The piano is an instrument that is many hundreds of years old, yet hardly any other toolsets hearts in motion like this one. Piano music is romantic, relaxed, fun.
And even if classical music today has a somewhat stiff, dusty feel to it, as soon as Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” one of Chopin’s “Nocturnes” or Debussy’s “Claire du lune” is heard, the listeners melt away. Often, hardly anyone in the audience can tell you the song’s name or piece, nor who wrote it. But some melodies are so well known and always beautiful to hear that everyone has to like them.
But modern music can’t do without the piano either: What would the Beatles, Elton John, or even Heavy metal bands like Nightwish without their Pianists? What would be such beautiful movies like “Pretty best friends” or “The fabulous world of Amelie” without their fantastic piano soundtracks? Or the Twilight-Sagas?
Or “Pride and Prejudice”? The list could be continued endlessly.
We limit ourselves here to the 94 most beautiful and famous songs and pieces on the pia№
(You can find a Spotify playlist at the end of the article.)
The most beautiful classical piano songs
1. You can’t do without the old master: Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Prelude in C Major
“Play diligently fugues of good masters, above all of Joh. Seb. Bach. Let the “well-tempered piano” be your daily “bread.
Then you will undoubtedly become a proficient musician.”Robert Schumann already recommended this in his “Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln” of 1848, which he had printed in the appendix of his famous “Album für die Jugend.” And indeed, the preludes and fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier are unique: each major and minor key has its own artfully composed intro followed by a fugue. But the most famous piece in this collection is probably the first one: Prelude № 1 in C major. Unlike all the other intros, some of which, already fugue-like in character, contain many compositional techniques and refinements, the Prelude in C considerable charms with its absolute simplicity.
Except for the end, it consists only of arpeggios. These well-sounding chords are placed one after the other. The flowing character created by the continuous sixteenth notes conveys a sense of calm and security in the music, an impression that for almost 300 years, hardly any listener has been able to escape.
2. The Saxon who was the devil’s crony: George Frideric Handel’s “Sarabande” from the Suite in D minor
The suite, a string of dances in various tempos and characters, was popular in the 18th century. In great fashion in the eighteenth century.
Whether at the courts of kings or in the tiny, rural noble houses: Everywhere people loved to dance. For young people, in particular, dancing was the only way (other than marriage) to get closer to each other. Handel, whom we remember today primarily for his “Hallelujah” from the “Messiah” and his “Fireworks Music,” also composed several such suites.
The Sarabande from the Fourth Suite in D minor is one of his most famous dances. Although it was not published until 1733, it probably dates from his young adult years. When Handel was 20 years old, he went on a study trip to Italy.
Among the Italians, he was quickly called “The Saxon.” Since he impressed his Italian audience with his exquisite playing on the harpsichord, it was whispered behind his back that he was “in league with the devil.”
3. When animals compose: “The Cat Fugue” by Domenico Scarlatti
Famous works need their own story, and so it is with the Sonata in G minor by the Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti. According to legend, Scarlatti’s cat ran over his harpsichord, sounding an excellent melody. Scarlatti has rushed to his desk, written them down, and then composed a fugue from them, the “cat fugue.” Whether this story is true or not remains to be seen, but we can state: The central theme of the “Katzenfuge” is very unusual with its many accidentals.
And: Scarlatti developed a work of art on the piano from the melody, which is still famous today.
4. Finger exercises on the piano: Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s “Solfeggio in C minor
Practice pieces are not necessarily popular among music students: Often, the so-called “etudes” lack lightness and a catchy melody. The training is in the foreground, not the musical beauty. But fortunately, there are also practice pieces that are well suited for practicing and still sound beautiful.
One of the best known is the Solfeggio in C minor by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. Unlike his father, Johann Sebastian, who remained true to his time in his compositions, Carl Philipp sought new paths in music and is considered a pioneer from the strict baroque to the light classical era.
