We present to you 10 of the greatest composers who have studded the piano literature with gems. Musicians who with their works have revolutionized the history of the piano, the prince of instruments. Timeless masterpieces, easy, difficult, for solo piano, for piano with many hands, for piano and orchestra…
The most beautiful works in the most exciting performances were then selected for each of the composers. A timeless journey through the most beautiful piano pages of all time, some more famous than others. In an exciting and unforgettable journey.
The Great Piano Composers
10) Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach (Eisenach, March 31, 1685 – Leipzig, July 28, 1750) was a German Lutheran composer, organist, harpsichordist and chapel master of the Baroque period, universally considered one of the greatest geniuses in the history of music. His works are notable for their intellectual depth, mastery of technical and expressive means, and artistic beauty. Bach wrote numerous works for harpsichord, some of which can also be performed on the clavichord. Many of his works for keyboard instruments are usually considered to be part of the piano literature. These are the main ones:
The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 and 2 (BWV 846-893). Each book includes a prelude and a fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys. “Well-tempered” refers to temperament: some ancient temperaments, pre-Bach, were not flexible enough to allow you to move through the different keys.
The 15 Inventions and Symphonies (BWV 772-801). These works are arranged in the same chromatic order as the well-tempered clavichord, but omitting some less used keys. The pieces were composed by Bach for educational purposes.
Three collections of suites : the English suites (BWV 806-811), the French suites (BWV 812-817) and the harpsichord matches (BWV 825-830). Each collection contains six suites, written on the standard prelude-allemanda-courante-sarabande-(optional movement, often a bourree)-jig pattern as far as the English suites are concerned, while in the French suites the prelude does not appear. As far as the matches are concerned, only the first movement of the B flat suite is called a prelude.
The Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), consisting of one aria with thirty variations. The collection has a very complex structure: the variations are written on the bass line of the aria rather than on the melody, and the canons are structured in stages.
The harpsichord concerts (BWV 1052-1065), composed to be performed at the Zimmermann Cafe in Leipzig, are transcriptions from his own concerts and from music by Antonio Vivaldi, an author greatly admired by Bach.
Various other works including: the French overture BWV 831, the chromatic fantasy and fugue BWV 903, the Italian concerto BWV 971, seven toccatas BWV 910-916, four duets BWV 802-805, keyboard sonatas BWV 963-967 , the six small preludes BWV 933-938 and the aria variata in the Italian manner BWV 989.
9) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Salzburg, January 27, 1756 – Vienna, December 5, 1791), was an Austrian composer, pianist, organist, violinist and harpsichordist, who is universally recognized for creating musical works of extraordinary artistic value. Mozart is counted among the greatest geniuses in the history of music, gifted with a rare and precocious talent. Among his works for piano we mention:
18 Piano Sonatas, 12 Variations for Piano on Ah, vous dirais-je, Maman K 265, Fantasia in D min K 397, Fantasia in C min K 475, Piccola Giga in G min K 574, Concerto for piano or harpsichord – K 107
Pianoforte ed orchestra:
27 Concertos for piano and orchestra
8) Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (16 December 1770, Bonn – 26 March 1827, Vienna) was a German composer, pianist and conductor. A crucial figure of western cultured music, he was the last important representative of Viennese classicism, as well as the first of the romantics. He is considered one of the greatest composers of all time. Beethoven was one of the most important piano composers; beyond the quality of his sonatas, his writing originates from Mozart’s and Haydn’s models to then develop an original form of great creative freedom. During his life, the composer was attentively interested in all the technical developments of the instrument in order to exploit all its possibilities. Among his piano productions we mention:
35 (32+3) Piano Sonatas
Beethoven published 32 piano sonatas; to these we should add the incomplete sonata woO 51, the 3 sonatas WoO 47, probably composed in 1783 and called ” Sonata all’Elettore ” (Kurfurstensonaten) as they are dedicated to the Prince-Elector Maximilian Friedrich von Konigsegg-Rothenfels. As for the 32 sonatas with opus number, their composition takes place over a period of twenty years. This corpus of compositions, more clearly than the symphonies, highlights the evolution of the composer’s style over the years. Over the years, sonatas have increasingly freed themselves from the classical dictates envisaged by the sonata form; gradually the compositions gain more and more writing freedom and become more and more complex.
