15 Best Concert Pianists That Are Amazing

Here are my picks for the best concert pianists!

If you love piano as an instrument, then you likely have a deep appreciation for talented concert pianists.  So in this article, I’m going to share with you my list of what I believe are the best concert pianists of all time.

Do my selections match yours?  Are our lists completely different?  Let’s find out now!

The Best Concert Pianists (TLDR)

15. Martha Agrerich
14. Vladimir Horowitz
13. Arthur Rubinstein
12. Sergei Rachmaninoff
11. Lang Lang
10. Maurizio Pollini
9. Alfred Brendel
8. Krystian Zimerman
7. Mitsuko Uchida
6. Glenn Gould
5. Emanuel Ax
4. Yuja Wang
3. Leif Ove Andsnes
2. Mario Joao Pires
1.  Claudio Arrau

Martha Agrerich is famously known for her technical and emotive performances, which have captured audiences worldwide. 

Krystan Zimerman, on the other hand, is famous for his Chopin performances, bringing a unique, refreshing, and enlightening perspective to piano playing. 

And Claudio Arrau is the king of concert pianists because of his deep understanding and connection with his music. He redefined how to play piano by painting emotional settings through his playing alone.

Arrau’s ability to convey the message of the original composer is something no artist has been able to successfully replicate. It is a truly captivating experience like no other, which is why Arrau is the best concert pianist of all time.

15. Martha Argerich

This Argentine pianist is widely known for her incredible concert performances. Her passionate concerts have captured audiences worldwide, and her ability to navigate complex passages that execute an emotional experience. Her piano abilities allow her to tackle technical pieces while expressing many emotions in her playing. This makes her music very moving and deeply expressive. 

What makes her an excellent pianist is how she can convey a composer’s intentions and yet somehow make it her piece. Whether it is a passion piece or a lighthearted song, Argreich is fantastic at bringing so much meaning into her performances that ultimately spark many emotions within her audiences. 

Favorite song: “Piano Sonata No. 3” by Martha Argerich, is a captivating composition, which is why it has earned the title of my favorite performance from Argerich. Her take on this song is emotional and truly distinctive for anyone who loves classical music. Its melodic parts mixed with dramatic elements make this a vibrant listening experience.

14. Vladimir Horowitz

My favorite thing about Vladimir Horowitz is his command of the piano. Listening to his music makes me hear his lighting fast fingers and remarkable precision. Watching footage of his performances showed me how he tackles some challenging passages and somehow leaves his audiences in amazement. 

Beyond these technical skills, Horowitz creates a deep connection with this music as he performs. His performances are always captivating because it is evident how emotionally invested he is in his playing. This emotion is then translated into his performances, which adds a layer of emotional depth and beauty. Watching his performance is not only captivating, but it is inspiring.   

Favorite song: Horowitz’s “Molto Moderato” performance is my favorite. This performance has a special place in my heart. I love how he approaches this song’s delicate and introspective moments with not such pure emotion but with sensitivity and tenderness, creating a captivating listening experience for the listener. 

13. Arthur Rubinstein

Arthur Rubinstein is undoubtedly one of the greatest concert pianists of all time. It is too bad that current generations of music listeners will never get to see him perform because his brilliant musicianship makes him so unique. Seeing his live performance creates an emotionally sparking experience. 

Anyone who appreciates the world of classical music can see how his performances were filled with a rich palette of colors and perfectly composed dynamics. His music brought so much beauty and insight into the world. 

What I loved about his work and piano skills is that he always managed to have a captivating performance and was highly charismatic! His natural charm was woven into his music, and you can tell because when you listen to his performance, you can feel the magic in every key he played. 

Favorite song: Rubinstein’s take on Chopin’s “No.1 B-Flat minor” is my favorite from him. As a big fan of Chopin, Rubinstein’s take on this Chopin piece is mesmerizing. His delicate piano playing enhances the natural and beautiful elements within this number. His piano playing truly embraces the melancholic nature of this song. 

12. Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff will always be a go-to whenever I am in the mood to listen to classical music, especially anything with a heavy emphasis on the piano. I say this because the way he knew how to navigate the piano is extraordinary to me. 

Regarding technical skills, Rachmaninoff created a high bar for other pianists to meet or surpass his abilities. He would play these technical and often complex moments in a song, yet successfully managed to have precise fingerwork that helped enhance his full potential as a pianist. 

I am personally connected with Rachmaninoff because I feel the sadness in many of his performances. He was a talented artist who experienced several years of depression, which echoed in his performances. This makes him one of the most relatable pianists of all time. By embracing his depression through music, you can sense all the emotions expressed through his playing. It truly can make one feel the sadness he felt. 

Favorite song: “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor” may be Rachmaninoff’s most famous song, but that does not stop it from being my favorite song. This song is an emotional piece filled with rich harmonies and a mighty orchestra. This piece creates an emotional journey for any listener who hears it. It is a haunting yet beautiful song.

11. Lang Lang

Lang Lang is one of my favorite “newer” pianists, and he had to be on this list. Before undergoing an injury that threatened his career, Lang Lang’s performances were filled with tenderness and beauty. His skills transcended through the keys he played, so he played some of the most stunning performances I have ever heard. 

