Greatest Piano Concertos of All Time

What are the 10 greatest Piano Concertos of all time?
The Top Ten
1 Beethoven's 5th (Emperor) Piano Concerto

I do love Rachmaninov and probably would have given his 2nd Piano Concerto the top spot until I heard this piece in concert for the first time several years ago. These votes can only be about those very razor-edge personal preferences, so I will only focus on trying to explain that side of it.

I suppose my heart chooses it above anything else because I feel the gamut of positive energies about life. The first movement feels like a complete whirlwind of complex, cascading, and harmonious melodies. It deconstructs the mind while at the same time opening it to the sublime 2nd movement.

While a second movement can often fall flat emotionally for me, I would never get tired of listening to this one, where notes seem to fall like delicate drops of pensive rain. The pinnacle of the concerto for me, and perhaps one of the greatest highs to be found in all of music, is the incredible transition in the last minute at the end of the 2nd where a simple theme is introduced and then just explodes into a powerful 3rd movement in the structure of the 7-part rondo.

I am in awe of the originality and beauty of this piece. One of my great regrets in life is that I came to this piece relatively late in my classical listening life compared to the Mozart Piano Concertos and the Beethoven Symphonies. When I think of how often I listened to the 5th, 7th, and 9th symphonies growing up, it is a regret to me that I did not have this piece in that same mix.

On an emotional level, it would be a great tragedy for me if someone were to live their entire life and never hear this concerto from start to finish.

2 Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto

More beautiful than the 1st or 3rd, I can listen every day and never get tired of this. As a musician, and after listening to this for years, I remain shocked by its astounding quality. Each time I listen, I simply can't imagine how he could "hear these orchestral sounds" in his brain before placing them on paper.

Creating this after a prolonged depression is truly amazing. Many thanks to his physician who pulled him out of the depression, so we could enjoy the rest of his writing career. He dedicated the work to his physician. How could he edit all these instruments "on paper," write and rewrite in the year 1900, and then hear this true masterpiece for the first time while playing with an orchestra?

This concerto didn't arrive. It exploded onto the music scene at the time. I wish I had been there for the first public performance to see the looks on the audience's faces.

3 Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto

Nearly 140 years later, the incredible originality of this work may be lost on some. But NO ONE had ever written a concerto like this before. The wild prestissimo in the second movement has moments that are almost atonal (in fact, Tchaikovsky was called by a critic of the time an ULTRA MODERN composer!).

But innovation alone doesn't make a work great: this work has surpassing dramatic power as well as beauty. The gradual crescendo in the final movement before the octave peroration always gets me. No other piece quite like it.

4 Mozart's 20th Piano Concerto

In my opinion, this is Mozart's best piano concerto. It is mysterious, lyrical, passionate, and leaves the listener in utter awe. I think it even surpasses the piano concertos of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff.

It is daring and difficult, but serene and tranquil. Only beauty such as this could be conceived by our dear Mozart.

The first movement has to be one of the most intense and transforming pieces of music ever composed, like the discovery of a new and life-changing chemical element. No other composition has ever gotten under my skin quite like this one.

5 Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto

No other single piece of music has ever come so close to perfection as the iconic 'Rach 3'. Just the very mention of the nickname sends chills up any budding pianist's spine. As Everest is to the climber, Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto cemented its place in history when Rachmaninoff himself held up his hands after its debut, unable to play an encore due to exhaustion.

One would think that what has become universally known as the single most difficult piece of music ever written for the piano is also one of the most hauntingly beautiful and lyrical pieces of music anywhere. It is pieces such as this and Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe, that ushered in the period of atonality because composers could no longer do better. Rachmaninoff, on several occasions, peaked the art form with such searing beauty that the competition folded. Detractors such as Stravinsky, once wrote extremely tonal and lyrical music which, besides a few obscure pieces, none of us remember today. Everyone remembers the 'Rach 3'. Its place in history is secure. WITHOUT QUESTION, Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto is the greatest piano concerto ever written now and forevermore.

6 Schumann Piano Concerto in A Minor

Schumann is the greatest composer of the so-called Romantic period. No one else from Schumann's era comes even close. This piano concerto is in a class all its own. It takes a long time to penetrate into Schumann's inner world, or at least it took me a long time. I was already deeply familiar with and adored Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Berlioz among others by the time I finally understood Schumann. Some people "get it" much earlier, and I wasn't one of those people. The level of perfection attained in the Schumann concerto is matched only by Beethoven's fourth piano concerto, in my opinion.

7 Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1

This should definitely be in the Top 5! An underrated concerto, it is difficult to understand but absolutely amazing once you do. The orchestral parts are the works of a genius.

A grand, tempestuous opening begins the first movement, while in other places, the atmosphere is dark and devastating. The second movement is extremely wonderful and emotional, while the third movement grasps the listener's attention immediately.

My favorite concerto. Brahms' melodies are heartbreaking and haunting. Even though it's a piano concerto, Brahms took great care in writing the orchestral accompaniment, creating a musical masterpiece that compositionally is far above most concertos, which seem to only be vehicles to show off piano virtuosity.

8 Mozart's 21st Piano Concerto

The first movement is one of the most wonderfully dynamic and life-affirming movements in any piano concerto, and it is hard to imagine it ever getting better. And then comes the second movement to prove it really can!

Wonderful, joyful concerto. My favorite concerto and Mozart piece. The third movement leaves me speechless every time. This concerto leaves me overjoyed in an indescribable way.

Pleasing, profound, and uplifting. It soothes the soul and engages the mind. So beautiful.

9 Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1

This one is not well-known enough, in my opinion, but deeply adored by everyone who does know it. I have a very personal connection with this piece, as it is the first concerto I grew up listening to and the first I ever played as a soloist with an orchestra. It's incredibly beautiful and perfectly paced and balanced - so smooth and natural, but at the same time full of conflict. A true masterpiece of a composition.

It's the most "pianistic" of any concerto I've ever heard, and that's what makes it the quintessential piano concerto to me. After all, Chopin was the undoubted master of the piano!

10 Grieg's Piano Concerto

I am a beginner in the 'learning piano' world, and this is my inspiration. I know that I may never be able to play this piece in full (maybe when I am 80 years old. I am 44 now). This piece of music captures my heart and brings tears to my eyes, as it has since I was a child.

I don't think it is the most technical of piano concertos. Many musicians seem to judge music not by its beauty but by how nearly impossible it is to play. It is, quite simply, beautiful.

It's beautiful lines soar, and the small solo bursts from other instruments bring this from any other concerto to one that captivates and mesmerizes every time. This is especially due to the beautiful cadenzas, as well as the tones that can break your heart from beauty.

The Contenders
11 Brahms Piano Concerto no.2 in B flat major

This is the concerto that started it all for me. I found a Wilhelm Backhaus recording of it on cassette and played it constantly. I was enthralled by the beautiful melodies and the dramatic waves of music throughout this concerto. It drew me into classical music.

This is one of the most sophisticated piano concertos ever written. It contains some amazing motifs that are unlike anything written before or since. Brahms was at the peak of his career when he composed this concerto, and it shows.

12 Mozart's 24th Piano Concerto

Considered to be one of Mozart's best compositions, which says it all.

Magnificently expressive - full of power, emotion, and grandeur.

13 Beethoven Piano Concerto no.4 in G

Those learned in piano literature or classical music in general would always regard Beethoven's No. 4 not only as one of the greatest piano concertos ever written, but also as one of the greatest instrumental pieces, period. I remain convinced to this day, and many would concur in spades, that there is nothing more sublime and otherworldly beautiful than the first movement.

The second movement, the first of its kind, is nothing short of breathtaking and on par with the first movement in terms of quality and historical significance. The third movement, although less innovative than the previous two, is your quintessential Beethoven-esque keyboard piece. I highly recommend Mitsuko Uchida's interpretation in particular.

