A Few of the Best Pianists of All Time

Sergei Rachmaninoff, Bay Area piano lessons
(PD-US)Source: Etincelles

To determine the best pianists, past and present, various metrics should be used. These include the player’s technical ability with piano’s, popularity, the reputation they have managed to create, improvisation talents, and breadth of their repertoire. However, as is the case in any opinion-based discussion, everyone might have a different idea of who the best pianists are depending on their individual perspective, tastes, or their interpretation of what comprises of musical genius. However, the following are three notable pianists who definitely deserve a mention in the conversation.

Three of histories most skilled pianists

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943)
Sergei Rachmaninov was a composer and pianist born in Russia. He and fellow composer Alexander Scriabin both graduated from Moscow Conservatorium. One of Sergei’s most notable pieces is the Piano Concerto 2, which has been voted the most popular classical piece of all time. In 1917, he left Russia to embark on a career as a young and upcoming tourist, playing piano in order to support himself and members of his family. He managed to become a U.S. citizen sometime before his death.

Sergei Rachmaninov was known for his superhuman-like clean finger technique. This technique allowed him to maintain clarity even when it came to the knottiest passages. Sergei’s famously large hands that spanned 12 inches also helped his complex style. In addition, his beautiful singing tone could be likened to that of popular violinist Fritz Kreisler. This allowed him to wring blissful sweetness from a melody.

Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989)
Vladimir Horowitz was a Russian-born pianist who made his westward journey at the age of 21. Some described him as a tornado unleashed from the steppes. He was popularly known for his Romantic piano repertoire performances and Scarlatti. Later on, he returned to his home country for a phenomenal farewell recital in 1986.

Vladimir Horowitz’s exceptional use of tone color and sparkling virtuosity combined with a talent for thrilling his audience created a furor at his live recitals. These amazing performances have regarded Horowitz as one of the most exceptional pianists in history.

Alfred Cortot (1877-1962)
Alfred Cortot was a professor and French pianist at the Conservatoire de Paris. A significant number of co-workers within his field even referred to him as a “poet of the piano” due to his mastery of the lyrical works by Debussy, Schumann, and Chopin. He was also able to produce landmark recordings of these works, playing intricate and unique renditions of their music.

Cortot was known for his highly personalized and subjective style that favored feeling and intuition over precision technique. This style resulted in elegant performances filled with plush, transcendent music.

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