1. Emil Gilels

Emil Gilels was widely regarded as the best Soviet pianist of the 20th century. He was one of the first Soviet musicians allowed to play in Europe, winning many competitions and making quite a few professional recordings. Gilels began his piano lessons when he was five in Odessa, playing Mozart Sonatinas after just a few months! He was appreciated all over the world for his sensitive phrasing, what was called his “Golden Touch”, as well as his varied repertoire, being comfortable with a broad range, from Baroque to late-Romantic to modern.


  1. Vladimir Horowitz

Vladimir Horowitz was another famous Russian pianist, famous for his excellent performances of Romantic repertoire. Horowitz was highly regarded all over the world, thrilling his audiences in consistently sold out concerts. What made Horowitz different from other musicians was his gift of expression. Technically proficient, Horowitz also has amazing sensitivity that transcended cultures and countries.


  1. Ignaz Friedman

Ignaz Friedman was a great Polish pianist and composer. With his parents also accomplished musicians, Friedman studied alongside Hugo Riemann and Theodor Leschetizky and later joined Ferruccio Busoni’s master classes.

A quiet and seemingly effortless musician, he had his official debut in 1904 in Vienna that featured stirring performances of three piano concertos made famous by virtuosos before him including Busoni and Godowsky. He was regarded by many critics, and many other fellow pianists (like Rachmaninoff), as the supreme virtuoso pianist of his day.

  1. Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven is simply one of the best pianists and composers that has ever lived. Though mostly known now as a composer, his piano playing was noted for being far different from his colleagues, admired for both his expressive legato playing style and knowledge of repertoire.  

Though becoming deaf by the age of 20, he is a name still known throughout the world today!

  1.   Sergei Rachmaninoff

Sergei Rachmaninoff was born in Russia in the year 1873 and earned his diploma at the Moscow Conservatorium. His Piano Concerto No. 2 was very famous among the most popular pieces pieces ever written. A phenomenal composer he was even more respected for his playing. Part of his prowess was how he used his fingers and the dexterity resulted in being highly expressive, powerful, and accurate. He was able to produce clarity even in the most difficult passages – due to his large hands that spanned 12 inches!

If you are wondering where to start when listening to piano repertoire – this is a great list from which to start. Happy listening!  

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