Best Pianists of All Time

The Top Ten

1 Franz Liszt Franz Liszt Franz Liszt was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary.

Sight-read all of Chopin's etudes without hearing them and nailed the first try.

Best pianist of all time obv people who don't know music will say otherwise

First of all yanni on top come on man. a person with 0.1% knowledge in this field will tell you that's LIszt perhaps was and is still the best pianist of all time although chopin sir would come close but the Liszt is probably the only man till this date who has fully satisfied his girlfriends!

Stunning technical ability- outstanding musicality evidenced in his compositions- years and years of time to evidence that he did indeed leave a lasting legacy- Franz Liszt must be very highly regarded in any list of pianists.

18 Comments
2 Yanni

The other comments pretty much say it all! I have been a Yanni fan for over 25 years and have been to as many concerts as I can get to. In April 2011, we saw him followed by an unheard-of tour the very next year. I was lucky enough to see him twice in June 2012, to have attended my first Fan Event dinner, and especially to have inadvertently crashed rehearsal and chatted briefly with him from a distance! Meeting some of the world-class orchestra members at the dinner and finally meeting Charlie Adams after the concert made the night. Mary Simpson is from very near where I live and she was a joy. Sarah O'Brien, as lovely as always, was also generous with her time. Yoel del Sol has the most adorable smile, and they all were patient while group and individual photos were taken. Thanks also to Krystal Vinck with PR who brought "Santorini" and handed her off to my cousin who was wearing the Santorini shirt from the concert two nights before! I know Pam hated to part with ...more

"Yanni live at the Acropolis" was his finest hour as a pianist, no doubt about that. Despite playing among the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and some world class band members, including a terrific Karen Briggs on violin, Yanni was in my opinion the best and most accomplished performer on the night. Here, he showcased all of his qualities as a pianist/keyboardist: musicality, sensitivity, technique, motoric skills, attention to detail, virtuosity, passion, accompaniment skills, courage, humility, ability to connect with the audience. Another great example of his abilities as a musician is the "In My Time" album - it's full of beautiful, deep piano solo pieces which will warm your heart and heal your soul. Yanni is without a doubt one of the best pianists of our time.

It's probably a once-a-century (or millennia) event that someone rises somewhere in the world; shoots up and keeps on going. Let's not forget that Yanni is a self-educated accomplished musician; his "musical shorthand" is an astoundingly innovative method to make oneself able to read music. He didn't stop at his inability to read conventional notes, but made his own notes to jump over that barrier -- simply amazing! And for someone who could do that, I'm not least astonished that he could come this far, to stand in the foreground of best world musicians and public performers. Yanni's psychology major is probably a contributing element in his success at conveying his music directly to the soul. Yanni you've been my #1 inspiration source and musical delight since August 1993, and still occupy that stature till this very day, 20 years later. God has indeed blessed such wonderful children of His; may He keep you both physically and spiritually, and shower you with His graces. Thank you ...more

I know there are many good pianist around the world and they play music very well, which is good. But Yanni, is the best of all, because his music touched your heart and soul, it enters in your mind and make you feel relax and help you to forget all around and when you start thinking again, your mind and heart feel peace, love, happiness, and feels a touch of God in your heart, relax. His music help you share with so many people around the world. He does not only plays good music but he also give you advises and good ones. It's so relaxing that you keep on. God bless him and I hope his music touch every soul in the world, from kids to ederlies. Keep on bringing hope and peace to each heart.

133 Comments
3 Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential of all composers. His best-known compositions include 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 violin concerto, ...read more.

I think this list is supposed to be best piano players, not best composers on piano. - Alkadikce

The only piano songs I fall in love with are his.

Timeless pieces, flawless execution of emotion through music... How do you beat that?

He is my favorite pianist ever!

24 Comments
4 Elton John Elton John Sir Elton Hercules John CBE is an English singer, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriting partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date.

There are NO parrots on here. If you're not a fan of Sir Elton John, there's no point in your commenting here. Sir Elton John is the finest & by far the best, pop/rock pianist/musician ever. His understanding & interpretation of music is second to none.

Elton John was accepted at Royal Music Academy at 11 for playing a thirteen sheet piece by Chopin that he had never seen before without any mistake, I believe. He kept playing pieces by heart that he had heard once. Is there anything left to be said?

THE BEST EVER! His musical genius knows no boundaries.

