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Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915799 05/16/03 10:27 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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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915800 05/16/03 10:31 AM
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Honey, the most difficult piece in the world is always "the new one".

laugh

"Oh, I'll NEVER learn to play this..."

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915801 05/16/03 11:21 AM
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Some people say Gaspard Le Nuit is very hard.
Ligeti's stuff is VERY difficult.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915802 05/16/03 12:20 PM
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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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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915803 05/16/03 12:46 PM
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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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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915804 05/16/03 01:01 PM
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Cage's 4:33. (At least for my daughter -- she could NEVER manage it. wink )

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915805 05/16/03 01:37 PM
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How about Islamey by Balakirev?

Mike

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915806 05/16/03 01:47 PM
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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.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915807 05/16/03 02:26 PM
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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.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915808 05/16/03 02:48 PM
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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.


"The difference between impossible and possible is practice" Horowitz
Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915809 05/16/03 02:49 PM
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Maybe not 'certainly' but I know what I mean.


"The difference between impossible and possible is practice" Horowitz
Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915810 05/16/03 02:50 PM
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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


"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae
Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915811 05/16/03 03:39 PM
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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.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915812 05/16/03 03:50 PM
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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.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915813 05/16/03 03:53 PM
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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.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915814 05/16/03 04:00 PM
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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.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915815 05/16/03 04:02 PM
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I'd throw in a vote for the Prokofiev concerto no. 2.


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915816 05/16/03 04:04 PM
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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?


"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae
Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915817 05/16/03 04:31 PM
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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?

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915818 05/16/03 04:57 PM
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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

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915819 05/16/03 04:59 PM
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Valarking, they composed it to advance music and the technique of the piano, not to satisfiy mediocre pianists who cannot play them. It has been like this for a long time, Beethoven's sonatas were obviously too difficut for the bulk of performers during his time, as well as ours. If no one bothers to compose transcendental music, we will always be playing the samething, which is very musically boring. (Try composing a sonata in the style of Mozart for any reason besides learning, you will see that new styles are a must for modern composers, and with those styles come new techniques.)

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915820 05/16/03 05:45 PM
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I have realized that whenever this Topic is presented no one really comes up with a definitive answer! So come on guys, lets all agree on one piece. I have no idea what it is, and even if I did say something the more advanced pianists would disagree. cool

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915821 05/16/03 05:47 PM
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Originally posted by valarking:
[QUOTE]You have to ask yourself, why did any of them either bother composing it at all?
True enough, but as Crash has pointed out it was not to satisfy mediocre pianists. I suspect that in Villa-Lobos' case, he did not know how difficult the piece was being that he could could barely manage the instrument. Also he had a recognized virtuouso in mind when he wrote it. Have you heard it? It is perhaps the most violent piece of music, other than perhaps Galina Ustvolskaya's 6th sonata, I have ever heard for piano. Its really worth a listen if you can get a copy of either of those discs (the Hamelin disc is quite common) that I mentioned.

As for Sorabji, he was on a different planet or dimensional universe. He intentionally wrote difficult music so that mediocrities, or what he considered to be mediocrities, could not play it. Very interesting person to say the least. Over the years his music has grown on me and I enjoy it very much.

You may be surprised but another set of fiendishly difficult pieces of music are Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues. Although I would not necessarily rate them as being in "the most difficult" category they are not for the weak of technique and demand a very highly developed sense of pianism and musicality in order to be comprehensible. Their difficulty, like all great music, lies in their subletly and simplicity of form.


"The older the fiddle, the sweeter the music"~ Augustus McCrae
Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915822 05/16/03 06:02 PM
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I find the piano music of Charles Ives very difficult. At least I know I CAN play things like Chopin Studies, Mazeppa, Islamey (if I ever finish relearning it!), admittedly not to concert standard - perhaps they need dexterity but at least they're all in homogeneous, conventional patterns. Ives wrote for the sound and not at all for the sake of difficulty, but for this very reason, and because his music is so personal, it's still beyond me to grasp it. I love listening to it, but playing it - I still haven't caught the bus.

In trotting out the same conventional but physically taxing pieces of the romantic repertoire as the most difficult we tend to forget that certain areas of piano music are so special they need, in the long run, much more effort than it takes to learn a Liszt study. At the moment I am memorising Waller's "Gladyse". To me it's a joy because I've played many things like that for many years. But to somebody trained solely in classical music I imagine the rhythmic problems would be formidable.