5. The music star of the 18. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” at the end of the 18th century
It is a curiosity of the human psyche that the things we associate with bad memories can suddenly give rise to preferences. Thus, the annoying song of the friend suddenly becomes a favorite song that we listen to up and down when this friend is no longer there. It may have been similar for the inhabitants of Vienna: Conflicts with the Turkish neighbors lasted for over 500 years, and it was the music of the Janissaries, the elite fighters of the Turkish sultan, that should generally have spread fear and panic. But precisely the opposite happened: a burning passion for everything that sounded Turkish prevailed during Mozart’s lifetime, and so his “Rondo all Turca” was, so to speak, “fully in vogue” when he composed it.
It is probably the fascination of the Orient with its fairy tales and sounds that Mozart was able to portray so aptly with this piece – and which continues to this day.
6. For a mysterious woman: Ludwig van Beethoven’s “For Elise
Who was Elise? Until today, no one could figure it out.
In any case, it was not Beethoven’s wife since the famous composer was never married. There was and is always conjecture on this question since the list of women with whom Beethoven had the most diverse relationships was long. But no matter who this mysterious Elise was: We owe her probably the most famous catchy tune on the pia№
Whether in advertising, as a ringtone, in the movies, or edited in jazz, rock, and pop: “Elise” has made it to every corner of this world and inspires young and old alike.
7. Delicacy and Passion: Franz Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasy
Typical Romanticism: a piece begins with a catchy theme that you want to sing along with after the first hearing, followed by sections that almost make you break your fingers on the pia№ Schubert’s Fantasy for Piano in C Major Opus 15 from 1822, known as the “Wanderer Fantasy,” is famous for the fact that even the composer could hardly manage it himself: “The devil should play this stuff,” he is said to have shouted during a prelude.
But wandering was in his nature and appeared again and again in his compositions. Schubert loved the great outdoors and roamed it gladly and often. And even today, he tells us about this deep joy in the green world – through the Wanderer Fantasy.
8. Eternally sad, eternally beautiful: Frederik Chopin’s “Nocturne in E-flat Major
Even his contemporaries loved this piece: The Nocturne Opus 9 Number 2 in E-flat major. As one could translate the designation, these “Songs for the Night” were probably filled with life and love by hardly anyone else like Chopin.
The Polish-French composer wrote 21 of these wonderful pieces, which should not be missing on any piano music CD.
9. Piano music suitable for children: Robert Schumann’s “Wild Rider
Children need pictures when making music, and they find them in Robert Schumann’s “Album für die Jugend” from 1848. There is hardly a piano student who, in the course of his lessons, has not played the “Merry Countryman,” “The Reaper’s Little Song,” or the “Poor Orphan.” The choppy chords of the “Wild Rider” sound similar to the gallop of a horse, and the melody is not only easy to remember, but it is also quickly learned on the pia№
There is hardly a class recital in the music school today without the “Wild Rider,” when it is played, many little feet on the chairs in the audience tap along with it.
10. From the bottom of the heart: Franz Liszt’s “Liebestraum Nummer 3
Music and poetry have always been the means of expression for deeply felt, sincere love. Three love dreams the composer Franz Liszt dreamed at the pia№
The third Liebestraum is the most famous to this day. As were his two “brothers,” he was inspired by poems. “Oh lieb, solang du lieben kannst” by the German poet Ferdinand Freiligrath made Liszt dream on the piano, first by setting the song to music and later when he created the wonderfully romantic “Liebestraum Nummer 3” from his own “Lovesong.” Thanks to him, many others are still dreaming of the piano today.
11. The sound of fish: “The Aquarium” in Camille Saint-Saën’s “Carnival of the Animals
The king of the animals, the lion, gives a big party in the forest, to which all his subjects are invited. And each animal wants to present itself with all its peculiarities and arts in front of the others.
Thus the turtles dance, the kangaroo’s jump, and the lions majestically stride into the arena. The cuckoo and other birds can also be heard. But how do you make a fish sound? Saint-Saëns had an idea here, too: instead of growing gray hairs over a suitable melody for the mute water dwellers, he lets the fish appear in the aquarium and, with a playful, dreamy song, sets not the animals, but their habitat, the water, to sound.