Among the most famous are the Appassionata and Waldstein (1804) or Gli Addii (1810). In the famous Hammerklavier (1819), length and technical difficulty reach completely unusual levels. It is part of the last five sonatas, in which the author uses for the concluding movements types more suited to the string quartet than the piano sonata, such as the fugue (final opp. 101, 106 and 110) and the variation (final opp. 109 and 111); in these last two pieces, in particular, the typical dynamism of the “heroic” period is replaced by an ecstatic and apparently timeless calm.
8 sets of Variations for piano
Beethoven wrote 8 sets of variations for piano of varying importance, of which 4 were published: 6 Variations on an original theme in F major Op.34 ( Variations on the ruins of Athens ), the 15 Variations and Fugue on a theme of one movement of the op. 43 (used and reworked in the finale of the Eroica) in E flat major, Op. 35, the 6 Variations on an original theme in D major Op. 76 and the Diabelli Variations.In 1822, the publisher and composer Anton Diabelli had the idea of publishing a collection of variations by some of the major composers of his time around a musical theme of his own composition. Beethoven, who hadn’t written for piano for some time, was urged to play along, and instead of writing one variation, he wrote 33, which were published in a separate dossier and are now known as the Diabelli Variations.
Varia per pianoforte
Praeludium in F minor. (completely reworked in ?1803) WoO n.55 (1787), Kaplied of Ch. FDSchubart piano reduction by Beethoven (18o major and C minor. WoO n.54 (1790). 2 Exercises (C major and B flat Major) (1792-93), Andante in C Major (1792-93), Minuet in F Major (ca.1794), Drei kleine Nachahmungssatze (F Major; F Major; C Major) (ca. 1794), Fugue for 3 voices in C Major (ca.1794), Minuet in C Major (1794-95), Rondo and Capriccio in G Major “ alla Hungarian” op.129 (1795-98), 6 Minuets (version for lost orchestra) WoO n.10 (ca.1795), Rondo in C Major op.51 n.1 (1796-97), Allegretto in C min. (ca.1797), Bagatella in C minor. (intended for the Sonata op.10 n.1) (1797), Allegretto in C min. (in 2 versions) WoO n.53 (1796-98), 7 Landlerische Tanze (prob. for 2 vl. and vlc.) reduction for piano WoO n.11 (1797-98), Allemande in A Major WoO n. 81 (ca.1800), Anglaise in D Major (ca.1800), Rondo in G Major op.51 n.2 (1798-1800), 2 Bagatelles in C Major and E flat Major (1800), Canon for 2 voices in G major (1802-03), Sette bagatelle, op. 33 (1802), Waltz (Landler) in C minor. (1803), Canon for 2 voices in A flat Major (ca.1803), Minuet in E flat Major WoO n.82 (1803), Theme with (incomplete) variation in A Major (1803), Andante in F Major (Andante Favori, originally central movement of the sonata op.53) WoO n.57 (1803-1804), Bagatelle in C Major “n.5” WoO n.56 (1804), 6 Scots WoO n.83 (1806), Fantasia in G min. op.77 (1809), Bagatella «For Elisa », in A minor, WoO 59 (1810), 2 Deutsche (F major and F minor) (1811-12), Polonaise in C major op. 89 (1814), O Hoffnung, theme for variations written for Archduke Rudolph (1818), Klavierstuck in B flat Major WoO 60 (1818), Kleines Konzertfinale, from the Presto of the finale of the concert in C min. op.37 (1820), Klavierstuck (allegretto) in B min. WoO 61 (1821), Eleven bagatelles, op. 119 (1822), Bagatelle in C Major (1824), Six bagatelles, op. 126 (1824), Waltz in E Flat Major WoO 84 (1824), Klavierstuck (bagatelle) in G min. WoO 61a (1825), Waltz in D Major WoO 85 (1825), Scots in E Flat Major WoO 86a (1825).
Compositions for piano 4 hands
8 Variations in C Major on a theme by Count Waldstein WoO 67 (1791-1792), Sonata in D Major op.6 (1796-1797), Lied (Ich denke dein) with 6 Variations in D Major WoO 74 ( 1799-1804), 3 Marches (C Major; E flat Major; D major) op.45 (1802-03), Fugue in B flat Major (transcription of the fugue for string quartet op.133) op. 134 (1826).