Lang Lang’s stage presence is incredible. I have only seen him once, but his performance was memorable. You can feel his enthusiasm and love for music through his playing. This creates an emotional and energetic setting. Through this emotive skill, Lang Lang can play pieces and create a musical story for the listener. It is a rare and unique experience he has created for his fans. 

Favorite song: “The Seasons, Op. 37a: I January. At The Fireside,” performed by Lang Lang, is my favorite. I love this song for the intimate setting created through Lang Lang’s abilities. I feel that with this song, Lang Lang paints a vivid picture of winter, and the story is perfectly carried through his gentle melodies. It ultimately creates a calming experience for the listener. 

10. Maurizio Pollini

Pollini is known for his interpretations of Beethoven and Chopin, but what makes him great is that he makes these compositions his own. His prowess over the piano is truly inspiring. His skills allow him to navigate and own some of the most complex passages confidently and gracefully. 

Whether it is Chopin or Beethoven, Pollini approaches each composition with precision and clarity while making it his own. By making an existing piece his own, he expresses his musical ideas through these songs, which creates a unique listening experience. He is truly a mastermind behind the piano.

What sets him apart from the previous pianists on this list is that Pollini clearly understands the music he performs on a deep and emotional level, which is conveyed to his audiences. Each key is played with meaning and purpose, drawing any listener to the composition’s heart. 

Favorite song: “Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23,” is my favorite song from Maurizio Pollini because of the new level of brilliance he takes in this composition. From the haunting opening to a delightful climax, Pollini captures the true essence of this song. 

9. Alfred Brendel

Alfred Brendel became an influential artist despite his stubbornness to follow a traditional path to becoming a famous pianist. What has made him such an influential artist is that he has taken it upon himself to approach various existing pieces and has provided the listener with a brand new picture of his mind and the piano. 

For example, I love his interpretations of Beethoven. This is not easy to do, and somehow Brendel has made one of the most famous artists ever in music history his own. He does this through his unassuming demeanor, creating an engaging atmosphere when you listen to him play.

Whether it is Bach, Beethoven, or Haydn, Brendel’s artistry as a concert pianist invites his audience to experience the musical journey through his techniques and mastery.

Favorite song: Brendle’s take on the famous Beethoven piece, “Für Elise,” is one of my favorite interpretations of all time. His phrasing of this piece truly showcases the thoughtful dynamics expressed in this song, and in my opinion, I feel these dynamics are feelings of bittersweet. Brendle does an exceptional job highlighting this in his interpretation. 

8. Krystian Zimerman

Krystian Zimerman is one of my favorite Chopin interpreters on the piano, which is why he is in the top 10. He is my favorite when covering Chopin pieces because of Zimerman’s unique ability to characterize Chopin compositions with a rich palette of tonal colors, creating a delightful listening experience. In other words, he establishes his layer of meaning with an existing piece, which I think is hard for anyone to do, but he does this well.

What makes Zimerman such a great concert pianist is his dedication. He is known for his meticulous preparation before each performance, which is no wonder he beautifully and perfectly interprets Chopin’s pieces. His ability to bring a reviving perspective to an existing composition truly showcases how mastery of the piano and his emotive understanding of music. 

Favorite song: I must name a Chopin composition, “Piano Concerto No. 2,” as my favorite piece from Krystian Zimerman. After all, his covers of all things Chopin made him famous. The reason why I love this cover is that Zimmerman is not only able to replicate the poetic and introspective nature of Chopin’s music, but he can add another dynamic of emotions, which can create a captivating experience.

7. Mitsuko Uchida

What sets Mitsuko Uchida apart from other pianists is her ability to interpret a wide range of music with great sensitivity and depth. Her interpretation of works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert is exceptional, and she manages to convey the emotions and messages of the music with great skill. She has an outstanding talent for bringing out the subtleties and nuances of the music in a captivating and moving way.

Mitsuko Uchida is also known for her unassuming stage presence. She does not rely on flashy showmanship to impress her audience; instead, she lets her music speak for itself. She exudes a quiet confidence and authority that is impossible to ignore.

Favorite song: “Sonata Facile” is my favorite piece from her even though it would technically be considered a simple piece. Her artist’s interpretation of this number feels personal and establishes a lovely chemistry between the song and the listener. It is her flawless execution of this performance that showcases the best elements within this composition. 

6. Glenn Gould

Gould’s performances are characterized by clarity, precision, and emotional depth, and his interpretations of classic works by composers such as Bach and Beethoven are stunning. One of the things that sets Gould apart from other pianists is his unconventional approach to playing. He was known for his distinctive finger technique, which involved a light and precise touch that allowed him to play high-speed and complex pieces easily. 

He was also known for his willingness to take risks and push the boundaries of traditional interpretations of classical works. For example, his famous recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is notable for its brisk tempo and lack of pedal, which gives the piece a bright and clear sound that is different from the more romantic interpretations that were popular at the time.

Favorite song: “Aria” may be a lesser-known piece from Bach, but it is undoubtedly one of my favorite renditions from Gould.Gould’s intensive understanding of Bach is highlighted throughout his performances. 

