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Who Are The Greatest Pianists of the 21st Century?


Gary.D.Olson
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Who, in your humble (or not so humble) opinion, are the most worthy pianists of this distinction? All music styles are accepted. The only rule is they must have performed at the aforementioned worthiness level at least once during this century.

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I've recently published my own list of my top 10 classical pianists on my blog:

 

https://musicophilesblog.com/category/music/classical-music/my-top-10-classical-pianists/

 

Most of them are still alive and playing, so I can easily list them here as well:

 

- Leif Ove Andsnes

- Marta Argerich

- Rafal Blechacz

- Ronald Brautigam

- Benjamin Grosvenor

- Murray Perahia

- Krystian Zimerman

 

Now note that the definition of "greatest" is a tricky one. I've shared here a very personal list, of pianists who matter to me. Are those necessarily the "greatest"? What defines greatness in your opinion?

 

Now you mention all genres are accepted.

 

So let me add some Jazz pianists to this list.

 

- Keith Jarrett - his solo playing has built an entire category of music, and he's still pretty much unsurpassed

- Esbjörn Svensson - He brought the piano trio into the 21st century

 

Beyond these three, there are so many good piano trios out there right now (Triosence, Michael Wollny, Giovanni Mirabassi, etc. etc. ) that I find it hard to pick any single one pianist out of that list.

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Martha Argerich. She used to play better in the 20th century though.

Keith Jarrett.

If you asked about the 20th century - my answer would be the same.

What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well.
It helps men to rise above themselves.
 
  ―  Albert Camus, The Plague.

 

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I've recently published my own list of my top 10 classical pianists on my blog:

 

https://musicophilesblog.com/category/music/classical-music/my-top-10-classical-pianists/

 

Most of them are still alive and playing, so I can easily list them here as well:

 

- Leif Ove Andsnes

- Marta Argerich

- Rafal Blechacz

- Ronald Brautigam

- Benjamin Grosvenor

- Murray Perahia

- Krystian Zimerman

 

Now note that the definition of "greatest" is a tricky one. I've shared here a very personal list, of pianists who matter to me. Are those necessarily the "greatest"? What defines greatness in your opinion?

 

Now you mention all genres are accepted.

 

So let me add some Jazz pianists to this list.

 

- Keith Jarrett - his solo playing has built an entire category of music, and he's still pretty much unsurpassed

- Esbjörn Svensson - He brought the piano trio into the 21st century

 

Beyond these three, there are so many good piano trios out there right now (Triosence, Michael Wollny, Giovanni Mirabassi, etc. etc. ) that I find it hard to pick any single one pianist out of that list.

 

Thank you for your response.

 

As to the definition of "greatest", you're right of course, and I leave that interpretation to your capable minds. Non-musician/music-lovers (uncommon around here) tend to believe speed & accuracy constitute greatness. I suppose this would be true in a "piano speed metal band", but otherwise, they're only a partial skill set imho. I tend to prefer Beethoven's approach to the instrument over, say, Tchaikovsky's or Chopin's. Moonlight Sonata requires not a machine but an artist's touch.

 

Btw, your own thread "Are We Living In the Golden Age of the Jazz Trios?" is where I discovered two of my favorites: Mirabassi & EST.

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The good thing about "canned" music is that you can listen to the greatest pianists of the past 60 with good sound quality.

Unfortunately I will never get to listen to most of them live.

 

I'll add Yevgeny Sudbin to the pot.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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Thank you for your response.

 

As to the definition of "greatest", you're right of course, and I leave that interpretation to your capable minds. Non-musician/music-lovers (uncommon around here) tend to believe speed & accuracy constitute greatness. I suppose this would be true in a "piano speed metal band", but otherwise, they're only a partial skill set imho. I tend to prefer Beethoven's approach to the instrument over, say, Tchaikovsky's or Chopin's. Moonlight Sonata requires not a machine but an artist's touch.

 

Btw, your own thread "Are We Living In the Golden Age of the Jazz Trios?" is where I discovered two of my favorites: Mirabassi & EST.

