Any pianists in the house?

What are considered to be the most difficult (or most challenging) classical piano pieces? Also, please include the name of the composer. And, for extra credit, the key in which this piece should be played. (As a light-hearted example: “Falling Down The Steps” by BayTuffen in C flat. - ha, ha) but seriously folks…I’m curious about this.


  • Jinx

Chopin Etudes are considered the upper echelon of piano music. At least that’s what my piano instructor told me when I was 16 or so, and ready to move up to them. Scared me so much, I stopped studying piano. I imagine Liszt would be pretty tough, too.

Therefore, keys don’t matter so much, but FWIW, it’s physically easier to play piano in the key of B than any other key.

Extra points if you can figure out why.

I can’t play piano. I wish I could.

You know… pianist envy.

[sub](the devil made me do it)[/sub]

“Pictures at an Exhibition” - Modeste Mussorgsky - the bane of my existence.

Damn near anything by Liszt (although the 'Trancendental Etudes" are some of my favorites).

The piano accompaniments to some of Schubert’s Lieder aren’t a stroll in the park themselves: “Erlkoenig” is a study in carpal tunnel syndrome acceleration.

Really, the key of “B” is physically the easiest? I’ve been playing piano/keyboards for over 20 years and this is really interesting. I suppose it can be true, but psychologically I find it awkward. Hmm…I’m guessing it’s because the thumb starts on a white key, the next two keys are black, which are perfectly spaced for your 2nd and 3rd fingers, cross the thumb over, back on the white, then black, black, black…Wow…you’re right…I’ve never realized that… The F blues scale is also great for blistering speed for similar reasons.

Anyhow, back to our OP. The “Revolutionary Etude” in Cminor by Chopin I remember being a bitch to master. The hardest, in my opinion, is the Etude in C#minor, Op. 10, no.4. Also, many pieces by Rachmaninoff, Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, and Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata in B-flat major are up there, too. (I never attainted the technical proficiency to play any of these, except parts of Revoltionary Etude.)

Off to Cafe Society.

moderator GQ

[Edited by bibliophage on 11-09-2001 at 09:38 AM]

Concerto for Piano no 3 in D minor, Op. 30 by Sergei Rachmaninov as featured in the movie “Shine” is supposed to be fairly tough…

“Like shoveling two tons of coal” is how I think it was described in the movie…

Rachmaninoff concertoes and sonatas are very difficult…

I agree with Chopin’s 4th Etude in c# minor: I started playing that piece 3 different times and couldn’t manage the middle section. Chopin’s Ballades are very difficult as well.

Prokofiev also wrote some sticky sonatas and concertos (my favorite concerto of all time is his second one), and Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit has a justified reputation for being incredibly difficult.

That’s all I can think of right now…

Gold star for pulykamell! Since the thumb and pinky are naturally at a “lower level” than the other three fingers, the pattern of black (raised) keys and white (non-raised) keys most closely matches the design of the hand. In every other key, you’re usually reaching back to a white key or up to a black key.

Not that playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” in F is more difficult than playing a toccata in B major, but playing the scale sure as heck is.

Maurice Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit” and “Jeux d’eau” are considered very difficult.

This site calles the “Gaspard de la nuit” fiendishly difficult. You can listen to clips of it here.

Like pulykamell, I find it difficult to warp my mind around the key of B. It may be easy with the right hand, but try doing a scale with your left hand.

The most difficult piece I ever attempted to play was the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 27 No. 2 (“Moonlight”). Unlike the well-known, dreamy and languid first movement, the third movement is frenzied and frantic. I gave up, accepting I simply couldn’t play it fast enough.

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1 would constitute a bit of a workout.

Sinding’s “Rustles of Spring”. Beautiful, but hard as hell.