Top Ten Classical Piano Pieces
Coming up with a list of the top ten classical piano pieces of all-time is not easy. You may be shocked when I tell you this, but it is subjective and you probably won’t agree with me. I admit that I love Chopin’s piano music more than anything else, so there will be overrepresentation of his music in this list. I really love other composers, like Ravel for example, but I just don’t think his piano pieces quite reach the top ten level. The same story goes with Scarlatti. I love all of his sonatas, but I don’t think they reach the scale and breadth of the pieces I list here. Feel free to disagree with me, but I thought it would be fun to put together a list of my top ten favorite piano pieces (solo pieces). The best classical piano pieces in my opinion are grand in scale, provoke thought and emotion, and show off the capabilities of the piano. This list is presented in no particular order
Chopin’s 1st Ballade
This piece got me into piano music. I first heard it when it was featured in the movie The Pianist. It was incredibly powerful when I first heard it in that movie, and it is just as powerful and moving to me today. This was written by a younger Chopin and he pulls out all the stops in this piece. There are tender moments, dark moments, intense moments, unbridled joy, desperation, fury, etc. It essentially goes through every emotion humans can think of and does it in an amazing, “story-telling” fashion. Unfortunately this piece is really difficult to play, although as I think about it, so are the rest of the pieces on this list.
Chopin’s 4th Ballade
This might be my favorite classical music piece of all-time. Many people recognize it as the height of the romantic era repertoire and I completely agree. Aside from being astoundingly difficult, it is a very tender and emotional piece. Clearly Chopin was going through several deep personal issues when he wrote this, and although I can’t express what they were, I feel as though I understand what he was going through. The very beginning of the piece is what I imagine the music entering the gates of Heaven would be like (for those who believe in that). I could listen to this piece 10 times a day every day for the rest of my life and not get tired of it.
Beethoven’s Appasionata Sonata
Beethoven regarded this piece as one of his favorite works. I am in no position to disagree. The first movement is an intense emotional rollercoaster that goes through the fieriest of emotions. There are shocking moments that occasionally leave my jaw in the dropped position. Then comes the second movement, which is one of the tenderest musical expressions I’ve ever heard. The third movement is full of pathos that just scream “rage” to me. You will be on the edge of your seat the entire way through and will love every second of it.
Chopin’s 4th Scherzo
This piece can best be described as “heavenly.” The beginning section, repeated at the end, is full of light-hearted expression upon first hearing it. Then you start to wonder if there are not deeper emotional issues that are expressed in the music. The middle section of the piece is very tender and profoundly beautiful. I wouldn’t be surprised if it reduced certain people to tears when they hear it. Some may not regard this piece as the most “showy,” but that doesn’t matter to me. I love it either way.
Bach’s Goldberg Variations
This piece is shocking to me when I consider all of his other music. While a lot of the parts of the piece follow similar structures and themes to his other keyboard music, there is something unique about this piece. The opening aria seems romantic to me and well ahead of its time. Bach shows the world what anyone can do with the simplest of thematic material and goes through every emotion of the human experience. It is beautiful to say the least and I really love it.
Chopin’s Fantasie in F Minor
This piece took a little while to get used to, as the beginning seems commonplace upon first listen. After a couple of listens, I realized that this piece was simply unbelievable. I discover something new each time I listen to it and am constantly amazed. This is a true emotional roller coaster and features some amazingly beautiful moments. If it were only easier to play…
Debussy’s Reflections on the Water
If you want to listen to the best of the French composers, I highly suggest this piece. It evokes wonderful images and provokes deep thought within me. It is a truly deep and emotional piece that is completely unique in its sound and structure. I can’t help but think of waterfalls and ponds and other great images as I listen to this piece.
Chopin’s Heroic Polonaise
This is a really famous piece and one that really gets me fired up. It’s the beginning of rock music in my opinion and should get anyone hyped up. It is also incredibly beautiful and in my opinion the best showman’s piece on the piano. All I can say is take a listen and enjoy.
This is Beethoven’s retirement piece from the piano and according to scholar’s, the composer intended for this to be his last sonata. I view the piece as his struggle with the concept of his own death and then his ultimate reconciliation with the subject. I imagine this is the piece I would want to hear in my last moments and I can’t express how beautiful the piece is, especially the last movement. You might appreciate the piece a little more as you get older, but it is undeniable that it is a glorious piece of music.
I think this music is the most “beautiful” within this list. Every single second of the piece is tender and beautiful and I can never get tired of this piece. What makes it even more special is how he took the form of a Barcarolle and made it a piece on an incredibly grand scale. Chopin shows that he can master any form of music with ease. This is no different.
Well, that’s my list of the top ten classical music pieces on the piano. I hope you give these pieces a listen and enjoy them.