The Best Piano Musicians in the World

Photo of author
Written By Tanya

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur pulvinar ligula augue quis venenatis. 

If you are deciding who to include in our top ten best piano players worldwide, I believe you will agree with whom, modern or not. This is a very objective decision. You’ll need to debate about the order in which they are ranked.

While skill level is important, you may consider a certain strength more important than us. Modifiers such as creativity are also important, even though they don’t really mean anything but can be a bonus point when a master piano player has them. You’ll find less classical music on our Top Keyboard Players in The World List.

It’s hard to keep it down to ten when there are so many greats. So we have included a few runners up, and then a list with honorable mentions. If you don’t find your top choice, keep checking the list below. Let’s now jump to the list with the top piano players worldwide…

#10 – Lyle Mays

ASSOCIATIONS: PAT METHENY GROUP

Lyle Mays has always been passionate about music, particularly when he started playing the piano. He is one of the greatest musicians to have been influenced by Miles Davis’s works. Mays learned to play the guitar, though he preferred playing piano. He began his musical career on tour with Woody Herman’s jazz band.

Mays met Pat Metheny, a prominent musician, and they formed the Pat Metheny Group. He was the group’s sound designer and chief musical arranger. His work earned him numerous Grammy nominations.

Mays was well-known for his creativity. He was particularly prominent in jazz as he played the organ and piano for Pat Metheny. Mays was passionate about classical music, and was a composer of many notable works such as “Twelve Days in The Shadow of a Miracle.”

Trivia Facts – Mays recorded audiobooks that were read by Meryl Streep and other prominent people. His four main interests are music, mathematics, architecture and chess. He learned improvisation very early in his life. As an amateur architect, he designed his house and that of his sister.

#9 – Martha Argerich

ASSOCIATIONS – INTERNATIONAL PIANO CADEMY LAKE COMO

Martha Argerich is a pianist who could be called the next Beethoven. Argerich prefers performing with others than performing alone, so she started performing concertos in the eighties.

In 1965, she won the International Chopin Piano Competition in Poland. She began recording her own music shortly thereafter. Argerich’s influence on the field helped many prominent pianists to rise to fame, including Ivo Pogorelic.

Argerich wasn’t one for the spotlight. She avoided interviews and often avoided the spotlight. However, her talent was enough to get the attention she needed. Her role as president and director at various festivals and academies also earned her attention.

Trivia Facts Martha Argerich started playing the piano at eight years of age. She played the Mozart Piano Concerto In D Minor. She is polyglot which means she can speak multiple languages. A documentary entitled Martha Argerich: Evening Conversation was released in 2002 about her life.

#8 – Glenn Gould

ASSOCIATIONS: PEABODY MASON CERTS

Glenn Gould was a different kind of pianist. He preferred to study and read the piano rather than play directly. He was able to practice the piano mentally, but he couldn’t understand why other pianists had to play every day.

Many referred to him early as a prodigy because he was a gifted pianist and was well-known. His rhythm and sound were influenced by Rosalyn Tureck and Arthur Schnabel. He preferred Bach and Beethoven, and rejected Romantic pianists like Chopin and Liszt.

His unique sound was created by his imagination and not from chords. He was considered to be extremely creative. Gould will be remembered as one of the most influential pianists in the history of the world. He brought a new sense of wonder to the profession and class. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest pianists of all time, but he’s also one of the most influential in the modern era.

Trivia Facts Glenn Gould was five years old when he first played the piano on stage for his family’s church choir. The crowd was amazed that such a young boy could perform so well. His music can be heard on the NASA Voyager Golden Record. His legacy is being honored by The Glenn Gould School and The Glenn Gould Foundation.

#7 – Leif Ove Andsnes

ASSOCIATIONS: RISOR FESTIVAL CHAMBER MUSIC

Leif Ove Andsnes is well-known for his captivating performances of Edvard Grg’s music. He has also been praised for his performances in some of the most prestigious concert halls around the globe. Andsnes is also the founder of Norway’s Rosendal Chamber Music Festival.

He was invited to tour with different concertos after collaborating with Beethoven’s Journey. He started the 2020 concert season with Grieg’s piano concerto, and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.

His unique sound and approach made him a New York Times “pianist of magisterial power, elegance, and insight”. Leif Ove Andsnes was also hailed as an instrumental musician of the modern age, with recognition for his many concertos around the globe. His unique style and passion for his craft were also a hallmark of his work.