Pianoforte ed orchestra:
5 Concertos for piano and orchestra
7) Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 in Vienna – 19 November 1828 in Vienna) was an Austrian composer of classical-romantic music. It is one of the greatest composers ever.
Of its production we recall:
21 Sonatas, Fantasia in C major Wanderer D 760 op. 15, 8 Impromptu, 6 Moments musicaux op. 94 D 780, 8 Klavierstucke
Piano 4 hands:
Fantasia in F minor op. 103 D 940 a 4 hands
6) Frederic Chopin
Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin (Zelazowa Wola, February 22, 1810 – Paris, October 17, 1849), was a Polish naturalized French composer and pianist. He was one of the great master composers of Romantic music and is sometimes referred to as a ” poet of the piano “. Most of Chopin’s compositions were written for solo piano; the only significant exceptions are the two piano concertos. His works are often technically demanding, but always maintain the right nuances and expressive depth. He invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballad and made notable innovations in the piano sonata, mazurka, waltz, nocturne, polonaise, etude, impromptu, scherzo, and prelude.
Of its production we remember:
59 Mazurkas, 27 Studies, 26 Preludes, 21 Nocturnes, 19 Waltzes, 17 Polonaises, 5 sets of Variations, 4 Ballades, 4 Scherzi, 4 Impromptu, 3 Sonatas
Various pezzi (including: Allegro da concerto op. 46, Bolero op. 19, Barcarola op. 60, la Berceuse op. 57, Fantasia op. 49, Tarantella op. 43 and others)
Pianoforte ed orchestra:
2 Concepts for piano and orchestra
5) Robert Schumann
Robert Alexander Schumann (8 June 1810, Zwickau – 29 July 1856, Bonn) was a German composer, pianist and music critic. He was one of the most famous composers of romantic music and also carried out an important activity as a music critic. His music reflects the deeply individualistic nature of Romanticism. Intellectual and aesthete, he was little understood in his lifetime, but his music is today considered boldly original in its harmony, rhythm and form.
Of its production we remember:
Abegg Variations op. 1 (1829/1830), Papillons op. 2 (1829-1832), Studies for piano from Paganini’s caprices op. 3 (1832), Interludes op. 4 (1832), Impromptus on a romance by Clara Wieck op. 5 (1st version: 1833, 2nd version: 1850), Davidsbundlertanze (Dances of the brothers of the League of David) op. 6 (1837), Toccata op. 7 (first draft: 1829/1830, final version: 1833), Allegro op. 8 (1831-1832), Carnival op. 9 (1833 and winter 1834/1835), Six concert studies from Paganini’s caprices op. 10 (1832/1833), Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor op. 11 (1832-1835), Phantasiestucke op. 12 (1837; no. 7: probably as early as 1836), 12 symphonic studies op. 13 (1st version: 1834-1835, possibly also 1836, 2nd version: 1849-1851), Sonata no. 3 ( Concert without orchestras) in F minor op. 14 (1st version: 1835-1836, 2nd version: between April 1850 and June 1852), Kinderszenen op. 15 (1838; n. 6 and 9: perhaps already in 1837), Kreisleriana op. 16 (1838), Fantasy op. 17 (1836-1838), Arabesque in C major op. 18 (1838-1839), Blumenstuck op. 19 (1838-1839), Humoresque op. 20 (1838-1839), Novellettes op. 21 (1838), Sonata no. 2 in G minor op. 22 (June 1830, 1833, October 1835 and December 1838), Nachtstucke op. 23 (1839-1840), Vienna Carnival op. 26 (n. 1-4: 1839; n. 5: possibly winter 1839-1840), Three romances op. 28 (1839), Scherzo, jig, romance and fughetta op. 32 (No. 1-3: 1838; No. 4: October 1839), Album for Youthop. 68 (1848), Four fugues op. 72 (1845), Four marches op. 76 (1849), Woodland scenes. Nine pieces op. 82 (1848-1849), Bunte Blatter. 14 pieces op. 99 (1834-1835(?)-1849, collected in the album: end of 1850), Three Phantasiestucke op. 111 (1851), Three youth sonatas op. 118 (1853), Album leaves. 20 pieces op. 124 (1832-1833, 1835-1839, 1841, 1843, 1845, 1853), Seven pieces in the form of fugues op. 126 (1853), Gesange der Fruhe. 5 pieces op. 133 (1853), Variations on a proper theme (Geistervariationen) (1854),
Andante and variations in B flat major for two pianos op. 46 (1843) (original version for two pianos, two cellos and horn)
Piano four hands:
