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#915799 05/16/03 11:27 AM
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Ok, here's a test. One of my students asked me what is the most difficult piece of piano music in the world? As if one advances piece by piece in difficulty until you reach the pinnacle: The Most Difficult Piece. I explained it wasn't quite like that - however, I'm intrigued. A couple pieces come to mind, but what do you think? Which piece is the winner? And who has performed it?

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Honey, the most difficult piece in the world is always "the new one".

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Some people say Gaspard Le Nuit is very hard.
Ligeti's stuff is VERY difficult.

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I usually cast my vote for the first Rachmaninoff sonata (blows the third concerto away), the 2nd Boulez sonata, the Barraque sonata (similar to the Boulez), or the 2nd Bartok concerto.

There's a lot of "unplayable" repertoire out there...especially 20th century stuff. I'd say the most difficult work you regularly hear in concert are probably Ravel's Gaspard and the 3rd Rachmaninoff concerto - those two tend to be the most often played at the music schools and conservatories I've attended.

(Of course, there are those who will argue that the students playing those works couldn't put two phrases of Mozart together in a convincing way, but that's another story...)


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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I'll go with an oldie - comparatively speaking - Feux Follets. Especially in the 2nd version of the transcendental etudes. Rachmaninoff thought this to be the most difficult piece, too.


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Cage's 4:33. (At least for my daughter -- she could NEVER manage it. wink )

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How about Islamey by Balakirev?

Mike

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OK, keep 'em coming. I'm going to take a vote and present her with the answer next week. It'd be nice to have a recording, but we'll see what's possible.

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Quote
Originally posted by mkesfahani:
How about Islamey by Balakirev?

Mike
Used to be til all those contemporary composers came and made stuff hard for the sake of being hard.

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Horowitzs Carmen Variations are certainly pretty tricky, while maybe not the most difficult ever it is certainly the most flashy and show-offy.


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Maybe not 'certainly' but I know what I mean.


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Works by Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892 - 1988) are diabolically difficult- a lot of it has never been recorded or even played before in recital. In particular Opus Clavicembalisticum all 250 pages of it over three staves(= approx. 4.5 hours). For more info go to:

http://www.music.mcgill.ca/~jwapnick/sorabji/

Another 20th Century destroyer: Villa-Lobos', Rude Poem (Savage Poem), dedicated to Artur Rubenstein. Not sure whether Rubenstein himself ever recorded it or even played it. The composer apparently couldn't manage it- but then again he was not a pianist. Marc-Andre Hamelin has recorded it on Hyperion as has Volker Banfield on the Wergo label. Have a listen; your student will be suitably impressed! wink


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Generally:

Liszt's B minor Sonata
Liszt's etudes
Beethoven's 5th
The Brahms concerti
The Busoni Concerto
Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini"

When I say "generally" I mean the more common pieces on the repertoire- still not very familiar with the more "modern" music.

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That is easy to answer, the most difficult piece is the one that is being learned at the moment. It can be any piece but while it is being learned it is the most difficult piece AT THAT TIME. Difficulty in particular pieces is relatve to each individulal person.

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Quote
Originally posted by BeePhlatMinor:
Generally:

Liszt's B minor Sonata
Liszt's etudes
Beethoven's 5th
The Brahms concerti
The Busoni Concerto
Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini"

When I say "generally" I mean the more common pieces on the repertoire- still not very familiar with the more "modern" music.
Beethoven's 5th concerto is NOT one of the most difficult pieces out there. His fourth concerto definitely exceeds his fifth in terms of difficulty, and there are many piano sonatas of his that are more difficult (e. g. Hammerklavier, Opus 101, Opus 7, Opus 111, etc.) In fact, one of my teachers had said this concerto was not that much higher than Beethoven's first concerto and the Grieg in terms of difficulty. This should come as good news for you, considering you wanted to learn this concerto.

So anyway, in my opinion, the most difficult solo piece is Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano and the most difficult concerto is Busoni's Opus 39 Concerto.

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The purpose of good music is not to be technically difficult or to impress with virtuosity, that is just a factor of music. For this reason, it is hard to say which is the most difficult piece. Of course, the pieces listed so far are difficult, but it is a different matter for every pianist.

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I'd throw in a vote for the Prokofiev concerto no. 2.


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Quote
Originally posted by Marquis de Posa:
[QUOTE]So anyway, in my opinion, the most difficult solo piece is Alkan's Concerto for Solo Piano....
I have also heard or read that from somewhere. I am not at all familiar with that work but what recordings I do have of Alkan's music I would not be surprised. I also recall reading somewhere that Liszt himself would remain silent, or appear uncomfortable, when Alkan's name was mentioned with respect to performance ability. Have you heard the same?


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Quote
Originally posted by Renauda:
Works by Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892 - 1988) are diabolically difficult- a lot of it has never been recorded or even played before in recital. In particular Opus Clavicembalisticum all 250 pages of it over three staves(= approx. 4.5 hours). For more info go to:

http://www.music.mcgill.ca/~jwapnick/sorabji/

Another 20th Century destroyer: Villa-Lobos', Rude Poem (Savage Poem), dedicated to Artur Rubenstein. Not sure whether Rubenstein himself ever recorded it or even played it. The composer apparently couldn't manage it- but then again he was not a pianist. Marc-Andre Hamelin has recorded it on Hyperion as has Volker Banfield on the Wergo label. Have a listen; your student will be suitably impressed! wink
You have to ask yourself, why did any of them either bother composing it at all?

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I'd say the most difficult piece is "Für Elise" - I've never heard any other piece played wrongly so frequently laugh

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