
mention her rendition of Ravel's "gaspard de la nuit" which still
blows me away whenever I hear it.
How about Liberace? He owned the only two
diamond encrusted pianos in the world. Alternatively, purists might
prefer to listen to Michelangeli who created the most perfect sound of
Leon Bates. His joy and strength are a treat to experience. He looks
as if he has had some serious athletic training. His Gershwin
interpretations are mischievous and dynamic.
K or B Curtis
I would like to add Alan Chow Jack Vollertsen
Alfred Brendel plays great mozart.
Since this "monster-pianist" is not only the greatest pianist I've ever heard, he's also the greatest musician ever born on this planet!
He has everything, brilliant technique (how is that word spelled in English?), a very brilliant sound in his pianos (mostly Steinway grand-pianos) and a perfect timing. Besides that he always makes music out if whatever he plays. I would like to recommend this masters album "The Kôln Concert" from 24 Jan 1975.
It's about 70 minutes of pure improvisation at the opera in Kôln, Germany! I've never heard anything like it, and probably never will.
This man can do ANYTHING with his piano, and he never fails, or loses a note. Every note he plays is absolutely "there", always alive, like no one else!
Another album is "Keith Jarrett Trio - STILL LIVE" with Mr Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. He makes old standards sound so good, that You never want to listen to anyone else playing these songs! He's absolutely number one!!!
Only if you attended his concerts do you probably understand why
arguably Rudolf Serkin was the greatest of the great pianists. Ask
Pollini, Perahia,Ax, Graffman, Istomin,Goode,Gutierrez. Horowitz
regarded Serkin as the greatest musician among the greatest pianists;
when Horowitz heard Serkin play in the l920s he realized that Serkin was
the musician's pianist. They were "like brothers" - to quote Horowitz
for over sixty years and they maintained a kind of mutual symbiosis over
all those years. Despite the superficial comparison and contrast of
critics, Horowitz and Serkin were the supreme pianists of their age.
Michael W. Prim
You have a quite eclectic and admirable list on your page - particularly
heartening is the inclusion of the little-known Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
Incidentally, if you'd like to see a nearly complete list of the great
pianists, I heartily recommend Arnold Schonberg's (?) book, "The Great
Pianists", which covers the period from Mozart and Clementi up to
That said, I wish to nominate three pianists you forgot to mention:
-- Anton Grigoryevich Rubinstein. Liszt said of him - when Anton was still
a boy - "On him my mantle will fall". Rubinstein was widely accept as the
greatest pianist in Europe, second only to Liszt himself.
-- Charles-Valentin Alkan. The man who wrote terrifyingly technical music
was himself an awesome performer. Liszt was *afraid* to play before him
(!), and once declared Alkan to have "the greatest technique I have ever
-- Nicolai Medtner. Contemporary of Scriabin and Rachmaninov, Medtner was
much admired as a pianist - Rachmaninov himself declared Medtner to be
"the greatest composer of our century"; and it appears his technique
wasn't so far behind either!
Incidentally, I've heard good things about Henselt, Clementi, Scarlatti,
Mozart, Beethoven, Moscheles, Cramer, Kalkbrenner, Mendelssohn and ... of
course .. the great Frederick Chopin! How could you forget that poet of
the piano - it was acclaimed - by Schumann no less - that only Chopin
rivalled Liszt when it came to those tender, ethereal passage of music.
Don't forget Schumann himself - he was no slouch at the piano either. I'd
also like to nominate Godowsky, who had a technique that Arthur Rubinstein
claimed would take him "500 years to emulate"; and then there was a fellow
called Sorabji, of whom I know little except that he wrote some fiendishly
hard 20th century piano music. When there is hard piano music, can the
great performer be far behind?
Finally, I'll never know whether serious musicians will accept him, but
I've always had a soft spot for Euguene List, one of the early revivalists
of Gottschalk. Come to that, Raymond Lewenthal has received a good write
up, but these guys may not be on the transcendental plane of some of the
others mentioned on your page.
Hey, don't forget to add Arturo Michelangeli - I have yet to hear much of
his work, but it has claimed prize reviews.
Also, Claudio Arrau - rated as one of the best of the century.
Krystian Zimmerman - his performance of Totentanz has to be heard to be
Michel Ponti - described as "ten pianists in one".
Rachmaninov was championed by Horowitz and others as a great pianist.
Hope this helps,
Ivan Moravec may be the greatest living pianist. Widely recognized
as one of the consummate masters of Debussy, Chopin, Beethoven,
Mozart, and Brahms, Moravec brings blinding virtuosity and a liquid,
singing legato to an always musical expressiveness that is unmatched
in power, poetry and elegance.
To cite one description of his playing (here about his Beethoven on VAIA
1021): "Put simply, these are among the most arrestingly individual
Beethoven interpretations ever recorded. In execution, Moravec is
stupendous. His uncommonly finished, super-refined pianism
enables him to achieve infinite shadings of nuance and articulation by
fingers alone, using the sustain pedal ever so discreetly. Yet his
playing is full of surging passion and is unfailingly musical at all
times. Moreover the Czech pianist commands a huge dynamic range and
masterly legato, essential ingredients in realizing Beethoven's
relentlessly contrasting textures."
Elton John. Enough said! Not only is he the greatest pianist of our time
he is also the most prolific song writer ever!! If i doubt, educate yourself
a little on him and you will soon see what i'm talking about!
I feel he deserves to have a place in the "All time greatest pianists" hall
Horowitz is one of the greatest pianists of all time, yet somehow
he is left off this page. Same with Jorge Bollet, Andre
Brailovski, two of the worlds greatest musical minds. If you go
by jazz standards George Shearing is the best, his knowledge of
not only the piano but of all music is so great that you forget
that he is blind and then you can't imagine a blind person playing
so well. Oscar Peterson and Monk are also right up there.
How is it possible that no one mentioned Grigory Sokolov? He is the only one that is totally original and so very powerful in his interpretations, although they are distinctly sounding very 'Russian' .. and totally unmatched by any living pianist in his technical skills- a fact that many other great pianists agree with. Just listen to this: www.rogev.com/sokolov/music/Chopin-EtudeN12.mp3
He is the Master!