An imaginative and so appropriate idea! Although composed as early as 1886, “Carnival of the Animals” remains to this day a wonderful adaptation of animal sounds and behaviors into music.
12. “Unplayable!”: Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto Number 1
Nikolai Rubinstein, a great pianist of his time and the teacher of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, is said to have said this, among other criticisms, when the young Tchaikovsky played his freshly composed piano concerto for him. Rubinstein advised his pupil to thoroughly rework the piece, which he, fortunately, did not do.
The Piano Concerto Opus 23 in B flat minor traveled from Russia to faraway America, to Boston. It was premiered in 1875 with the German piano prodigy Hans von Bülow at the piano, to whom Tchaikovsky ultimately dedicated his concerto. The famous beginning with the power chords and the following theme of the violins is one of the most memorable melodies of all. It accounts for the unbroken popularity of this piano piece to this day.
13. The Russian Crack at the Piano: Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Piano Concerto Number 2”
Whoever can play the 2, if you can play the 2nd Piano Concerto Opus 18 in C minor by Rachmaninoff from 1901, you have made it: To this day, this work is considered the most challenging piano piece in the world. It stands uniquely there, touching all boundaries in its power and melodic richness—Rachmaninoff’s 2. A piano concerto is the consummate art of the piano, which every star pianist faces at least once in their life.
And if practicing this imposing work sends you into a crisis, you may find comfort in the thought that Rachmaninoff himself was in a deep creative crisis when he composed the piece. The great ideas and thoughts of his 2. piano concerto led the master pianist out of his creative slump.
14. From the depths of the Nordic forests: Edvard Grieg’s “Alfedans”
Child-friendly composers did not only come from Germany: The Norwegian Edvard Grieg created with his “Lyric Pieces Opus 54” not only, but also little pieces for the smallest pianists, of which “Alfedans,” the “Elf Dance,” is one of the best known. Other titles such as “March of the Dwarves” (Trolltog), “Little Brook” (Bekken), “Forest Silence” (Skogstillhet), and of course, the famous “Wedding at Troldhaugen” takes us on a journey to Norway at the turn of the 20th century.
This was in the nineteenth century when children were still growing up with stories of trolls and “ash-per” elves dancing through the woods.
15. Love of Nature from France: Claude Debussy’s “Claire du lune
We know it from “Seven Years in Tibet,” from the “Twilight” films and numerous others: The third movement from the “Suite bergamasque,” composed by Claude Debussy in 1895, still invites us to dream and make love – in the moonlight, the “Claire du lune.” The young Debussy had wanted to become a concert pianist, but he switched to the composition during his studies. He was a friend of Richard Wagner, even if his compositions were too (word) formidable for him: For him, music began at the point where words did not say enough, he is said to have once said about Wagner.
And indeed: do you need any further words when “Claire du lune” is heard?
Places 16-45 of the most beautiful classical piano pieces:
Piano Pieces (Classical) Spotify Playlist:
The most beautiful modern piano songs (Pop)
1. Ragtime Conquers the Piano: “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin
From 1900 something completely new began musically in the USA: With the “Ragtime,” a contemporary style is introduced at the piano, which connects the traditional music of the Afro-Americans with classical European music. Especially the rhythm is very different from what has been cultivated in Europe for centuries and still makes the swing and esprit of ragtime and its most famous representative, the “entertainer.”
2. The Golden Twenties: George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in blue
And we continue in the direction of jazz: the American composer George Gershwin used the “blue notes” and the triplet rhythm so typical of jazz for his work. But also elements from the great piano concertos of the 19th century can be found here. The works of the twentieth century are to be found here.
Gershwin himself wanted to be open to the old and the new and thus managed to appeal to and carry away his audience – unlike his contemporaries Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky.
