In the words of Arthur Koestler; "True creativity often starts where language ends."

This was certainly true for many of the piano composers on our list.

What do you think of when you think of piano music? Romantic or classical music? Names like Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn or Joseph Haydn

There are so many incredible composers out there who influenced not only the piano music of their own day but also generations of composers and musicians to come.

Our list is by no means exhaustive - please feel free to tell us about some of your favourite piano composers or favourite piano pieces in the comments below. These could be pianists from any genre that moves you - are you inspired by jazz, pop, or rock?

Let the piano be your canvas and the composers your muse - a blank slate for your budding creativity!

Johannes Brahms

Brahms spearheaded the Romantic movement in music and was a pianist and conductor as well as composer of many beloved works.

Some of the greatest symphonies of all time started on the piano
Every symphony starts with an idea - usually sketched out at the piano! (Source: coyot)

Brahms left his stamp on classical music through his storied musical career. He left us with 122 original works, including 17 specifically for piano. 

He composed for many different ensembles and instruments - alongside his piano music, he wrote fugues for organ and chamber music for small wind and string groups.

During his lifetime, he weathered many comparisons to Beethoven. Go listen to Brahms' 1st symphony and Beethoven's 10th - can you spot any musical similarities?

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven had already written three sonatas by the tender age of 12. Tragically, he went on to lose his hearing at age 26.

One of Beethoven's most famous pieces, the Moonlight Sonata (Sonata No. 14) was about his grief over going deaf.

As a composer, Beethoven bridged the gap between the Romantic and Classical Periods. He was initially inspired by the First Viennese School, which included the composers Haydn and Mozart. Later, he would go on to influence the greats of Romantic music such as Johannes Brahms.

Beethoven's repertoire spans symphonies, sacred music, piano sonatas and chamber music. His most famous piece is probably his fifth symphony, which is still played all around the world today.

The melody from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony forms the basis of the anthem of the European Union. A truly beloved piece throughout history, Wagner even referred to it as  “the greatest western symphony of all time”.

Did you know: the ninth symphony is superstitiously thought by some to be cursed, as many composers died shortly after writing their ninth symphonies.

This happened to Franz Schubert, Antonin Dvorak and Gustav Mahler! 

Take piano lessons in Melbourne.

Joseph Haydn

Hadyn is sometimes known as the father of classical music - and for good reason! 

Which are the greatest piano pieces of all time?
Which composers have we missed from this list? (Source: Tama66)

Just as Beethoven is considered to be the link between the Classical and Romantic periods, Haydn brought music out of the Baroque period and into the Classical period. He conducted many symphonies throughout his life and is credited as the father of the string quartet, which many believe he invented.

In the space of 40 years, Haydn was hugely prolific, especially when it came to symphonies. He wrote 106 symphonies, which are still considered as his signature works.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart started as a child prodigy wowing royal courts around Europe. His influence has extended down the years and even today, the very mention of his name is synonymous with musical genius. 

Tragically, Mozart died young - aged only 35 - leaving behind a huge catalogue of more than 600 pieces.

Hayden was 24 years his senior, but showered Mozart with praise, considering him as one of the best composers to ever live. Coming from the inventor of the string quartet, that's some compliment!

Mozart perfected his classical artform through his zealous output of symphonies (this form he inherited from Haydn!), concertos and sonatas.

Robert Schumann

Schumann deserves his place alongside some of the greatest composers of all time. His pieces are considered emblematic of the Romantic period, which followed the classical period.

Alongside his contemporaries, Schubert and Brahms, he developed the form of the Romantic Lied. The Lied set moving poems to music and became particularly popular in Germany.

Schumann didn't confine himself to vocal music through - he wrote for many different types of ensembles throughout his career. Schumann left us with symphonies, chamber music, piano and violin concertos...

In his symphonies, he was heavily inspired by Beethoven.

Frédéric Chopin

Chopin's name often comes up when the conversation turns to the greatest piano virtuosos of all time. Whilst he was an incredible performer in his own right, he must also be credited as a visionary and prolific composer for the piano.

The most famous French composers
One of the most popular French composers of all time - Frédéric Chopin. (Source: source: Walkerssk)

Chopin and Liszt are often credited as the "father" of what we now think of as modern piano technique. Their influence on the composers that follow them is undeniable. You can hear echoes of these two iconic composers in the works of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, just to name a few.

His contemporaries described him as spontaneously creative - once a spark appeared, it could be the start of many weeks of intense composing.

His wife was famous French novelist George Sand (nee Aurore Dupin Dudevant). Speaking on his creative process, she said he would lock himself in his room with only the strong emotions of joy, sadness, or even anger or madness to keep him company as he composed. Sand is also quoted as characterising his composing technique as a “meticulous and desperate perseverance”.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

We can't write a list of the best composers of all time without mentioning the Russian School! This group also includes Dmitry Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky and the two Sergeis; both Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev.

But amongst all this immense Russian talent, it was Tchaikovsky who truly paved the way for other Russian composers of his day as the founder of Russian Romanticism.

Tchaikovsky was prolific - he composed four orchestral suites, eight symphonies, three ballets, eleven operas, five concertos as well as hundreds of piano pieces.

He is usually associated with orchestral symphonies first and foremost. Tchaikovsky blended European romantic musical sensibilities with Russian folkloric stylings to produce works that were at once elevated and accessible.

Giuseppe Verdi

The Russian school produced a crop of incredible composers, but it would be remiss of us to leave out the Italian School, including composers such as Rossini, Puccini and of course, Giuseppe Verdi! 

Which operas did Verdi write?
Giuseppe Verdi - one of the greatest composers for opera. (Source: webandi)

As with many other popular Italian composers of his day, Giuseppe Verdi was primarily a composer of operas. Counting Wagner as one of his contemporaries, he was deeply influenced by Wagner's operatic stylings throughout his career.

Among his most successful operas are La Traviata, Nabucco, Rigoletto and Othello. These all take place across three or four acts.

Outside of the opera house, Verdi composed a wide variety of purely instrumental and sacred music.

Giuseppe Verdi's mark on the opera world is undeniable - more than a century after his death, his works are performed by opera companies all over the world.

Ludovico Einaudi

Rounding out our list with a famous contemporary composer, we need to mention Ludovico Einaudi, who is widely considered to be one of the best contemporary classical composers working today.

Einaudi's created his famous sound by straddling the worlds of classical music and contemporary pop. He has drawn many fans for his nostalgic and accessible repeating melodies, many of whom travel long distances to watch him perform live.

Einaudi is inspired by minimalism, meaning his music takes simple musical ideas or themes and repeats and develops them slowly through rhythmic or harmonic transformation.

He has lent his music to a number of feature films, as well as for ads for well-known technology and cosmetics brands.

He composed for Olivier Nakache’s heartwarming film Intouchables, as well as Xavier Dolan’s film Mommy. These collaborations helped to boost his career and bring his music to a wider audience.

Our list has overwhelmingly made mention of famous classical composers, but make sure to check out modern jazz, rock and pop pianists when you're exploring the exciting world of piano music.

Want more piano? Find out about the best pianists in Australia!

Or check out these famous piano players.

Need a Piano teacher?

Enjoyed this article?

5.00/5, 1 votes
Loading...

Erin

Erin is an Australian francophile living in Paris. She is a music teacher, writer and passionate learner of languages.