Some comments are saying we need Beethoven and Mozart on instead of Sir Elton John. He is just as good in my opinion he is better

12 Comments
5 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era, born in Salzburg.

It is blasphemous that mozart isn't number 1. Absolutely blasphemous.

Maybe if you dig out that 1785 vinyl from the ground where he played I would agree with you (sarcasm) - Alkadikce

A great composer. Sad that autotune doesn't exist, as people such as Mozart would be more popular than untalented people such as Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj.

It is all opinion. But I have to say Mozart is a master at piano.

Mozart is the beast

11 Comments
6 Frederic Chopin Frederic Chopin Frédéric François Chopin (1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849), born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as a leading musician of his era, whose "poetic genius ...read more.

He s obviously the greatest pianist in the world. End of Story.

Chopin always first and then we can make a "list".

Man who wrote poems with the piano

Raw emotion mixed with infinite delicacy. Chopin is, by far, the best.

20 Comments
7 Freddie Mercury Freddie Mercury Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara, 5th September 1946 - 24th November 1991) was a Zanzibari-born British singer of Indian descent, songwriter and record producer, known as the lead vocalist and songwriter of the British rock band Queen. He also became known for his flamboyant stage persona and four-octave ...read more.

That time he played the intro to "Seven Seas of Rhye" with only one hand or the time he improvised a beautiful melody for "Somebody To Love" at Milton Keyes

He is underrated as a piano player, but pianists say that he was virtuoso.

Much better pianist than people think...he was virtuoso.

He is mainly a singer but he has good piano skills - zxm

1 Comment
8 Billy Joel Billy Joel William Martin Joel is an American singer-songwriter, composer and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man", he has been making music since the 1960s, releasing popular albums throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s.

Why are modern musician on the list

Billy Joel created some of the most amazing Rock Piano music of all time, and this was only due to his incredible skills with the Piano, and his skill with songwriting and composing. He combined Jazz and Rock perfectly and created a unique genre of Piano Rock music that cannot be replicated by anyone else. He is now nearly 70 years old, and his singing voice is just as good as it was 40 years ago! Billy Joel is overall an extremely skilled Pianist and musician.

Billy Joel ahead of the BEST classical pianists of all time? HAHA! No way.

Billy Joel - nobody compares.

5 Comments
9 John Lennon John Lennon John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE was an English singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. He was assassinated by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980 at age 40.

John lennon? Really? TheTopTens lists always ends up being a popularity contest, smh

John Lennon was the greatest song writer of the 21st century. A genius in his own right but far from a top ten greatest pianist and this is coming from someone who regards Lennon as the greatest musical person of the 21st century.

10 Valentina Lisitsa

She always smiles when she plays, as though she is enjoying the music she is playing.

I just love the way she plays

ı think it is a good pianist in the world

best

The Contenders

11 Vladimir Horowitz

Horowitz is the greatest pianist, period. How on earth is it that he being beat by a music school DROPOUT. Horowitz had technically mastery, but also complete control over his dynamics. Just listen to his version of Movement 3 of the Moonlight sonata, a piece a doubt Elton John could even play.

Horowitz' touch was not of this earth. He is hands down, no pun intended the winner here.

And YANNI Before BEETHOVEN? Are you insane? Did you receive a blow to the head lately? Wow.

Touch, dynamics, emotion, repertoire, range of composers with such different styles... And totally overcoming the slight handicap of being short of stature... It is almost a joke to put Yanni, Billy and Elton in the same category list wise. There should be two separate lists at least... We aren't talking about playing music you've composed yourself here, we are talking about playing the piano... I have huge respect for the others as musicians and performers and all are very good at the piano but they cannot begin to come close to Horowitz. Rubenstein maybe can... Rachmaninov maybe can... Serkin maybe can... But the others? I'm sorry... Get real.

There isn't enough time allotted on this planet for me explain how I still feel about Horowitz.

8 Comments
12 Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin to me is a stand alone genius when it comes to showcasing what connecting with a piano is truly all about... Forget his comedic nature, which I'm sure is a major factor in the dismissal of his true talent in many people's option, and why he is void of the true recognition he aptly is deserved of. I am usually a man of very few words, but on this occasion my pallet has been moistened. Please don't misjudge or indeed prejudge. Forget your purism and let your passion for the instrument guide you on this one. Tim is in no uncertain terms, a modern day genius.