Trivia Facts – Leif has many idols, including Geza Anda and Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. He was the Music Director of the 2012 Ojai Music Festival. There are many awards he has received, including 6 Gramophone Awards and the Hindemith Prize Frankfurt.

#6 – Claudio Arrau

TRIVIA FACTS – STERN CONSERVATORY BERLIN

Claudio Arrau is a pianist you’ll recognize if you are familiar with them. Claudio Arrau’s unique tone is described as thick, orchestral and disembodied, and spellbinding. Arrau’s unique sound is something that many prominent musicians recognize.

He was known for his excellence in fine arts playing and being laser-focused on his music career. He was known for his unique style and willingness to break from the script. This led to him being a huge success at many concertos throughout his career.

He continued his passion for the piano into his later years and continued to attract large audiences up until his final performance. He recorded piano concertos by all the great pianists of the past and learned from them. In his honor, the Robert Schumann Society established the Arrau Medal in 1991. It has been presented three times since.

Trivia Facts It’s well-known that Arrau was very serious about his musical career. He wouldn’t leave his piano for food unless it was brought to him. Arrau was quoted as saying that “all I wanted” was music. He won many awards, some of the most prestigious.

#5 – Jon Batiste

ASSOCIATIONS STAY HUMAN, JUILLIARD SCHOL

Jon Batiste was born in Amsterdam in 2007, and has been captivated by millions of people ever since. He is a regular tourer with “Stay Human”, and often appears on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.” He uses his musical talent to help those in need all over the globe. He has participated in charitable events that gave music to the less fortunate.

His style and contributions to jazz music were admired by his fans and earned him a lot of respect from his peers. Batiste was even invited to perform at the 60th Grammy Awards alongside other notable musicians like Leon Bridges, Chuck Berry, and Gary Clark Jr.

After these incredible performances, Batiste was named one of Forbes’s 30 under 30 list of top musicians. Other awards were presented to Batiste in recognition of his contributions to jazz music, and his charitable work over his entire career.

Trivia Facts – Batiste released many EPs. His 2013 EP “Social Music” reached the top of Billboard’s US Jazz charts for a month, and has remained one his greatest works. At the tender age of 20, he made his debut at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.

#4 – Sviatoslav Richter

ASSOCIATIONS CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Sviatoslav Richter is a great pianist. His career began in 1934. He used his artistic talent to his advantage throughout. He was well-known for his talents and appeared in many motion pictures that earned him fame throughout Russia. He appeared in many important venues over his career, including Carnegie Hall in New York.

He was a dedicated musician and learned many works from the greatest composers such as Beethoven, Paganini (Debussy), Paganini (Paganini), Beethoven (Handel) and Debussy. Richter believed that professional pianists should learn the works of each composer to ensure that they perform as intended.

Richter was an accomplished musician but preferred performing live than recording in a studio. Richter was a serious participant in a few recording sessions. He would play until satisfied.

Trivia Facts He won the Grammy for Best Classical Performance in 1960 and is widely regarded as one of his greatest works. The Oxford University hailed him as the “Doctor of Music”. His awards include the Stalin Prize (1950), Grammy Award(60), Lenin Prize (1961), as well as having a minor planet named after his, 9014 Svyatorichter.

#3 – Alfred Brendel

ASSOCIATIONS: ACADEMY of ST. Martin IN THE FIELDS

Alfred Brendel, a great interpreter of Beethoven, Haydn and Schubert, was regarded as one of the greatest musicians of all time. He was a concerto player throughout his career, and is well-known for his ability to interpret these works with a cold touch.

Brendel was a prominent musician of the 20th Century, having made his mark in classical music. Brendel, like many other prominent pianists was self-taught. He discovered his love for the piano early on. Brendel is a master pianist, thanks to his natural talent and experience.

Brendel was very strict about composers’ work. He recommended that all pianists follow their instructions. Brendel had a great respect for composers and the way they wanted their music to sound. Brendel’s famous renditions classical music had a significant influence on other notable pianists like Paul Lewis, Amandine Svary, Till Fellner and Kit Armstrong.

Trivia Facts – Brendel is well-known for his self-taught skills. He was quoted as saying that “A teacher can become too influential”, and that he learned to distrust any information he didn’t know. His honors are so high-profile that he is an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

#2 – Dame Myra Hess

ASSOCIATIONS – NBC SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Myra Hess is known for her unique rhythm and sounds. She was a concerto player throughout her career, and she never shied away from the spotlight. Many prominent pianists, including Richard Contiguglia and Clive Lythgoe, heavily influenced her.

