Best Pianists of All Time

The Top Ten

1 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 think that nostalgia is the best song of all time

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2 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.

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.

Yanni is a modern pianist. How can he even be compared to the classical greats? The technical brilliance and the incredible composing and improvising abilities of the virtuosic pianists of the classical and romantic era simply cannot be put against some 'nice sounding' music. With all due respect to every other musician, Beethoven is the greatest composer ever and Franz Liszt is the greatest pianist ever.

Franz Liszt is for sure the most talented pianist of all time and his music is amazingly cool and complicated

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3 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.

More than 50 YEARS in the music business and he's currently on his 3 year worldwide concert tour. LEGEND!

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4 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.

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

He is my favorite pianist ever!

This man was truly the best creation of god. A handmade masterpiece. Composed some of his symphonies when he was deaf.

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

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5 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.

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 - nobody compares.

He could do jazz, classical, pop, rock, ragtime, anything. Fantastic, and really made the piano a popular mainstream instrument like the guitar.

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

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6 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.

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.

A great composer, no doubt, but compared to Chopin and Liszt, he isn't as good.

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7 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

Touches my heart with every passing note.

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8 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!

I think it should be Claudio Arrau in this category. I am his straight musical descendant, so I vote for him!

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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 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.

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.

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.

I guess when you ask for list of concert pianists,that is too broad based.Horowitz is the master of the instrument.he feels it not just plays it,

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The Contenders

11 Oscar Peterson

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.

12 Jerry Lee Lewis Jerry Lee Lewis

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.

Should be much higher. His speed was crazy

"The Killer" is number 1!

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

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?..

He is the best ever the rach 111

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14 Jordan Rudess Jordan Rudess Jordan Rudess is an American keyboardist and composer best known as a member of the progressive metal/rock band Dream Theater and the progressive rock supergroup Liquid Tension Experiment.
15 Josef Lhevinne

Listen to the very few recordings he made. Then decide.

Technically the best (even better than Rachmaninoff, dare I say), with beautiful musicianship. He won the Gold Medal at the Moscow Conservatory in 1892, besting fellow students Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.

16 Blind Tom Wiggins
17 Moriz Rosenthal

No doubt! Yanni is the best! Yanni Chryssomallis! He touches the world's heart! And he learned by own! Autodidact!

18 Claude-Achille Debussy
19 Fats Domino Fats Domino Antoine "Fats" Domino, Jr. was a French Creole pianist and singer-songwriter. He released five gold records before 1955 and had 35 hit records in the U.S. Top 40. He died on October 25, 2017.
20 Adele Marcus

god

21 Emil Gilels

One of the most gifted pianists of all time.

22 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

23 Alicia de Larrocha

Powerhouse..

24 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.

25 Lang Lang

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 is by far the best pianist today!

He is right next to Wolfgang Mozart & Beethoven

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

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26 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.

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

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

He is awesome I absolutely love him and I'm 10 wel I've loved him since I was 10

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

27 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"

28 Kevin Moore
29 Adnan Sami
30 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.

31 Keith Emerson Keith Emerson Keith Noel Emerson was an English keyboardist and composer. Emerson played in a number of bands before he found his first commercial success with the Nice.

The best ever. Honestly, the only reason he's this low is because he is not very popular.

Simply the best!

32 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...

I think he can paint with piano

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33 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.

34 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.

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

Many of his Bach fuges and preludes are perfect. His Liszt/Beethoven symphony nr.5 is the best piano repertoire of all time.

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35 Art Tatum

Listen to his rendition of Tiger Rag. Incredible technique.

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

He should be number 1, he was blind.

Listen to his music, and you might laugh at when you recall how you thought Billy Joel, Yiruma, or Yanni were the best pianists who ever lived.

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36 Fazil Say

A Turkish pianist and composer born in Ankara, Turkey.

The best

37 Derek Sherinian
38 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

39 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!

40 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.

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

Father of music... at number 41?

Why is Bach here? the father of all music!

41 George Gershwin

Great, I Love his pieces.

42 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!

One of the most talented pianist, and entertainer of all time.
Liberace was a showman that enjoyed his work, and was creative with his stage presense.

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43 Vijay Venkatesh

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.

44 Emily Bear

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.

45 Claudio Arrau

He's extremely talented pianist

Definitively number 1!

A master

46 Ming Freeman

He is able to play any genre of music. In one week, I heard him play blues, rock and roll and accompany a Chinese harpist. Very talented and very versatile. Also, a very kind and gentle person.

Ming is, as Bette Midler sang, the "wind beneath the wings" of Yanni. The best pianists and keyboardist I have had the pleasure to hear in contemporary times.

Ming Freeman at #49?! He belongs in the Top 10.

47 John Ogdon
48 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.

49 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.

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.

50 Yuja Wang

She is brilliant technically and artistically. She plays powerfully and softly and with great velocity. Truly gifted.

The greatest virtuoso since Horowitz. And even greater artistry.

The heir to Howowitz and Argerich in dexterity and virtuosity. She is already better than them with her artistry and BIG box office and sales.
She is one rich pianist at 27 as of this post in fall 2014.

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List Stats

2,000 votes
150 listings
8 years, 330 days old

Top Remixes (14)

1. Jordan Rudess
2. Elton John
3. Billy Joel
NightmareCinema
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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