By the way, when it get's to great technical speed and accuracy, my vote goes to Marc-André Hamelin, probably the most impressive virtuoso of our times (AND also a great musician). Furthermore, in terms of sheer technical brilliance, I'm also particularly impressed by Boris Berezovsky:

 

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Who, in your humble (or not so humble) opinion, are the most worthy pianists of this distinction? All music styles are accepted. The only rule is they must have performed at the aforementioned worthiness level at least once during this century.

 

- Alfred Brendel (I'm biased, just used to him)

- Bill Evans -- no one since has gotten close, not even McCoy Tyner.

- Keith Jarrett.

Let every eye ear negotiate for itself and trust no agent. (Shakespeare)

The things that we love tell us what we are. (Aquinas)

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- Alfred Brendel (I'm biased, just used to him)

- Bill Evans -- no one since has gotten close, not even McCoy Tyner.

- Keith Jarrett.

 

Well, Brendel still recorded until 2009, and Jarrett is still active. But I think you'll have a hard time finding a 21st century album by Bill Evans.

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People aren't impressed by Yuja Wang? Especially if we are going to include Benjamin Grosvenor... and what are people's thoughts on Jean-Efflam Bavouzet? But yeah, being greatest takes so long to establish, it's hard to be one in the 21st century without having been on in the 20th right now.

 

 

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People aren't impressed by Yuja Wang? Especially if we are going to include Benjamin Grosvenor... and what are people's thoughts on Jean-Efflam Bavouzet? But yeah, being greatest takes so long to establish, it's hard to be one in the 21st century without having been on in the 20th right now.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

I saw her play live and wasn't moved.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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By the way, when it get's to great technical speed and accuracy, my vote goes to Marc-André Hamelin, probably the most impressive virtuoso of our times (AND also a great musician).

 

I bought a couple of his performances from The Romantic Piano Concertos series but didn't like the sound of Hyperion's recordings...

 

What about Sokolov?

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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Well, Brendel still recorded until 2009, and Jarrett is still active. But I think you'll have a hard time finding a 21st century album by Bill Evans.

 

He he.. my mind is stuck in the last century :-)

Let every eye ear negotiate for itself and trust no agent. (Shakespeare)

The things that we love tell us what we are. (Aquinas)

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By the way, when it get's to great technical speed and accuracy, my vote goes to Marc-André Hamelin, probably the most impressive virtuoso of our times (AND also a great musician). Furthermore, in terms of sheer technical brilliance, I'm also particularly impressed by Boris Berezovsky:

 

 

This young firebrand is pretty fast too:

 

 

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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People aren't impressed by Yuja Wang? Especially if we are going to include Benjamin Grosvenor... and what are people's thoughts on Jean-Efflam Bavouzet? But yeah, being greatest takes so long to establish, it's hard to be one in the 21st century without having been on in the 20th right now.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

 

Oops. I just posted video of Wang before seeing your post.

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In other words, there are no "greatest" 21st century pianists who couldn't be named as great 20th century pianists.

 

I don't see why not. Who did you have in mind?

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I don't see why not. Who did you have in mind?
I believe there was another recent tread with lists of great pianists, I think they all have been mentioned there. I am sure 21st century will give its new wonderful artists, but, probably, we need to wait to see them clearly. As it was told by one famous Russian poet:

 

Face to face

You will not see the features.

You need distance to see what is great.

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People aren't impressed by Yuja Wang? Especially if we are going to include Benjamin Grosvenor... and what are people's thoughts on Jean-Efflam Bavouzet? But yeah, being greatest takes so long to establish, it's hard to be one in the 21st century without having been on in the 20th right now.

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

 

With regards to Yuja Wang, while I really try to avoid any regional prejudices, I have yet to hear a recording by a pianist out of China or Korea that has truly moved me, be it Lang Lang, Yuya Wang, Yundi, or more recently Seong-Jin Cho. I have no idea why that is as all of them obviously are technically marvelous, but somehow something is missing, to me at least.

