Top 10 most difficult piano piecesLanglois Music
If you enjoyed our article about Clair de Lune, you’re going to love watching this video. Once again YouTube user “Rousseau” performs and graphically realizes amazing works of piano but in this video he tackles 10 of the most difficult piano pieces ever written and you’ve probably heard them all at some point.
The first piece he performs is the second movement of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons Suite”. The original composition was published in 1725 as a violin concerti. This piano version is an arrangement published many years later as solo piano composing was still not popular at the time due to its relatively new introduction into music.
Piece number two is Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu which was published in 1855, after Chopin’s death. Chopin had stipulated that none of his unpublished compositions be released postmortem but, as it turns out, the piece has gone on to be one of his most popular and enduring works.
Part of what makes this piece so difficult, aside from a never ending barrage of notes and fast runs, is the conflict between the right hand’s 16th notes and the left hand’s triplet patterns.
The third composition featured in this video is a very popular piece that anybody who has watched cartoons has undoubtedly heard before. Flight of the Bumblebee was composed by Rimsky-Korsakov in 1900 as a portion of his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan. Originally written for a full orchestra, Rochmaninov transposed the piece for piano which is seen here.
The light and airy gymnastics of Bumblebee are followed by the heavy and dark gymnastics of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Movement 1 of this iconic piece is probably the most popular and widely recognized but Movement 3, featured here, is among the most challenging and powerful pieces Beethoven ever composed.
Composed in 1801, Moonlight Sonata concludes with a riot of notes in C# minor that masterfully builds tension and excitement. With a Presto Agitato tempo marking and a near constant pattern of 1/8th notes in the left hand, this piece requires incredible stamina and precision and an expert understanding of timing.
Rousseau follows Moonlight Sonata with a piece often referred to as Little Red Riding Hood. The Rachmaninoff piece — the sixth in a series of nine etudes — was published in 1916 and plays like a demonic stride piano filled with minor tonality, dissonance, and tension.
After two heavy pieces, we are treated to another Chopin composition titled Waterfall which was published in 1833 as a study for solo piano. Because this was intended as a means for improving a student’s ability, the piece challenges the right hand with widely stretched arpeggios.
The next composition is another piano study by Chopin. This piece features tight, rapid lines countered with octave hits and drastic dynamic shifts. The piece also forces the left hand to play passages as fast and intricate as the right hand which was rare among Chopin compositions and is an important exercise for pianists.
You may begin to notice a theme at this point in the video as yet another Chopin piece appears on your screen. It is safe to say that Chopin is among the most challenging composers for piano, if not the leader of the pack.
This piece, often referred to as Winter Wind, was published in 1837 and is considered by many to be Chopin’s most difficult etude. As with the previous piece, much of the difficulty lies in the necessity of playing fast, complex patterns at a low volume which is counter to how many players naturally attack such passages. One great thing about this video is the ability, through the animated visualization, to see just how many notes are required by the composer. This is a marathon, for sure.
For piece number nine we get a break from Chopin and move on to La Campanella, a piece composed by Liszt and released in 1851. If octaves are a tough technique for you, this song is probably not going to be added to your repertoire as it demands the player to alternate 16th notes at an interval as large as a 12th! If you can pull it off, though, it is a beautiful piece with gorgeous chord changes and a light, endearing melody.
The video concludes with another Liszt composition — deemed by this particular performer as the most difficult piece of all time — Hungarian Rhapsody 6. While Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 may be the most famous (remember the piano duel between Daffy and Donald in Roger Rabbit?), No 6 is one of the most demanding pieces in piano literature.
Simply watch the visualization and note how, at times, it appears that the entire length of the keyboard is being played simultaneously. Between the quick tempo, the full use of the keyboard, the four and five note 16th note harmonies in the left hand, and the double handed parallel octaves, this piece hits every mark for what makes a challenging piece of piano music.
Each of the songs presented in this video are snippets. Take a listen to the full versions of each one to fully appreciate the genius and technicality of each composition. Also, if you are interested, ask your private teacher to show you the sheet music and to highlight the most challenging portions of the piece. It’s one thing to hear it, another to see it performed, and yet another to actually look at the manuscript.