Hess is best known for her performance of Mozart symphonies. These interpretations were often considered her finest work, and are what Hess is most remembered for. She also interacted with the works of Schuman and Beethoven.

Hess mentored many jazz musicians including Elizabeth Ivey Brubeck (David Brubeck’s mom). Hess was a prominent pianist and stunned many with her unique sound and talent.

The Chicago Cultural Center presents concerts every week to celebrate her contributions to jazz and piano. Since 1977, they have been broadcast live via the internet and radio.

Trivia Facts – Hess was invited to perform at the NBC Symphony Orchestra in New York by Arthur Toscanini, a renowned conductor. Hess performed Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony. Arnold Bax composed a piece in 1915 to dedicate it to her.

#1 – Murray Perahia

ASSOCIATIONS ROYAL CONCERTGEBOUW ORCHESTRA

Murray Perahia’s greatest accomplishment is sharing his piano knowledge with others. He was an eminent instructor at several prestigious universities. His interpretations of Mozart were his most cherished work and he was often recorded by Sony Classical. He was also well-respected for his Beethoven interpretations, and recorded several concertos based upon Beethoven’s work.

He was well-known for his ability teach others, which led to him teaching at several prestigious institutions such as the Juilliard School, Peabody Institute and the International Piano Academy Lake Como. His peers respected him and his students appreciated him.

Perahia, who is widely regarded as one of the best living pianists, continues to share his art with the world. Perahia is president of the Jerusalem Music Center and frequently returns to share his interpretations with students.

Trivia Facts Perahia was nominated 18 times and won three of the prestigious Grammy Awards. There are many other medals and awards he has received, such as the Gramophone Hall of Fame and the Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize. In 2016, a bee species was named in his honor.

Runners up: Who is almost one of the greatest piano players of all time?

It’s not fun to stop at the top 10, even if you have different players than us. There are many other players that merit recognition. Here are 4 runners up, and then a bunch honorable mentions. Keep looking if your favorite pianist has not been mentioned!

Arthur Rubinstein

ASSOCIATIONS – ISRAEL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

Arthur Rubinstein was definitely one of the greatest composers. His career started in the early 20th Century when he met some of the most prominent composers around the globe, including Paul Dukas and Maurice Ravel.

Rubinstein was a huge Choppin fan and spent much his career focusing on the composer. He was a great Chopinist and had a lasting influence on the music industry.

He traveled all over the world and visited almost every continent. His visits were met with great praise and encouragement by people. His trips to South America, Spain and Mexico were extraordinary. He developed a love for many prominent composers such as Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz.

He preferred to be a soloist throughout his career. However, he did perform concertos with many other pianists such as Jascha Heifetz and Henryk Szerymg.

Trivia Facts : Rubenstein was the director of a documentary about his life and career titled Arthur Rubenstein-The Love of Life. This film won an academy award for Best Feature.

Franz Liszt

ASSOCIATIONS FRANZ LISZT MUSIC ACADEMY

Franz Liszt is still a great concert pianist worldwide. His artistic legacy will be cherished in the music industry forever. Liszt was a highly respected concert pianist who received high praise from all those who saw him.

He discovered a love for composition after touring as a virtuoso. He conducted many important events where he emphasized the works of Beethoven and Palestrina as well as Mendelssohn and Bach. Although he should be considered one of the top piano players on the list, he is only one person in this discussion.

While there isn’t much evidence about his sound in the early 19th-century, many records show that his ability keep the music’s pace earned him the greatest praise. Liszt didn’t adhere to the composer’s style. He often added his own unique touches to his performances.

The amount of piano music he wrote throughout his career is what made Liszt so special. About 50% of his performances featured scores by other composers. Many musicians consider Liszt to be the best pianist in the world.

Trivia Facts – Liszt also participated in the composition of symphonic poetry, which are music scores that are meant to tell a story and are mainly focused on Romanticism. Between 1935 and 1991, nearly a dozen movies have featured him and his life.

Vladimir Horowitz

ASSOCIATIONS: LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Vladimir Horowitz may have been destined to be a pianist because his mother, a well-known pianist, was also a pianist. His mother taught him music lessons and ignited his love for it. He performed at some of the most prominent venues in the world, including Carnegie Hall where he performed with Sir Thomas Beecham.