3. It’s time for a hit: Duke Ellington “Take(s) the A-Train
We finally leave the time of the great old composers and reach the modern age. “Take the A-Train” was the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s signature hit; although the famous jazz pianist didn’t compose it himself, his arranger Billy Strayhorn did. “Take the A-Train” is now a renowned jazz standard and one of those songs that every jazz pianist can play off the cuff.
4. The piano was their salvation: “Let it be” by the Beatles
The famous pop band from Great Britain had fallen out to the core, and the breakup was imminent. But then the hero of the hour appeared: Billy Preston, the American wonder on the pia№. The result: disputes are put aside in front of the guest, and a new world hit is born.
The song remained in the German hit parade for 13 weeks and today no songbook for pianists can be imagined without it.
5. “I’ll tell you my story”: Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”
This is what it feels like to be a bar pianist: In his song “Piano Man,” U.S. pianist Martin William “Billy” Joel described how his alter ego plays the piano in a bar while people-watching. From the waiter to the real estate agent who presents himself as a writer to the guests, representatives of all social classes are named, who are brought together by one thing: The longing for a short break in their lives.
You can find it in the music. “Piano Man” has sold over 3 million copies and is part of the “list of the 500 best songs of all time”.
6. Romantic and naughty: Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella
For connoisseurs and lovers, the old DEFA fairy tale adaptations from GDR times are cult. And even those who are not so fond of the old strips will still be enchanted by “Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella.” Blame it on this particular Fairy tale film not only the excellent cast of actors, the unusual extension of the Cinderella story by a Robber’s Daughter-like little tomboy, as well as the lavish costumes and the so appropriately chosen filming locations.
The final magic to this 1973 film is the beautiful soundtrack by Karel Svoboda. Catchy and artful, this piano music is now also very popular at weddings.
7. A Last Salute for a Tragic Princess: Elton John’s “Candle In The Wind”
There is hardly a person in the world who, to the sound of Elton John’s famous piano ballad, doesn’t see that sea of flowers and candles and those incredibly lost-looking little princes trailing behind their mother’s coffin. 37 million copies of “Candle in the wind” have been sold, making it the most popular song of all time the most successful single in the whole world, which even got an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
In the process, the famous British pop singer Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin did not write the song for Lady Diana, but for the actress Marilyn Monroe, who died tragically and young. Taupin wrote a new lyric dedicated to Diana for the funeral of the British princess. To this day, the pop icon always plays the old version from 1973 at concerts – he never wanted to sing Diana’s performance again.
8. Tolkien at the piano: “The Eldar” by Blind Guardian
Heavy metal, despite the hard sounds, is also known for the fact that one or another ballad or anthem shows the more sensitive sides of the rockers, but most of the time, even the softer songs are not abandoned slow drums or the distorted guitar. One remains true to oneself, after all.
An absolute exception is on the 1998 album “Nightfall in Middle Earth” of the German metallers Blind Guardian: “The Eldar” is a goosebump-inducing song that bandleader and singer Hansi Kürsch sings alone about the elves from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Silmarillion” sings, accompanied only by the pia№ A milestone in this hard genre – and for the piano!
9. Yann Tiersen and the fabulous Amélie
“The Fabulous World of Amélie,” starring Audrey Toutou, is a typical French film: away from kitsch and violin sound, Amélie’s story is full of courage, tenderness, sadness, and joie de vivre, crazy and endearing all in one. Film composer Yann Tiersen chose the piano as his main instrument – and scored a hit. No film is as beloved for its piano music as “The Fabulous World of Amélie.”
Sadly beautiful, easy to play and always recognizable, “Le moulin,” “La valse d’Amélie” and “Comptine d’été” still enjoy great popularity after almost 20 years.
10. Rock ballad on the piano: “The Scientist” by Coldplay
Any Rock band must, at some point in her career, have a Love song written. With the piano ballad “The Scientist,” the British alternative rock band Coldplay placed a hit in the charts in 2002.
In Germany, the romantic Longing song was made famous by the casting show “Popstars” after several contestants performed the song in auditions in 2009.