 

Bavouzet is great, but I have very little of him outside of Debussy. I probably need to venture a bit further with him.

 

And Grosvenor, I'm truly impressed by the sheer musicality of this young pianist.

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With regards to Yuja Wang, while I really try to avoid any regional prejudices, I have yet to hear a recording by a pianist out of China or Korea that has truly moved me, be it Lang Lang, Yuya Wang, Yundi, or more recently Seong-Jin Cho. I have no idea why that is as all of them obviously are technically marvelous, but somehow something is missing, to me at least.

 

Bavouzet is great, but I have very little of him outside of Debussy. I probably need to venture a bit further with him.

 

And Grosvenor, I'm truly impressed by the sheer musicality of this young pianist.

 

I agree with you on Lang Lang, Yundi Li and I feel I haven't heard enough Seong-Jin Cho to comment but I think the general statement is true. But I think Yuja Wang is different. That said, only time will tell. I went to a her solo recital at Minneapolis/St Paul in 2011. I believe she had a cold that day and the first half was as you said, technically fine but lacking in emotion/musicality. After the intermission, the performance was great. So it'll be interesting to see if Semente also heard Yuja Wang on an off-day. As someone commented Martha Argerich isn't as great nowadays but I'd disagree and argue that she too has great days and off-days. I think on a good day, she is still as great as she used to be. (as far as I can tell from her live recordings in recent years)

 

As for Bavouzet, I see the point that if you're going to be called Greatest Pianist, you really should have a very well-rounded repertoire. Maybe that's why Marc-Andre Hamelin is expanding his repertoire. But then my counter-argument would be most of the Great Pianists that we agreed on don't play much Liszt, Busoni, Alkan so...

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With regards to Yuja Wang, while I really try to avoid any regional prejudices, I have yet to hear a recording by a pianist out of China or Korea that has truly moved me, be it Lang Lang, Yuya Wang, Yundi, or more recently Seong-Jin Cho.

Zhu Xiao-Mei moved me a lot. But, her background is quite different from those you named. Well, they are quite different from any established or persisting tradition. One would say that something is missing, but I believe their art should be appreciated as something totally strange or extraneous.

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Zhu Xiao-Mei moved me a lot. But, her background is quite different from those you named. Well, they are quite different from any established or persisting tradition. One would say that something is missing, but I believe their art should be appreciated as something totally strange or extraneous.

I've read about her, but haven't heard anything from her. Do you have any album recommendations?

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One old and one new to add to the list.

 

Old is Mitsuko Uchida, who has bridged between 20th and 21st.

New is Daniil Trifonov who is 21st C only.

 

Have heard both live - inspiring.

 

Larry

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I've recently published my own list of my top 10 classical pianists on my blog:

 

https://musicophilesblog.com/category/music/classical-music/my-top-10-classical-pianists/

 

Most of them are still alive and playing, so I can easily list them here as well:

 

- Leif Ove Andsnes

- Marta Argerich

- Rafal Blechacz

- Ronald Brautigam

- Benjamin Grosvenor

- Murray Perahia

- Krystian Zimerman

 

Now note that the definition of "greatest" is a tricky one. I've shared here a very personal list, of pianists who matter to me. Are those necessarily the "greatest"? What defines greatness in your opinion?

 

Now you mention all genres are accepted.

 

So let me add some Jazz pianists to this list.

 

- Keith Jarrett - his solo playing has built an entire category of music, and he's still pretty much unsurpassed

- Esbjörn Svensson - He brought the piano trio into the 21st century

 

Beyond these three, there are so many good piano trios out there right now (Triosence, Michael Wollny, Giovanni Mirabassi, etc. etc. ) that I find it hard to pick any single one pianist out of that list.

 

I'm slowly working my way through every pianist listed on this thread. I'm still studying Andsnes and enjoying his work immensely. What a wonderful world we live in with such talent. The most played CD I've ever owned is Claudio Arrau with Sir Colin Davis & Dresden Philharmonic performing Beethoven Emperor Concerto. I'm hoping to find a few recordings to bump that one down.

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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