DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Top 5 Pianists of All Time

By Michael Vincent on April 14, 2014

A few weeks ago, I asked some of Canada’s modern day masters of the instrument to share their three favourite pianists. From this list, we identified five of the most common between them, and ranked them according to how high they were on their list. Contributors include: Andrew Burashko, Claudia Chan, Eve Egoyan, David Louie, James Parker, Christina Petrowska Quilico, and Adam Sherkin.

5th place:  (3 way tie)

Emil Gilels (1916-1985)

Who was he?

A Soviet pianist, widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.

What made him great?

James Parker: always great musicianship and pianism. I heard Gilels once as a high school student in Vancouver. I’ve always loved his Brahms Piano Concerti. There was always nobility and majesty in his playing.

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)

Who was he?

An American jazz pianist and composer, considered one of the giants of standard American jazz repertoire.

What made him great?

Eve Egoyan: his unusual sound and approach to composition and the piano always fascinates and surprises me, making me giddy with happiness.

Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)

Who was he?

A Polish-American classical pianist widely regarded as the greatest Chopin interpreter of his day.

What made him great?

Andrew Burashko: his sound, and the remarkable combination of simplicity/directness of thought with supreme elegance.

4th place:

Artur Schnabel (1882-1951) 

Who was he?

Known as “the man who invented Beethoven,” Schnabel specialised in core German composers and made the first complete recording of the Beethoven sonatas.

What made him great?

David Louie: an artist who endeavoured to attain the highest creative goals – and achieved them – he identified strongly with the German classical composers, and his recordings of Schubert (late sonatas), and Beethoven, remain immortal in their profound humanity and an infinitely sustained line.

Adam Sherkin: Schnabel brings particular philosophical integrity to his art.   His command of structure and form was, of course, matchless amongst his peers.   The pianist’s affinity for Beethoven represents a rare confluence of composer and interpreter, akin to the relationship Glenn Gould had with the music of J.S. Bach.  Schnabel’s playing soars very near to the composers’ own creative impulses and glimpses the very spark of genius that is the inception of a masterpiece.

3rd place:

Pierre-Laurent Aimard (b. 1957)

Who is he?

A French-born pianist, known for his commitment to contemporary music and recordings of the first two books of Ligeti’s piano études.

What makes him great?

Claudia Chan: from the first moments I heard his playing, I was intrigued by the commitment to every note, every sound. The way he embraces all good music regardless of the era is a model for me of “musical tolerance” (does this term exist?) – making possible and encouraging the creation of music from our generation. He is a player of the utmost integrity, who never plays a note without a reason.

Eve Egoyan: his recording of the Ligeti Piano Etudes astounds me in their textural vibrancy.

2nd place:

Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989)

Who was he?

A Russian-born American classical pianist and composer known for his near perfect technique and unprecedented tone.

What made him great?

Eve Egoyan: his recording of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata no. 2 emotionally overwhelms me with its flamboyantly expressive open spirit and pianistic inventiveness.

David Louie: a phenomenon and a modern-day legend, his playing is impossible to categorize, but fascinating in its combination of uniquely expressive qualities and pianistic wizardry. He was also a musician of depth, insight, and erudition (although not always receiving due credit from listeners who gave more attention to the more obvious brilliant and idiosyncratic characteristics).

1st place:

Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997)

Who was he?

A Soviet pianist recognized for his penetrating interpretations, virtuoso technique, and enormous repertoire.

What made him great?

Andrew Burashko: power, abandon.

James Parker: the honesty and mind-blowing power of his live concerts. The Richter live recordings of Chopin 1st Ballade, Prokofiev 7, Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition – an unstoppable commitment to the act of performance.

Christina Petrowska Quilico: I heard him live in New York when I was very young and studying at Juilliard. His extraordinary tonal color and passion influenced me enormously. The way he painted sounds in color in his performance of Pictures at an Exhibition inspired me to learn the work way before I was ready. I believe I was 11 at that time. I met the challenge and I was never afraid of tackling major works. That is why he is my number one.

Adam Sherkin: much of Richter’s playing reflects a deeply moving and rich relationship to the piano.  His singular, solitary devotion to the keyboard throughout his life yields a certain timeless expression that echoes the universal experience; the human condition.  The breadth of his emotional palette, the beauty of tone and sheer virtuosity of interpretation are without parallel.

Honorable mentions: Martha Argerich, Alfred Brendel, Glenn Gould, Herbie Hancock, Elaine Kruse, Radu Lupu, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Rudolf Serkin.

#LUDWIGVAN

Want more updates on Toronto-centric classical music news and review before anyone else finds out? Get our exclusive newsletter here and follow us on Twitter for all the latest.

Michael Vincent
Follow me

Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is the Editor-in-chief Ludwig Van and CEO of Museland Media. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor for over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
Michael Vincent
Follow me

Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Seong-Jin Cho's Mozart Checks Off All The Boxes

By Norman Lebrecht on December 28, 2018

To end the year, up pops a Mozart with five stars written all over it.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.