I don't agree with all of his religious ways but the way he connects with music is just imaginable, he has to be one of the most respectable pianists.

I can't believe Tim Minchin was not on the list! Literally, listen to any single one of his songs and you will see the amazement that is, Tim Minchin.

13 Sergei Rachmaninov

Top 10 no doubt. The sophistication in his compositions put him right up there with Chopin for musical genius. The very young generation knows what it likes to hear fun touching music and go for mainstream. Those of us that have been around for a while know the difference between great entertainment (something that probably all pianists mentioned here can provide) and great music (that only a few have the true gift of composing and playing at the highest level).

Rachmaninov's tonality and perfect clarity earn him the number one spot on this list (in my opinion). I think that Joel and John are talented, but really shouldn't be close to the top 5. Yanni is talented, but again, he's no where near as talented as Rachmaninov.

Furthermore, Rachmaninov's command of theory and timing is impeccable. Additionally, as seen with his predecessor Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov's use of theme and the changes thereof within a piece is so masterful it seems as if he is strategically making the audience feel a specific way, just so he can make them feel different later on.

Well... This pool shows only that mainstream music is dominating and that's why they vote for it. Of course, that Rachmaninov is the best pianist we can listen to...

What about Freddy? He himself said that he was always scared of playing piano in concerts, because of mistakes... What about Elthon John comparing for example Horowitz?..

It's common to hear Rachmaninov's music but rare to actually hear him play. Besides others, a recording exists of Servei playing The Star Spangled Banner.! The technical quality is awful. Nevertheless, the artistry is so great that it shines through the noise. In my humble opinion, Sergei Rachmaninov is the greatest pianist of all time.

11 Comments
14 Scott Joplin

Damn, how is he so low on this list?! Joplin's legendary!
(I actually listen to his music while I'm on TheTopTens) - Rocko

Achieved sheer perfection in his works

The king of ragtime

15 Lang Lang

The worlds greatest pianist...wonderful passion for the piano and feels every key he plays in such a magnificent way. Amazing to hear and watch...outstanding

CNN said he is the most famous classical artist of all times. Beating out Pavarotti. CNN also said he is more famous than The Beatles. Don't take my word for it. Search for CNN's Lang Lang online.

He’s so lively and cheerful and he plays with so much feeling I love him :3

He is by far the best pianist today!

5 Comments
16 Martha Argerich

She's also hot (when she was younger of course)

She is a legendary pianist.

Why? She should be in the top 5!

17 Emil Gilels

One of the most gifted pianists of all time.

18 Sviatoslav Richter

Richter--separating the superhuman from the great.

His playing abilities can only be compared to Horowitz and Rachmaninoff. He also had GREAT memorization and gave his heart to his music.

Huge repetoire, incredible technique along with great musicality. One of the greatest of all time.

19 William Joseph

He is the best pianist ever! His albums inspire all of his listeners, and bring such a joy to the world. I think he should be number one on this list! He is young, charming, and well rounded. My most favorite pianist ever. :-) Keep rocking it William!

I was so fortunate to have seen William Joseph in concert. His music takes us on this great emotional journey leaving us inspired and rejuvenated. He is a great pianist, composer, songwriter and a wonderful person. He started composing at the age of five. Some of the fan favourites are his Piano Fantasy, Within, Sweet Remembrance of You. His latest collection of beloved hymns is a masterpiece. His rendition of Asturias is by far the best I've heard. If you haven't heard him yet please do watch his videos on YouTube. He is legendary and he will be remembered for generations to come.

William Joseph is an amazing piano player! He is passionate about it and it shows! I love his albums! They are wonderful and bring my family and I so much happiness! Plus, he is an amazing man!

No one can hold a candle to William Joseph. He is a magnificent composer, pianist and human being. I feel blessed to have met and chatted with him.

3 Comments
20 Paul McCartney Paul McCartney Sir James Paul McCartney is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer . With John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, he gained worldwide fame with the rock band the Beatles, one of the most popular and influential groups in the history of pop and rock music .

Lennon is very good at piano, and I believe they’re equal in music overall between all the categories, but you have to give piano to Paul.

McCa is better is then Lennon I'm every way! You people are dumb for saying McCa is worse than Lennon. McCa should be top 5. Billie Joel's really good, too.