He perfectly conveys the spiritual essence of Bach as if it was Bach performing before our very own eyes, and this is especially true for “Aria.” What I love about this song is that Gould’s performance of “Aria” really resonates with your spirit each time you hear it. It is an enjoyable interpretation of an already moving piece. 

5. Emanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax is, without a doubt, one of the most fantastic concerto pianists of our time. His profound musicality and technical virtuosity have won him many fans worldwide and numerous accolades and awards, including a Grammy. 

What sets Ax apart from other pianists is his ability to convey the emotional depth and complexity of the music he plays. Whether performing a Mozart sonata or a Beethoven concerto, he brings a level of sensitivity and nuance to the genuinely inspiring.

His playing is never showy or self-indulgent but always serves the music. He also has a remarkable ability to handle even the most challenging and demanding passages quickly and gracefully. His fingers seem to fly across the keyboard effortlessly, and his sense of timing and rhythm is impeccable.

Favorite song: Emmanuel Ax’s rendition of “Milonga Del Angel” is both an enchanting and mesmerizing performance. As you listen to the notes taken by Ax, he instantly creates an atmosphere that is delicate and soulful. What I love about this version so much is Ax’s ability to stir up one’s emotions while listening to this song. It is one of the most influential songs I have heard for a song without words. 

4. Yuja Wang

One thing that sets Yuja Wang apart from other pianists is her fearless approach to fashion. Instead of sticking to the traditional gown and elegant up-do, she breaks the pianist fashion norms by wearing bold, daring outfits that perfectly match her fiery personality. 

But of course, it’s not just her fashion sense that makes Yuja Wang great. From the very first note she plays, she is in complete control of the piano. However, her technical skill is only one of the things that has impressed me. It is the way she brings life into the music. It is truly impossible not to be moved by her performance.

One piece that particularly stood out to me was her rendition of Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.” The way she played the melodies was simply mesmerizing, and the energy she brought to the more fast-paced sections was genuinely electrifying. However, this is simply one of the many reasons why Wang is an incredible pianist. 

Favorite song: I love the firey and fun number “You Come Here Often?” From Wang. It is one of the most fun and uplifting piano compositions I have heard in a long time. I love how Wang’s shimmering personality is perfectly showcased her performance. This song is a delight each time I listen to it.

3. Leif Ove Andsnes

Leif Ove Andsnes is one of the most brilliant pianists of our time, and it’s not just because of his dazzling technique and flawless performances. From the delicate nuances of Mozart to the thundering power of Rachmaninoff, Andsnes always strives to bring the composer’s intentions to life.

Andsnes has been praised for his ability to create a unique sound with a sensitive and powerful touch. He understands that the music is the star, and his job is to bring it to life authentically. What makes Andsnes remarkable is his willingness to take risks and push boundaries. He is constantly exploring new ideas and approaches to music. To me, he is a true innovator in the world of music.

Favorite song: “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73: 1. Allegro” is my favorite song from Andsnes because of the command he calls for as he is playing this number. The uplifting passages and seamless transaction showcase his superb technical abilities, which I appreciate. This plays a major key in his infections playing because it feeds into the passion within his performance. 

2. Mario Joao Pires

Maria Joan Pires is not just a great pianist; she is a phenomenal pianist. Her performances are filled with emotion, depth, and an incredible sense of musicality that is simply unparalleled. Whether she is playing a lively and upbeat composition or a profoundly introspective piece, she always manages to capture the essence of the music and express it in a way that is both authentic and moving. 

What also makes Maria Joan Pires such a unique and remarkable pianist is her incredible sense of timing and phrasing. Her playing always involves each note and chord to be carefully crafted, which results in a complex musical tapestry that is both beautiful and moving.

Favorite song: I love the gentle and emotive approach that Pires in “Berceuse in D-Flat, Op. 57.” Pires does a fantastic job capturing the tranquility and serenity elements of his Chopin song and simultaneously manages to make it her own. This soft number is one of those songs that soothe the soul after a chaotic day, which is why it is my favorite performance from Pires.

1. Claudio Arrau

Claudio Arrau is a name that is synonymous with excellence in the world of classical music. His skill, passion, and dedication to his craft are second to none, and his performances continue to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide.

One of the things that sets Arrau apart from other pianists is his incredible range. He was equally at home playing the works of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin, just like many others; however, his ability to interpret and convey the unique qualities of each composer’s music is unparalleled.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Arrau, though, was his dedication to his craft. He was known for practicing for hours and always striving to improve and perfect his playing. His commitment to excellence was evident in every performance, setting him apart from his peers. This is why Claudio Arrau ranks number one on my list ofbest concert pianists. 

Favorite song: Originally composed by Chopin, “Nocturne No.5, Op. 15 No.2” is an emotionally rich take from Arrau. He approaches this song gracefully and delicately, painting a stunning picture of beauty and calmness. The simple expressions through his playing showcase a large emotional landscape that anyone who appreciates Chopin can easily recognize. 

This article was written by Amanda and edited by Michael.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply