Top 10 Best Pianists of All Time

The Top Ten
1 Sergei Rachmaninov

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 five. Yanni is talented, but again, he's nowhere 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.

2 Yanni

"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, motor skills, attention to detail, virtuosity, passion, accompaniment skills, courage, humility, and the 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 that will warm your heart and heal your soul. Yanni is without a doubt one of the best pianists of our time.

3 Vladimir Horowitz

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 at least two separate lists. 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. Rubinstein maybe can. Rachmaninov maybe can. Serkin maybe can. But the others? I'm sorry. Get real.

4 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.

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.

There are recordings of the last of Liszt's students, such as Arthur Friedheim, who specialized in Liszt's piano works. Frederic Lamond might give one an idea of what Liszt could teach, within the limitations of the pupil. I'm disappointed that this list's contributors have not noted great 20th-century classical pianists, nor mentioned the great technicians of this century.

5 Artur Rubinstein

The best interpreter of classical music who, even in his 80s, 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. They were not pianists!

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

6 Sviatoslav Richter

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

Richter--separating the superhuman from the great.

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

7 Elton John Sir Elton Hercules John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight; 25 March 1947) is an English singer, pianist and composer. Collaborating with lyricist Bernie Taupin since 1967 on more than 30 albums, John has sold over 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has... read more

Elton John was accepted at the 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?

Touches hearts with every key he plays. Tell me, who else can do that? He has gone down in history as a legend, an icon, and an idea of beauty with his songs. He taught the entire world a lesson about the real meaning of music and that the only way to touch people's lives is by playing from the heart.

8 Frédéric 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

In my opinion, Chopin should be at least in the top three. Has anyone listened to Fantaisie-Impromptu or Winter Wind? Chopin is a legend, along with Beethoven, Mozart, and Liszt. And the people who can play their music.

How are Paul McCartney and Freddie Mercury above him? Good pianists, but nothing like this legend.

Listening to one of his pieces feels like the moment just before you fall asleep.

9 Alfred Cortot
10 Dinu Lipatti

The Newcomers

? Albert Ammons
The Contenders
11 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

Freddie Mercury should be number 3. He was the best and still is. Legends never die!

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

12 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. 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.

I get that Mozart and all those classic piano players were musical geniuses and that they pioneered important piano styles. But let's face it, would you rather listen to some old 1700s piano stuff or some awesome Billy Joel songs? I think we all know the obvious answer. Billy Joel was a modern piano genius and created many piano songs we all know and love.

13 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

As Mozart predicted during his first/last meeting with him, Beethoven would be a great composer after him. He really came close to Mozart's ability with his piano skills but was quicker at improvisation than Mozart. If only Mozart had lived longer to witness the greatness of Beethoven or perhaps played a piece together, it would have sounded legendary.

Anybody that voted for Yanni is crazy. Yanni is ridiculously good at the piano, but Beethoven could write music without hearing it at one point. Also, Beethoven expressed his emotions through his music. He wrote some of the greatest music ever and deserves #1.

14 Artur Schnabel
15 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.

Mozart mastered the piano at the age of 5 and could write piano pieces in one day without mistakes or rehearsals. Due to his natural talent, he should have been first on the list!

He is an amazing pianist who has gone through so much to be where he is now, and I worship him.

Mozart is the best pianist I've ever known! How could he not be Number 1? He is too good!

16 Emil Gilels

One of the most gifted pianists of all time.

17 John Lennon John Winston Ono Lennon, MBE (9 October 1940 - 8 December 1980) 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... read more
18 Martha Argerich
19 Valentina Lisitsa

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

20 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 the top 10.

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

Many of his Bach fugues and preludes are perfect. His Liszt/Beethoven Symphony No. 5 is the best piano repertoire of all time.

21 Liberace Władziu Valentino Liberace, mononymously known as Liberace, was an American pianist, singer, and actor.

Liberace had lots and lots of talent. Besides, who is still living who ever heard Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, etc., ever play to know how well they played? Their written music may have been good, but that just tells how well they composed music.

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

One of the most talented pianists and entertainers of all time. Liberace was a showman who enjoyed his work and was creative with his stage presence.

22 Ray Charles Ray Charles Robinson, professionally known as Ray Charles, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer.
23 Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin, to me, is a standalone 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 opinion, and why he is void of the true recognition he aptly deserves.

I am usually a man of very few words, but on this occasion, my palate 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.

24 Claudio Arrau
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 the most popular nor best composers.

Definitely Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum. Obviously, a jazz fan. Für 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.

He and Tatum should have been in the top 10.

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