21 Yiruma

Definitely one of my favourites, everybody loves his works, he deserves to be in the top tens at least, or even the eleventh

YIRUMA ALL THE WAY! HE SHOULD BE #1! There is no doubt in my mind that Yiruma is the best pianist of all time.

Why isn't he even on the first page? He should be at least in the top ten...

My all time favorite song is river flows into you.
Seriously... listen to it, it's so peaceful.
I love his work. - animedreamer

6 Comments
22 Fazil Say

You should listen "Black Earth" performance.

He deserve to be in "TOP 10".

The best

A Turkish pianist and composer born in Ankara, Turkey.

23 Glenn Gould Glenn Gould Glenn Herbert Gould was a Canadian pianist who became one of the best-known and most celebrated classical pianists of the 20th century.

Absolutely the best. For those that placed Elton John, John Lennon, and Freddie Mercury ahead of Glenn Gould, what were you thinking?

His performances suggest he attained a musical understanding nearly equal to some of the greatest composers. One of the greatest, worthy of top 10.

For me, one of the best pianist

The Best

1 Comment
24 Liberace Liberace Władziu Valentino Liberace, mononymously known as Liberace, was an American pianist, singer, and actor.

Most enjoyable to listen to regardless of type of music. Brought the classics to the masses

The one to listen to for any child dreaming of becoming great on the piano in the 1950's.

Amazingly talented and a great entertainer!

Can play any type of music and make it enjoyable

5 Comments
25 Oscar Peterson

From a musical and technical perspective (as the list is intended for) Oscar Peterson should without a doubt be more appreciated... no disrespect but, Yanni, Beethoven, Joel, Mozart, Lennon etc are great, but the list is not intended for most popular nor best composers.

Fabulous technique and unique interpretation, my favourite pianist

I don't take anything away from Yanni! When I first seen his concert in, I knew what I wanted to do as a musician in concert! But what he does as a pianist many musicians today do very easily by ear! Art tatum is my favorite! But Yanni at number 1 is an insult to the instrument! Composing now by ear is acomplished through knowing what you want each instrument to do and executing it on the synthesizer! So Yanni discovering a new path, No he is innovative with musical concert delivery! One of the most unselfish piano synthesizer conductors ever more like it! Their are pianist that have changed how we hear the piano! Lets give their legacy more respect! Once again I love Yannis music, but number one of piano list of 125 pianist!

Definitely Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum, obviously a jazz fan and Fur Elise by the way is a very simple piece of music, my 11 year old niece plays it perfectly. Please don't comment if you are not a musician.

26 Artur Rubinstein

The best interpreter of classical music who even in his 80's was performing better than more youthful pianists. Without a doubt a top ten all-time pianist. Certainly, much more deserving than the entertainers listed here. They do not belong on this list. There were not pianists!

This guy's an interpreting genius! He should be in the top 10, at least.

Rubinstein should be number 1!

HE SEEMS TO BE "GOD LIKE"

27 Art Tatum

He should be number 1, he was blind.

Listen to his rendition of Tiger Rag. Incredible technique.

Even his peers called him the best of all time in any style.

Art could play anything the rest of these people composed add his own improvisationin the middle and finish with whatever he started. The others could even keep up.

2 Comments
28 Vijay Venkatesh

Greatest pianist ever. Possesses a tone of the Gods.

Absolutely incredible pianist, I had the privilege of hearing him in cities across California. He will definitely become one of the legendary pianists of the 21st century.

Heavenly tone. Incredible poise and presence. My favorite pianist by far.

29 Emily Bear

Youth beauty smile and a real love of her viewers

Truly a great pianist and a prolific composer that will make her mark in history.

I don't know how explain her amazing piano playing. I like to her style.

Shes just amazing, no words can discribe how well she plays the piano.

30 Matthew Bellamy Matthew Bellamy Matthew James "Matt" Bellamy is an English musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and compose most famous for being the main vocalist in alternative rock band Muse.

Musers let's vote Matt up he deserves higher

Amazingly awesome. Listen to Citizen Erased. He sings, plays the guitar, and piano in one song. It’s amazing what this guy can do

Ultimately Brilliant. One of the greatest pianists alive.
Muse's driving force. Impeccable Pianist.
Flawless.. And heart-warming..
Songs Like "Explorers", "United states of eurasia", And "Starlight".
Matthew bellamy is a gifted pianist.
Incompatible with any other Rock artist who plays such exqusite piano.
Great. A legendary Pianist.
5 star to him.