In short, difficulty concerns many things aside from physical dexterity.


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915823 05/16/03 08:05 PM
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My vote goes for the left hand godowsky etudes.
Especially the one based on op 25 no 2. Eighth note triplets in the right hand and Quarter note triplets in the left.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915824 05/16/03 08:30 PM
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It is perhaps the most violent piece of music
eek Anyone have an mp3 or midi link? I want to hear this. The word "violent" makes me think of Ginastera.

I'm a Philistine. Are we talking about the guitar guy Villa-Lobos?


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915825 05/16/03 08:54 PM
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Originally posted by Classical Player:
I have realized that whenever this Topic is presented no one really comes up with a definitive answer! So come on guys, lets all agree on one piece. I have no idea what it is, and even if I did say something the more advanced pianists would disagree. cool
Let's do in 2 stage,

Stage 1

nominate some difficult pieces in a week.(may be limit to 10 pieces).

Stage 2

start a new thread for voting.

agree??

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915826 05/16/03 09:02 PM
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Originally posted by gryphon:
[QUOTE] eek Anyone have an mp3 or midi link? I want to hear this. The word "violent" makes me think of Ginastera...I'm a Philistine. Are we talking about the guitar guy Villa-Lobos?
The one and the same guy! And Ginastera is a lot like Villa -Lobos; how's that for reframing a question? As for an mp3 link I can't help- I'm barley past word processing. laugh


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915827 05/16/03 09:33 PM
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My nominations:
Sonata in Bminor, La Campanella
Gaspard de la nuit-scarbo Ravel
Rachmaninoff Concerto 3
Beethoven Hammerklavier
Godowsky Studies on Chopin Etudes


"If music be the food of love, play on." -William Shakespeare
Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915828 05/16/03 10:13 PM
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Solo pieces:

Godowsky: Sonata in E minor (Technically about the level of the Rach. concertos. Musically extremely difficult, due to the diversity of material)

Godowsky: Prelude and Fugue (on the B.A.C.H. theme) for the left hand only (Hamelin says it is technically more difficult than the Godowsky sonata) That oughta score pretty high smile

Scriabin: Sonata No7 (following the score faithfully, and playing this piece musically)

oh and how bout the Schumann Toccata (you need octopuses instead of hands to play that @#$%) smile

For concertos I vote for

Prokofiev 2 (that 4th movement, man! can you believe it is possible to play that at tempo?)

Of course there will always be harder pieces, but it's always fun to name difficult pieces that impress us. It gives us something to think about. A goal to aim for.


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915829 05/16/03 10:32 PM
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I'd put in a vote for the Prokofiev 2nd concerto as well...that thing is a BEAST...and not only physcially taxing, but emotionally very draining.


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915830 05/16/03 11:20 PM
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Originally posted by shantinik:
Cage's 4:33. (At least for my daughter -- she could NEVER manage it. wink )
laugh lol, I don't think that I could either at times. laugh


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915831 05/17/03 09:51 AM
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Originally posted by shantinik:
Cage's 4:33. (At least for my daughter -- she could NEVER manage it. wink )
I have my daughter practice this one in short sections, put them together, and after a lot of patient work, she can "play" it perfectly!

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915832 05/17/03 10:33 AM
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Originally posted by nickyg:
Horowitzs Carmen Variations are certainly pretty tricky, while maybe not the most difficult ever it is certainly the most flashy and show-offy.
IMO the Carmen Variatons are among the easier (relatively speaking) and least flashy of the Horowitz transcriptons.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915833 05/17/03 10:48 AM
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Originally posted by pianoloverus:
IMO the Carmen Variations are among the easier (relatively speaking) and least flashy of the Horowitz transcriptions.
He makes it sound easy, but I guarantee that it's not. Executing double notes pp at 120 isn't easy for many people.

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#915834 05/17/03 12:05 PM
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the hardest piece is....to play the same jazz piano number and REPEAT it note-for-note later! I have great respect for jazz pianists who tend to be creative smile

didn't play enough to know what is truly difficult, but rather than giving up on a difficult piece altogether, I usually find myself getting stuck in a few small parts or phrases that just seem impossible to me...