11. Pride and Prejudice: Dawn
In 2005, Joe Wright made a wonderful film adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel “Pride and Prejudice” from 1813. Starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen in the leading roles as Elisabeth Bennet and Mr.
Darcy, this film managed to do justice to that old British bestseller. In addition to the costumes and the magnificent British manor houses, the early 19th century. The stylistically adapted film music of the Italian film composer Dario Marianelli in the nineteenth century.
The piano as the instrument of the aristocratic daughters of the time is a secondary motif throughout the film, and already with the opening title “Dawn,” its delicate sounds drip softly into the viewer’s soul.
12. The hit from South Korea: “Rivers flows in you” by Yiruma
The film adaptations of Stephanie Meyer’s vampire novels “Twilight” were released in cinemas from 2008 onwards, becoming global successes. The eerily beautiful love story of young Isabella Swan with the vampire Edvard Cullen was beautifully staged by the producers and got under the skin of an audience of millions with the sensitive music of Carter Burwell.
Composed in 2001 by Yiruma, the piano hit “Rivers flows in you” was initially intended to be the romantic song that Edvard dedicates to his Bella at the pia№ To this day, you can find clips of the music on Youtube with the romantic scene from the Twilight saga where Edward plays the piano for Bella. However, the film producers had not been able to consider the fans’ wishes for the soundtrack and had chosen another, less expensive song for the film score.
But in the world of the friends of “Twilight,” “Rivers flows in you” is and remains Edvard’s song for Bella – forever.
13. That’s where two worlds touch: Ludovico Einaudi’s “Una Mattina”
And again, it was a French film that touched millions of people in 2011 by its theme and its wonderful piano music. We are talking about “Pretty Best Friends,” a movie about the friendship between a rich but paraplegic man and his nurse from the suburbs of Paris, whose young life has been marked by unemployment, drugs, and crime. But this time the composer came from Italy: Ludovico Einaudi, the creator of the title song “Una Mattina” and the other piano pieces for the film, had already made a name for himself long before as a pianist and composer Composer made a name for himself beyond the borders of his homeland.
But with the clear simplicity and beauty of “Una Mattina,” he created the very music that makes the sadness inside “Pretty Best Friends” almost palpable.
14. Longing for love: Adele’s “Someone like you”
With her unmistakable, smoky soul voice, the British singer Adele in 2011 catapulted her song “Someone like you” to the number one spot in the British charts. Since then, her career has gone from strength to strength.
The piano accompaniment, kept simple to just a few chords, is juxtaposed with vocals unusually ornate for pop music, making the song difficult to sing along to. With this individuality, Adele became one of the most famous singers of our century. Simplified versions of “Someone like you” can be found in nearly all songbooks of modern piano hits.
15. A big heart: John Legend’s “All of me”
American pop star John Legend dedicated his song “All of Me” to his wife Chrissy, released as a single from his new album “Love in the Future” in 2013 and became Legend’s first big hit. Born John Roger Stephens in Ohio in 1978, the actor and musician had previously drawn attention to his musical talent, such as his participation in the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” the year before.
The romantic song is carried entirely by the piano and, unlike other love songs and ballads, needs no other instrument – except a fantastic voice.
Places 16-49 of the most beautiful modern piano songs:
Piano Songs (Pop) Spotify Playlist:
… and the many, many arrangements
This list of the most beautiful and well-known songs and pieces on the piano can, of course, not claim to be complete; too great is the selection around this beautiful instrument. Instead, an attempt was made to cover as wide a range as possible through the history of piano music, capturing the most famous personalities of their time who have managed to conjure up earworms in people’s minds over all these years right up to our present day.
The list could, of course, be extended. Also mentioned are the countless piano arrangements that are now available for purchase. Almost any well-known song or melody from opera and film can be reproduced on the piano, no matter for which instruments the original was composed.
From Justin Bieber to Metallica, from Richard Wagner to Star Wars, there’s sheet music for the piano to buy. The piano is versatile – and sounds beautiful.