14 Mozart Piano Concerto No.23

The second movement is my favorite piece by Mozart. It is more sad and tragic than any other music I've heard in my life, as if the orchestra itself is weeping. The ending piano melody could not be written any more perfectly.

I have listened to most of Mozart's piano concertos many times, but of them all, I love the 23rd most of all. Especially the second movement. The 20th and 24th are also great, but to my mind, the 23rd is the best. I love it. Bravo Mozart!

Delightfully happy third movement.

15 Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2

Both Chopin's piano concertos are amazing, featuring beautiful melodies, extraordinary phrasing, contrast, drama, full of nostalgia, with both fast and slow tempos, bravura, and lyrical qualities. They can be listened to over and over again.

In addition, God knows why so-called music experts are complaining about the orchestral score. Both concertos are perfectly balanced, and if you really want to understand how to play them, listen to Krzysztof Zimerman's interpretation with the Polish Festival Orchestra.

The most virtuosic piano concerto ever written. It shows Chopin's sublimity in a beautiful way. P.S.: Zimmerman has the best version.

16 Bach's Concerto I in D minor, BWV 1052
17 Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.3

The 1st and 2nd movements are some of Beethoven's best work, capturing dramatic, emotional, sorrowful, and majestic emotions even better than the 5th concerto in my opinion. The 3rd movement is a bit cliche for me and doesn't move me in the same way, but it is still equal to the fifth piano concerto.

I would find this Piano Concerto more beautiful than No. 5, but No. 5 is more powerful and more difficult.

The first movement is so captivating. This is by far my favorite Beethoven Concerto.

18 Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 1

Incredibly daring with the first movement set to the phrase "None of you understand this, haha!", this tremendous beauty crosses every sphere of emotion across its short but powerful four movements. Liszt's ability to let virtuosity expound and bolster the melodies introduced is spotlighted in this grand work.

Fantastic concert! Virtuosity and passion in one masterwork.

19 Ravel - Piano Concerto In G-major

Incredible stuff. There are times I will listen to this almost every night. It has almost a progressive-rock quality to it, especially the first movement.

20 Saint-Saens - Piano Concerto No.5 'Egyptian'

One of the most beautiful concerti ever written. Saint-Saens crushes his French rivals, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy, with his brilliant themes and orchestration. Yet, he is as wild as some but stays within generally conservative bounds.

The most beautiful first movement gives me goosebumps every time! The second movement with its nice exotic element. The third movement - how exciting is this? Love it, love it! Especially the recap!

A supremely magnificent, yet underrated concerto.

21 Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2
22 Mozart's 22nd Piano Concerto

This piece, for me, represents the pinnacle of concerto writing. Each of the three movements is a masterpiece in its own right:

1st Movement: A grand musical architecture in the key of Eb that is intricate and yet beautiful.

2nd Movement: This movement reveals Mozart at the height of his melodic powers. The deftness with which he conjures up serene melodies and skillfully works them out through different keys - beginning with the relative minor to the home key - simply fills the listener with awe.

3rd Movement: Features a delightful melody in compound duple time which transforms into something sublime in the hands of this maestro.

I discover something new every time I listen to this concerto!

23 Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25

Mendelssohn is even better than Beethoven at the piano concerto. His themes and cadenzas are amazing.

Lively and melodic - a favorite.

24 Saint-Seans - Piano Concerto No. 2

This has a gorgeous first movement. I am a piano teacher and have several students win concerto competitions with this piece. I think it showcases the pianist's talents and has very beautiful lines!

My favorite and one of the best (in my humble opinion) piano concertos of all time. The opening cadenza in G minor is astonishing. Perfect structure.

This is absolutely beautiful and spine-chilling. A combination of epic and romantic.

25 Liszt - Piano Concerto No.2

Incredibly underrated! It's a perfect blend of tranquility and madness.

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