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Hi everyone! My name is Ben and I'm new to the forum. I've been lurking around anonymously for about a year now but I finally decided to make an account and join in the discussions.

Over the past year I've been fascinated with the Beethoven Sonatas. I discovered the series of lectures Andras Schiff gave on them and have been binging them ever since (fully listened at least half a dozen times to the whole thing). I find these works to be an amazing accomplishment in not only quantity but quality as well, since they all have something new to say. Any of the sonatas are expected to be a standard on any given program or just as a tool used for musical development by teachers and amateurs. This got me thinking. First I wonder what specific Beethoven sonatas are considered "must plays" in order to adequately understand the late ones for example (I play to one day play Op. 109 and 101, my two favourites), and second what other works in the canon are considered to be "must plays"?

The more specific the better. I understand that any of the 48 Preludes and Fugues would qualify, but I'd love to see some hot takes about a specific one perhaps. Also, outside of Chopin Etudes, Beethoven Sonatas and Bach WTC are all expected repertoire for any concert pianist or advanced pianist, but again, these aren't as specific as I would like. I understand this question is ENTIRELY subjective, but I think also it's a lot of fun to see what everyone thinks.
I'll give three of my own "must plays":

Beethoven Op. 13: I think the grandeur of this piece is extremely important. It may be extremely famous and not the hardest thing in the world, but it's fame and difficulty is part of the reason I think it's important for all/most pianists to play. It's very achievable for any serious amateur, and you are adding to the history of the piece by playing it. It's also great for octave tremolo technique as many of these forum posts are quick to tell you, unless you're already good at that.

Bach Prelude and Fugue in C Major Book I: This prelude is extremely famous, even if the fugue isn't as much so. Copy paste what I said about fame and history, but I'll add a bit more. The status of this piece being the opening of this monumental "old testament" of Western classical music is so important because of the simplicity and modesty of this piece. Don't get me wrong, contrapuntally the fugue is very dense and the harmonies in the prelude are quite colourful, but I think this piece really sums up what is necessary to understand Bach. Don't get me wrong, play the others and this isn't my favourite, but there's a lot to learn about Bach from humility of this piece.

Schubert Impromptu Op. 142 No. 3: This is what I mean by controversial. This isn't one of the more famous impromptus, let alone pieces in the entire canon. The importance of this piece comes down the pure Schubertness of it. It's a work in Theme and Variations, and these variations rival the abilities of Beethoven. Schubert transforms the simple theme to a lyrical one, to a tragic one, an excited one etc. In my opinion this piece requires a very large imagination and it's something I think everyone should attempt.

Again, sorry if this topic is just another version of "what music do you like"/"what music should you play", and again this is so ridiculously subjective. I am well aware my "reasons" for playing these pieces comes down to vague romantic notions, but humour me nonetheless.


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Leaving aside the issue of technical difficulties (I assume they don't exist), and leaving Chopin aside (because I don't want to start a flame war - there are too many Chopinists in PW, and I don't consider myself one of their ilk smirk ), these are a few of my very unconsidered "must-plays":

Bach: Goldberg Variations
Mozart: K310
Beethoven: Op.111
Schubert: D960
Schumann: Fantasie in C
Brahms: Op.118
Rachmaninov: Preludes Op.23/4-5, Op.32/12
Debussy: Estampes
Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit
Prokofiev: War Sonatas
Scriabin: Sonata No.5
Bartók: Out of Doors


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Really cool choices. Love them all lol.


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There are no "must plays" in the piano literature although I think that concept is extremely vague. There are works that are generally considered very great. There are works that are generally considered very appealing to audiences and sometimes those two groups intersect. There are works that many of the great pianists have played, and there are works that many professional pianists, if not necessarily among the greatest, have played.

Similarly, there are no must play Beethoven Sonatas before one plays Op. 109 or Op. 111. OTOH very few pianists attempt those sonatas before they've played quite a few other Beethoven Sonatas and teachers would usually not assign them to a student who has not played other Beethoven Sonatas.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Similarly, there are no must play Beethoven Sonatas before one plays Op. 109 or Op. 111. OTOH very few pianists attempt those sonatas before they've played quite a few other Beethoven Sonatas and teachers would usually not assign them to a student who has not played other Beethoven Sonatas.
As a prerequisite for Opus 109 or Opus 111, I'd suggest mastering at least one sonata from both Beethoven's early (Opus 2 - 28) and middle (Opus 31 - 90) periods. Opus 49 doesn't count and Opus 79 is iffy.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
There are no "must plays" in the piano literature although I think that concept is extremely vague. There are works that are generally considered very great. There are works that are generally considered very appealing to audiences and sometimes those two groups intersect. There are works that many of the great pianists have played, and there are works that many professional pianists, if not necessarily among the greatest, have played.

Similarly, there are no must play Beethoven Sonatas before one plays Op. 109 or Op. 111. OTOH very few pianists attempt those sonatas before they've played quite a few other Beethoven Sonatas and teachers would usually not assign them to a student who has not played other Beethoven Sonatas.

Why not Op 110? What makes it less important than 109 and 111?

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Originally Posted by Franz Beebert
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Similarly, there are no must play Beethoven Sonatas before one plays Op. 109 or Op. 111. OTOH very few pianists attempt those sonatas before they've played quite a few other Beethoven Sonatas and teachers would usually not assign them to a student who has not played other Beethoven Sonatas.
Why not Op 110? What makes it less important than 109 and 111?
The OP said 109 and 101 were his favorites. Another member identified 111 as a must play. PL chose to comment on 109 and 111. You mention 110. What about 106? The bottom line is that all of final sonatas from 101 on are significant, but as PL stated, ideally one should start with some of the earlier sonatas before tackling the later ones.


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Originally Posted by Franz Beebert
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Similarly, there are no must play Beethoven Sonatas before one plays Op. 109 or Op. 111. OTOH very few pianists attempt those sonatas before they've played quite a few other Beethoven Sonatas and teachers would usually not assign them to a student who has not played other Beethoven Sonatas.
Why not Op 110? What makes it less important than 109 and 111?
The OP asked specifically about Op. 109 and 101, but when I read it I thought he wrote 111.

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I was really just wondering to see if anybody has anything to say about it. I'm aware that there isn't anything people need to play and it's vague and subjective etc. I thought it would be interesting but I am aware that this idea sort of flopped. Perhaps it was poorly executed or the whole subject is just kinda pointless. Oh well.


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ligeti 18 etudes especially L'escalier du diable



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Here are some pieces that I used to represent different composers. I tried to keep this list decently beginner friendly. Obviously, some of the piece here can be harder, but I encourage you to learn at least one piece of each category.

Chopin Nocturnes
Bach Prelude & Fugues
Schumann Davidsbündlertänze
Beethoven Sonatas
Schubert Impromptus
Liszt Consolations
Mozart Sonatas
Haydn Sonatas
Grieg Lyrical Pieces

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No pianist would be complete without a few Brahms pieces under their belt. His Op 76, 116, 117, 118 is some of the most poetic and sentimental music in the entire repertoire, but are notoriously difficult due to the idiosyncratic way Brahms wrote for the piano (more orchestral rather than pianistic).

Debussy's preludes are also divine--his music brings colors out of the piano that you cannot get from classical sonata or Baroque music, also a very important composer to learn.

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Bach: WTC, Goldberg Variations
Beethoven: Op 13, Op 57, Op 109-111
Brahms: Op 116-119
Chopin: Ballades, Preludes, Barcarolle, Etudes
Debussy: Preludes
Liszt: Sonata in B minor
Prokofiev: War Sonatas
Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit
Schubert: D 894, D 958-D 960, Impromptus
Schumann: Davidsbundlertänze, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, Fantaisie

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Originally Posted by MrJoss
Here are some pieces that I used to represent different composers. I tried to keep this list decently beginner friendly. Obviously, some of the piece here can be harder, but I encourage you to learn at least one piece of each category.

Chopin Nocturnes
Bach Prelude & Fugues
Schumann Davidsbündlertänze
Beethoven Sonatas
Schubert Impromptus
Liszt Consolations
Mozart Sonatas
Haydn Sonatas
Grieg Lyrical Pieces

Relatively little here would be considered "beginner friendly' - but collectively they are very good suggestions. I would consider them to be more "intermediate" to "advanced" friendly. However, why is the Davidsbundlertanze Opus 6 the only work listed by Schumann? smile


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If you were to ask me what every pianist must play, as opposed to what they should perform, I would think that it would be the various teaching pieces by the great composers. This will give a overview of the basic techniques and musical idioms that the composer wants you to know, so that you will be prepared to learn and perform the more substantial pieces in the repertoire.


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Before talking about must play, it is more reasonable to talk about "can play". Few amateurs reach the point where they can say that they can play properly (ie musically) one of the late sonatas. And if an amateur can play opus 109 or opus 111, then apart very specific and very difficult technical pieces, they can play the vast majority of the piano repertoire. In that case, I dont believe there are must plays. Everyone can choose the type of music they like. Personally, I am not particularly attracted playing Beethoven sonatas (currently).

If one is in the realm of "can" play, it is more a question of selecting the music they can manage to play well. I see too often people going after difficult pieces which they play poorly. Many people seem to be running after some kind of personal challenge to indeed master a standard repertoire piece rather than pursuing musical objectives. I think a must play piece is a piece that one can manage to play really well, with musicality and personality.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Before talking about must play, it is more reasonable to talk about "can play". Few amateurs reach the point where they can say that they can play properly (ie musically) one of the late sonatas. And if an amateur can play opus 109 or opus 111, then apart very specific and very difficult technical pieces, they can play the vast majority of the piano repertoire. In that case, I dont believe there are must plays. Everyone can choose the type of music they like. Personally, I am not particularly attracted playing Beethoven sonatas (currently).

If one is in the realm of "can" play, it is more a question of selecting the music they can manage to play well. I see too often people going after difficult pieces which they play poorly. Many people seem to be running after some kind of personal challenge to indeed master a standard repertoire piece rather than pursuing musical objectives. I think a must play piece is a piece that one can manage to play really well, with musicality and personality.
Exactly. Many of the pieces listed earlier in this thread, which are often candidates for a composer's greatest works, are not playable by 99% of pianists. And even if someone can play them, why "must" they play them if they're not appealing to the pianist? "Should listen to" might be a better idea.

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Originally Posted by Carey
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Similarly, there are no must play Beethoven Sonatas before one plays Op. 109 or Op. 111. OTOH very few pianists attempt those sonatas before they've played quite a few other Beethoven Sonatas and teachers would usually not assign them to a student who has not played other Beethoven Sonatas.
As a prerequisite for Opus 109 or Opus 111, I'd suggest mastering at least one sonata from both Beethoven's early (Opus 2 - 28) and middle (Opus 31 - 90) periods. Opus 49 doesn't count and Opus 79 is iffy.

Why doesn't 49 count?


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Originally Posted by bSharp(C)yclist
Originally Posted by Carey
As a prerequisite for Opus 109 or Opus 111, I'd suggest mastering at least one sonata from both Beethoven's early (Opus 2 - 28) and middle (Opus 31 - 90) periods. Opus 49 doesn't count and Opus 79 is iffy.

Why doesn't 49 count?

Because they really are sonatinas and much easier than Beethoven's other sonatas. They are typically not allowed as audition pieces for performance majors applying to college.

For example.

"There appears to be broad agreement amongst pianists that the ‘easiest’ sonatas are what attract the sub-title ‘Leichte Sonata’ or literally ‘light sonata’. Beethoven composed the Piano Sonatas 19 and 20 (Op.49; Nos 1 & 2 in G minor and G Major), between 1795-6 with intention of them being played by friends or keen amateur musicians and students."

"B.’s two Op.49 sonatas (really sonatinas) are misnumbered: they were written at around the same time as the 3rd and 4th sonatas, but were published a lot later because B. never intended that they be published (we’ve got his brother to thank that these sonatas are known at all.) Both sonatas are small, two-movement, unassuming pieces, unabashedly classical in style, and constructed rather straightforwardly for (in all likelihood) some of B.’s friends (or their children)."

"The Piano Sonata No. 19 in G minor, Op. 49, No. 1, and Piano Sonata No. 20 in G major, Op. 49, No. 2, are short sonatas (and are considered relatively simple sonatas by some pianists) by Ludwig van Beethoven, published in 1805 (although the works were actually composed a decade earlier in 1795-6[citation needed]). Both works are approximately eight minutes in length, and are split into two movements. These sonatas are referred to as the Leichte Sonaten to be given to his friends and students."


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Fascinating. Thanks for educating me! Had no idea. My teacher had suggested I learn it, but I couldn't get into it.


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