The Five Greatest Pianists From the 20th Century

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The piano, one of the most popular musical instruments in the world, is so diverse that it can be heard in almost all music genres. In this article, I will introduce you to the five greatest pianists who lived during 20th century. If you don’t recognize some of the names, I’m sure you’ll be glad to listen to their artwork.

  1. Emil Gilels (1916-1985)

Emil Gilels was a Soviet classical pianist who started playing piano when he was six years old. He’s most famous for performing Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, Vocalise, Op.34: No.14, Sonata in C major, K.159 and Piano Sonata No.3 in A minor, Op.28. He won the USSR State Prize, 1st Prize-All Soviet Union Piano Competition (1933), a Gold Medal of the City of Paris, France and he was named  Hero of Socialist Labour and an Honorary Member of Royal Academy of Music, London.

  1. Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)

Thelonious was an American jazz pianist and composer who was best known for his distinctive style in suits, hats, and sunglasses. He’s recognized by his unique improvisational style and major contribution to the jazz repertoire. His most famous compositions are Ruby, My Dear; Blue Monk; Round Midnight and Well, You Needn’t. He became a Grammy Hall of Fame member and won a Pulitzer Prize from the Special Citations and Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

  1. Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)

The famous Arthur Rubenstein was a Polish-American classical pianist, known as one of the greatest Chopin interpreters of his time. His sound and the remarkable combination of simplicity and directness of thought, whit, supreme, and elegance made him unique. He performed in public for eight decades. He’s well known for his performances of Bach’s Chaccone; Franck’s Prelude, Chorale, Fugue; Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor; and Chopin’s Nocturnes, Ballades, and Scherzos. He won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Album (1977), Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra) and became a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame.

  1. Artur Schnabel (1905-1951)

Schnabel was an Austrian classical pianist, composer and professor, known as “the man who invented Beethoven”. He specialized in playing core German composers and made his first complete recording of the Beethoven sonatas. Schnabel was well known for his intellectual seriousness as a musician and avoiding pure technical bravura. In Berlin University of the Arts, an intern piano competition is named Artur Schnabel Wettbewerb in his honor. His solo piano compositions include Three Piano Pieces, Three Fantasy Pieces, Dance Suite, Sonata for Piano, Piece in Seven Movements and Seven Piano Pieces. He also became a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame.

  1. Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989)

The great Vladimir Horowitz is a Russian-born, American classical pianist and composer known for his perfect technique and unprecedented ear. During World War II, he championed contemporary Russian music, giving the American premieres of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonatas Nos.6,7,8; and Kabalevsky’s Piano Sonatas Nos.2,3. Horowitz is best known for his performances of Romantic piano repertoire. He was also well known for his versions of several of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies. He was given a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Grammy Award for Best Classical Album, Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra) and Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra).