Great Pianists

Dinu Lipatti
One of my all-time favourite pianists, whose precision and ability to breathe life into crisply defined musical form is unparalleled. Investigate my website

Alfred Cortot
One of the most imaginative, luminous pianists to have recorded. I didn’t immediately love what I first heard, but I soon learned that when he was ‘on’ there was nothing like his glowing sound. His acoustic recordings on Biddulph are technically brilliant, and what he lacks technically in later recordings he more than makes up for in imagination.

Marcelle Meyer
A French pianist with something of a cult following. She gives the most satisfying Ravel performances I have heard – clear, direct, not fussy or overly impressionistic. Her recordings re-entered the catalogue in the 1980s after an absence of three decades, and her complete commercial recordings are now available in a 17-CD set.

Josef Hofmann
A number of pianophiles find Hofmann’s style too radical to enjoy, but I love it. His unique sound, the extraordinary clarity of his playing, and the cosmic nature of his interpretations make his many recordings a must for all interested in the piano.

Mischa Levitzki
This pianist made only a few hours of recordings before his early death in the 40s. Luminous playing – the most beautifully proportioned Third Ballade of Chopin that I have heard. He recorded for RCA, but the label never made a retrospective LP of his 78-rpm recordings. Now his complete recordings are available on three CDs produced by Naxos.

Ignaz Friedman
One of the true originals. Humongous sound and a fiery imagination make his Chopin and Liszt recordings particularly worthy of investigation. His recordings of a dozen Chopin Mazurkas are known for their rhythmic vitality and rich tone, and his 1936 disc of Chopin’s Nocturne in E-Flat Op.55 No.2 has been acclaimed as possibly the greatest nocturne recording ever made.

Josef Lhevinne
Sadly, his complete commercial recordings fit on one CD. A marvel to listen to. Beautifully rounded sound, rhythmic solidity, with grace and nobility.

I particularly adore his recordings up to the 1940s; some of his later studio recordings are more reserved (Schumann’s Carnaval being a notable exception), but his live and early performances are thrilling. Although known for his Beethoven and Brahms, it is his Chopin and Liszt that I find most exciting.

Artur Schnabel
Having made the first complete recording of Beethoven Sonatas, Schnabel was known as a Beethoven specialist but plays all the German and Viennese composers with marvelous clarity. His Waldstein Sonata is phenomenal.

William Kapell
Another pianist who died young, Kapell had a fiery temperament that suited the Khatchaturian Concerto that launched him to stardom. His Prokofiev Third Concerto is electric.

Earl Wild
One of the greatest pianists who somehow never got the reputation he deserved. A tremendous technician with a wonderfully polished sound and a Romantic temperament.

Joseph Villa
A tragic figure who died in 1995, this young pianist could have been one of the greatest ever. A live (and as yet unpublished) recording of Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata captures the fire of Hofmann and Friedman blended with the subtlety of Haskil and Lipatti – it may be my all-time favourite piano recording.

Vladimir Horowitz
Despite his great fame, Horowitz is in my opinion the one pianist responsible for the misrepresentation of romantic interpretation in modern times with his sudden tempo shifts and breaks in the melodic line. Nevertheless, his early recordings – particularly up to 1936 (including a marvelous live Brahms Concerto #1 with Bruno Walter) – reveal a pianist of remarkable sensitivity with amazing technique capable of bringing unparalleled electricity to his performances.

Youri Egorov
A Russian pianist who emigrated to The Netherlands, Egorov had an incredibly polished technique which he put solely to musical use. He made some of the best Schumann recordings ever, and some live performances of him in 20th century repertoire reveal transparent textures and a kaleidescopic framework. One of the all-time greats.

Clara Haskil
A wonderful pianist who had a liquid sound. She went unrecognized most of her life but for her last few years enjoyed a glowing international reputation. Her Mozart in particular is played with disarming simplicity and gorgeous tone.

Geza Anda
In his younger years particularly, this pianist was phenomenal. His early Columbia recordings available on Testament are a must for all serious pianophiles. A number of broadcast recordings that circulated among collectors have at last recently been released on CD, among them an electric 1952 performance of Bartok’s Second Concerto, a 1955 Liszt Sonata, and a highly individual reading of Ravel’s Left Hand Concerto.

Stephen Hough
A real throwback to the Romantic era of pianism, Hough has an incredible technique and great musicianship.

Natan Brand
An Israeli-American pianist who died in his 40s, Brand may have had the largest recorded piano tone ever. His concert recording of Schumann’s Kreisleriana is peerless, and he played with incredibly arched phrases and a magnificent sense of drama. The first CD release devoted to his artistry attracted almost no attention, but a second release finally attracted pianophiles to his amazing playing.

Egon Petri
While some of his performances later performances don’t always have the spark of his earlier ones, his 1930s Liszt performances are almost beyond belief, and some live recordings from the early 1930s demonstrate a prodigious technique. A stupendous talent.

Simon Barere
An interesting pianist who died on the stage of Carnegie Hall in 1951. While some may be turned off by the excessive speed of his performances, I adore the thrill of his interpretations and there is plenty of musicality. Anyone who feels that today’s pianists have better technique should listen to his performance of Balakirev’s Islamey.

Benno Moiseiwitsch
This aristocratic pianist is always marvelous to listen to. He is particularly known for his Rachmaninoff and Chopin performances. An unpublished 1946 broadcast of the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is one of the greatest piano performances ever recorded.

Sergei Rachmaninoff
The pianist who launched my interest in historical recordings. It is not only his performances of his own works that are worth listening to – he was a unique musician and brilliant pianist.

Edwin Fischer
A marvelous pianist. Some of my favourite Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms performances come from under his fingers.

Jakob Gimpel
An amazing pianist who, despite having been featured in films, never had the career that one would expect given his refined artistry and profound musicality.

Radu Lupu
I heard this legend in Lucerne and he was like the reincarnation of Lipatti and Haskil (he studied with Lipatti’s teacher). His recordings do not begin to hint at the tone production and lyricism of which he is capable.

Jorge Bolet
The true Last Romantic, Bolet was a titanic musician who only made a huge name for himself in his 60th year, despite having played for a major motion picture about the life of Franz Liszt. While some of his later recordings do not capture him at his best, when he was on he demonstrated a colossal mastery of the piano, with beautiful tone and flawless technique.

Richard Farrell
A New Zealand pianist who died in a car accident in London in 1958, Farrell is today virtually unknown. A New-Zealand label is releasing his complete recordings, some of which are a revelation.