Bilder aus Osten. Sudden six op. 66 for piano four hands (1848), 12 pieces for small and large for piano four hands op. 85 (1849), Ball-Szenen. 9 characteristic pieces for piano four hands op. 109 (1849-1851), Kinderball. Six easy dances for piano four hands op. 130 (1853; No. 3: 1850)
Sketches for pedal piano op. 58 (1845) (today executable at the Doppio Borgato). 6 fugues on the name BACH for organ or pedal piano op. 60 (1845; revision: 1846) (today playable at the Doppio Borgato), Studies for pedal piano. Six Pieces in Canonical Form Op. 56 (1845) (today performed at the Doppio Borgato)
Pianoforte ed orchestra:
Concerto for piano and orchestra in A minor op. 54 (1841-1845), Introduction and Allegro Appassionato for piano and orchestra in G major Op.92 (1849), Introduction and Allegro for piano and orchestra in D minor/major Op.134 (1853)
4) Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt (22 October 1811, Raiding – 31 July 1886, Bayreuth), was a Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor and organist. He studied and played in Vienna and Paris, traveled all over Europe giving concerts just about everywhere. He was one of the great composers and piano virtuosi of the 19th century, he revolutionized piano technique and the relationship between audience and performer. He was linked to Fryderyk Chopin by friendship and esteem. Of his masterpieces we remember:
Album d’un voyageur, Years of pilgrimage , 6 Studies of transcendental performance by Niccolo Paganini, Mazeppa by Victor Hugo , 19 Hungarian rhapsodies, 12 studies op.1, Harmonies poetiques et religieuses (Poetic and religious harmonies), 3 Studies by concerto (The Lamento, La Leggerezza, Un Sospiro), Ab Irato (Concert Study), 2 Concert Studies (Waldesrauschen,Gnomenreigen), Grand Concerto solo, Grand Galop Chromatique, Le Rossignol, Consolations), 12 Transcendental Performance Studies, Sonata in B minor, Variations on «Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen» (Johann Sebastian Bach), 2 Legends (St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds; St. Francis of Paola who walks on water), Rhapsodie espagnole. Folies d’Espagne et Jota aragonesa, Arbre de Noel (Christmas tree), La lugubre gondola, Mephisto waltz , Historische ungarische Bildnisse (Historical Hungarian portraits), Transcription for piano solo of the Danse macabre op. 40 by Camille Saint-Saens, Large Concert Piece on Wordless Songs by Felix Mendelssohn for two pianos, Beethoven Symphonies (Liszt)
Concerto pathetique for two pianos
Pianoforte ed orchestra:
2 Concertos for piano and orchestra
Totentanz (dance macabre for piano and orchestra)
3) Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833, Hamburg – 3 April 1897, Vienna) was a German composer, pianist and conductor.
Of his works for piano we remember:
3 Sonatas, Scherzo in E flat minor, op. 4 (1851), Variations: on a theme by Schumann op. 9 (1854), on an original theme op. 21,1 (185), on a Hungarian theme op. 21/2 (1854), on a theme by Handel op. 24 (1861), on a theme by Paganini op. 35 (1862-1863), 4 ballads op. 10 (1854), Waltz op. 39 (1865), 8 pieces op. 76 (1878), 2 rhapsodies op. 79 (1879), 7 fantasies op. 116 (1892), 3 interludes op. 117 (1892), 6 pieces op. 118 (1893), 4 pieces op. 119 (1893), Transcriptions, exercises, cadences
Sonata in F minor op. 34bis (1864), Variations on a theme by Haydn , op. 56b (1873)
Piano four hands
Waltz n°5 dai 16 Waltz for pianoforte a quattro mani (op. 39) by Brahms, Variations on a theme by Robert Schumann op. 23 (1863), 16 Waltz op. 39 (1865)
21 Hungarian Dances WoO 1 (1869 and 1880), Liebeslieder-Walzer for voice (ad libitum) and piano 4 hands op. 52a (1869), Transcriptions from own works or those of other authors,
Piano and orchestra:
2 Concertos for piano and orchestra
2) Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy (Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 22 August 1862 – Paris, 25 March 1918) was a French composer and pianist. He is considered and celebrated at home and in the world as one of the most important French composers, as well as one of the greatest protagonists together with Maurice Ravel of musical impressionism, a definition which however he did not like to be compared to his works.