31 Jerry Lee Lewis Jerry Lee Lewis Jerry Lee Lewis is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and pianist, often known by his nickname, The Killer.

Should be much higher. His speed was crazy

I heard him do "That's My Desire", one of my favorite songs of all time. He played it so well, and I wished he had done more of these ballads; he was an American Treasure of a musician.

"The Killer" is number 1!

I could listen to Jerry Lee Lewis for hours. Chopin, Yanni, Elton John don't even come close.

32 Claudio Arrau

He's extremely talented pianist

Definitively number 1!

A master

33 John Ogdon
34 Marc-andre Hamelin

A triumphant pioneer of old music and the new. Has recording in nearly every area of piano with very approachable musicality and an indisputably profound technical proficiency. He is nothing short of sheer perfection; he is elegant, powerful, subtle, explicit.

35 Adnan Sami
36 Alicia de Larrocha

Powerhouse..

37 Evgeny Kissin

The greatest pianist ever to come out of Russia. His technique is phenomenal, his sound is unique. I love rock and roll, but Elton and Billy couldn't TOUCH this man's ability. Mad props to anyone that actually has a famous pianist on the list.

Kissin was a child prodigy who - so to speak - directed a whole famous Moscow orchestra at age 12 during several Chopin concerts. Never seen a child prodigy like him.

The guy is just flawless:) he is my personal favourite and I think he should rank top

He is the current king of the piano!

2 Comments
38 Stephen Hough
39 Richard Wright Richard Wright Richard William "Rick" Wright was an English musician, composer, singer and songwriter. He was the main keyboardist and a backup vocalist for the psychedelic and progressive English rock band, Pink Floyd .

He is a great pianist mostly known for his career in Pink Floyd one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

From the rock band Pink Floyd

Hmm,69? he deserves better.he played other instruments more than piano but he also played piano greatly - zxm

40 Ludovico Einaudi

Should be in the top 10

Should be at least #5

! 55th?! you gotta be kidding me...
What's wrong with these people - Reaper

41 Chris Martin Chris Martin Christopher Anthony John "Chris" Martin is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He is best known as the lead singer of rock band Coldplay.
42 Hiromi Uehara

Just listen to her once.. I m sure you'll fall in love with her.. She is the most talented jazz pianist I've ever heard

43 Adele Marcus

god

44 Claude-Achille Debussy

Achille. I knew a new thing today. - Alkadikce

45 Yundi Li
46 Jorge Bolet
47 Blind Tom Wiggins
48 Krystian Zimerman

Umm...Zimerman is below Elton John? We've hit a new low in the West regarding taste.

Why is he so low on this list?!?!

49 Bruce Hornsby

How is Bruce not top 10? Uneducated, and deprived listeners. It's because no one on this list gives him a serious listen. I have heard a select and limited few ever in the world that can perform two hand independent "maestrosity" that Bruce can. And the fact that he can transcend and play classical, modern composers, jazz, bluegrass with Ricky Scaggs when many ridiculed a piano with bluegrass...and the sheer diversity of ear and take it out virtuosity...most of you know only the classical masters here. Most of you are missing a master of many genres on the greatest instrument ever, shame on all of you and get your head out of your butt.

If Bruce Hornsby isn't in the All Time Top 10, then he's got to be Top 10 in the modern era. The man is talented to a fault and can play anything and any genre of music flawlessly. I've been a big fan since his first album.

What can we do that’s just the way it is...

50 Johann Sebastian Bach Johann Sebastian Bach Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations as well as for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor.

Father of music... at number 41?

How have we all forgotten about the one who innovated it all? Look at pieces like Toccata and Fugue and My Jesus! Oh What Anguish and the intricate playing that went into them. This guy was know for using a stick in his mouth to hit extra keys after he had already used all of his fingers.

Its stupid to have bach here, he should be in top 3

Why is Bach here? the father of all music!

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List Stats

2,000 votes
150 listings
9 years, 303 days old

Top Remixes (13)

1. Franz Liszt
2. Ludwig van Beethoven
3. Blind Tom Wiggins
music-lover
1. Franz Liszt
2. Frederic Chopin
3. Ludwig van Beethoven
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1. Elton John
2. Freddie Mercury
3. Billy Joel
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