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915835 05/17/03 05:45 PM
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Originally posted by Brendan:
Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
[b]IMO the Carmen Variations are among the easier (relatively speaking) and least flashy of the Horowitz transcriptions.
He makes it sound easy, but I guarantee that it's not. Executing double notes pp at 120 isn't easy for many people.[/b]
But don't you think it's easier than his transcriptions of Hungarian Rhapsodie No.2,
Rakoczy March, Dance Macabre, Wedding March, and Stars and Stripes?

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#915836 05/17/03 07:32 PM
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Actually, I think Liszt made the Saint-Saens transcription.

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#915837 05/17/03 10:51 PM
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Originally posted by Brendan:
Quote
Originally posted by pianoloverus:
[b]IMO the Carmen Variations are among the easier (relatively speaking) and least flashy of the Horowitz transcriptions.
He makes it sound easy, but I guarantee that it's not. Executing double notes pp at 120 isn't easy for many people.[/b]
It's easy for me. In fact, if I play the entire piece for you, I'm sure you'll agree it has been executed! smile (Where do I get all these terrible jokes from, anyway?)


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Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915838 05/18/03 05:38 AM
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Originally posted by Praetorian_AD:
Actually, I think Liszt made the Saint-Saens transcription.
And then Horowitz revised/added to etc.the Liszt transcription. When Horowitz plays this piece, it's listed as being by Saint-Saens/Liszt/Horowitz.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915839 05/19/03 11:44 AM
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Gryphon,

You really ought to give Villa-Lobos a try. Try to find a copy of his Ciclo Brasileiros or Prole do Bébé Volume I. He throws all sorts of touches and rhythms at you, the full range of emotions and it's fun, fun, FUN!

Drews

PS -- my problem is that I never thoroughly *learn* any piece of music. There's so much great repertoire out there to try out...

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
#915840 05/19/03 02:34 PM
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Originally posted by pianoloverus:
But don't you think it's easier than his transcriptions of Hungarian Rhapsodie No.2,
Rakoczy March, Dance Macabre, Wedding March, and Stars and Stripes?
Loud and fast = easy

Soft and fast != easy

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
Orlando Gibbons #2560227 08/01/16 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Orlando Gibbons
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.


Agreed. I attempted the piece and managed to get 2 or 3 pages down without much trouble, but to get it up to par and at the required speed AS WELL AS playing with musicality and managing to keep a light touch is a feat indeed.


Noteworthy Completed Pieces:
Chopin's Polonaise Op. 53, Fantaisie Impromptu, Etude Op. 10 Nos. 12&5
Rach's Prelude Op.23 No.5
Liszt's La Campanella
(can't fit them all :/)
Currently working on:
Beethoven's Sonata No.7 Op.10 No.3
Chopin's Etude Op.10 No.4
Liszt's Mazeppa

Preparing for ARCT
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Chopin's Ballade #4 is the most technically challenging piece ever written in my humble opinion.

Steve
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In addition to many that have been mentioned, I'd throw in Chopin's Winterwind Etude and Beethoven's Hammerklavier 4th movement. In the end it's all subjective.

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
LauraJ #2637408 04/28/17 04:21 PM
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Out of these three concertos: Grieg Piano Concerto in A Minor, Franck Symphonic Variations and Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1 in G Minor, what is the order of difficulty?

Thanks

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
PianoMuse #2638888 05/02/17 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by PianoMuse
I'd put in a vote for the Prokofiev 2nd concerto as well...that thing is a BEAST...and not only physcially taxing, but emotionally very draining.
"Beware the fury of a patient man"(unknown)

Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
LauraJ #2654002 06/16/17 02:13 AM
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Oh come on! Chopin Op. 25 No. 5. It is physically impossible not to play wrong notes in this etude. (Though, as Mark C has pointed out, for most of us all of Chopin's Op. 10 and 25 are "wrong note" etudes!)


SRF
Re: Most Difficult Piano PIece?
shantinik #2788744 12/07/18 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by shantinik
Cage's 4:33. (At least for my daughter -- she could NEVER manage it. wink )

laugh laugh laugh grin
Almost made me spit my tea!


Sibylle


"Not a shred of evidence exists in favour of the idea that life is serious." -Brendan Gill
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