Preludes I & II, Images I & II, Clair de Lune , Children’s Corner (orchestrata by Andre Caplet), Prints, Bergamasque Suite, Etudes, Two Arabesques, Le trouduce, For piano, Romantic Waltz, Nocturne, Mazurka, D’un sketchbook, Hommage a Haydn, La plus que lente, La boite a joujoux 1913 (ballet) (orchestrated, by Andre Caplet) (posthumous), Berceuse heroique, Dance o Tarantelle styrienne (Orchestrated by Maurice Ravel), Le petit negre Audio essay
Piano four hands
Small suite (orchestrata da Henri Busser), Scottish march on a popular theme, Six ancient epigraphs
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Lindaraja, En blanc et noir
Piano and orchestra
Fantasy for piano and orchestra
1) Sergei Rachmaninov
Sergej Vasil’evic Rachmaninov (Novgorod, April 1, 1873 – Beverly Hills, March 28, 1943) was a Russian-born American composer, pianist and conductor. World-renowned, he is considered one of the greatest Russian composers and pianists ever. 1.98 m tall, he liked to consider himself above all a composer, rather than a pianist, even if the development of his career – in some ways tormented, at least at the beginning – seemed to demonstrate the opposite.
Lento in D minor 1887, Four pieces 1887, Romance, Prelude, Melodie, Gavotte, Tre notturni 1888, Andante cantabile, Andante maestoso-Allegro assai, Andante, Piece (Canone) in D minor 1891, Prelude in F major 1891, Morceaux de fantaisie 1892, Morceaux de salon 1894, Four improvisations (with Arenskij, Glazunov, Taneev) 1896, Six musical moments 1896, Morceau de Fantaisie in G minor 1899, Fughetta in F major 1899, Variations on a theme by Chopin 1903, Preludes 1903, Sonata for piano no. 1 1908, Preludes 1910, Etudes-Tableaux 1911, Piano Sonata no. 2 1913, revision 1931, Etudes-Tableaux 1916, Three pieces (Prelude in D minor, Sketch orientale, Fragments) 1917, Variations on a theme by Corelli 1931, Transcription by Lachtaubchen, Op. 303 by Franz Behr (published as Polka de WR) for piano 1911, Transcription of John Stafford Smith’s The Star-Spangled Banner for piano 1918, Cadenza for Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 for piano 1919, Paraphrase of Kreisler’s Liebesleid for piano 1921, Paraphrase of Hopak from Musorgsky’s Sorochynci Fair for piano 1923, Paraphrase of Wohin? (D795/2) by Schubert for piano 1925, Paraphrase of Liebesfreud by Kreisler for piano 1925, Paraphrase of The Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov for piano 1929, Paraphrase of the Scherzo from the incidental music of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn for piano 1933, Paraphrases of movements from Partita for violin no. 3 (BWV 1006) by Bach for piano 1933 or 1934, Paraphrase of Tchaikovsky’s Lullaby for piano, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 for piano 1919, Paraphrase of Kreisler’s Liebesleid for piano 1921, Paraphrase of Hopak from Musorgsky’s Sorochynci Fair for piano 1923, Paraphrase of Wohin? Lullaby for piano,
Russian rhapsody for two pianos 1891, Suite no. 1 (or Fantaisie-Tableaux) for two pianos 1893, Romance in G major for two pianos 1894, Six Morceaux for two pianos 1894, Suite no. 2 for two pianos 1901, Polka Italienne for two pianos 1906, Transcription of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty for two pianos 1891, Transcription of Symphony No. 6 by Glazunov for two pianos 1896, Paraphrase of the minuet from Bizet’s L’Arlesienne for piano 1900, revision 1922,
Piano for six hands:
Two pieces (Valse, Romance) for piano six hands 1891
Piano and orchestra
4 Concerti per pianoforte and orchestra, Rapsodia su un tema di Paganini 1934