Horowitz was known for his special relationship with his audience. He was also well-known for engaging his audience during performances. His unique ability to transform a solo performance into a concerto that engaged everyone was a gift.

Horowitz was a master at teaching the techniques of the trade to other pianists such as Byron Janis and Gary Graffman, Coleman Blumfield and Alexander Fiorillo. As they advanced in their field, Horowitz brought along a few of his students to the stage.

Horowitz recorded many recordings over his career, including with notable groups like the NBC Symphony Orchestra or under the tutelage of Toscanini. He recorded several concerts for Columbia Records as well as Sony Classical.

Trivia Facts – Horowitz made a documentary about his life called Vladimir Horowitz The Last Romantic. It highlighted his fascinating career and emphasized his love of romanticism through his performances. Horowitz was awarded 26 Grammy Awards during his life (plus many other awards).

Sergei Rachmaninoff

ASSOCIATIONS MOSCOW CONSERVATORY

Sergei Rachmaninoff was a great pianist due to his distinctive style and tone. His passion for singing made him a popular choice. He was known for his unique rhythmic style, and calm demeanour that entertained audiences around the world.

Complex pieces were where his talent shined through. He never missed a beat and kept the performance moving in a steady rhythm. Rachmaninoff’s unique tone was evident during his rabatos, as many who saw him play knew. He was a skilled pianist but also appreciated vocals.

He was very similar in this regard to Chopin because he was exact with his vocals, regardless of how difficult they were. His impeccable vocals and meticulous attention to details cemented his status as one of the greatest pianists ever to play.

Rachmaninoff, like many other prominent pianists of his era, recorded various pieces on the piano. Rachmaninoff even recorded recordings at Thomas Edison’s New York recording studio. His most famous recordings were Chopin’s “Funeral March Sonata” and Schumann’s “Carnaval.”

Trivia Facts – Rachmaninoff was a master of memory. He could remember the most difficult and complicated pieces in just days.

Vladimir Ashkenazy

ASSOCIATIONS : PHILARMONIA ORCHESTRA, LONDON, ICELAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Vladimir Ashkenazy was born in Russia to a musical family (his father was a composer and pianist, and his grandfather a choir master), and he began playing the piano at an early age.

He was a well-known pianist in the 1950s. In 1956, he won the Queen Elisabeth Music Competition in Belgium. In 1963, he defected and moved to Iceland with his wife.

He performed a variety of piano repertoires from Rachmaninov and Beethoven, and received universal acclaim. Between 1974 and 2000, he won 6 Grammy Awards. In the second half his career, he became a conductor and received equal praise for his work.

Trivia Facts He was allowed to perform in Europe, but was constantly under pressure from the KGB to be an informant.

Honorable Mentions for the Best Piano Players in The World

It is impossible not to mention the many other players who should be on the list or have great chances of rising in the rankings. You know that piano is a very popular instrument. Here are the next batch of climbers who deserve credit from history and today.

  • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
  • Frederic Chopin (1810-1849).
  • Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
  • Stephen Hough (b. 1961)
  • Daniel Barenboim (b. 1942)
  • Mitsuko Uchida (b. 1948)
  • Lang Lang (b. 1982)
  • John Ogdon (1937-1989).

This could be a topic we can talk about for hours. You could change the attributes you rate them on or rate the same ones differently. Or, even if we rearranged the top 10, the list would be rearranged to include other pianists. This is what makes it so interesting to talk about.

You might find this enjoyable, and you might enjoy exploring another popular stringed instrument by checking out our list of greatest guitarists. Because there are so many qualified candidates, it makes this another difficult list to rate. We appreciate your patience as we discuss the top piano players around the globe.

The Top 10 Most Outstanding Piano Players in the world

This table lists the top 10 piano players worldwide. It includes their names and associations.

RankPiano PlayerAssociations
1Murray PerahiaRoyal Concertgebouw Orchestra
2Dame Myra HessNBC Symphony Orchestra
3Alfred BrendelAcademy Of St Martin In The Fields
4Sviatoslav RichterChicago Symphony Orchestra
5Jon BatisteStay Human, Juilliard School
6Claudio ArrauStern Conservatory Of Berlin
7Leif Ove andsnesRisor Festival Of Chamber Music
8Glenn GouldPeabody Mason Concerts
9Martha ArgerichInternational Piano Academy Lake Como
10Lyle MaysPat Metheny Group

Leave a Comment