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Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 2:37 am UTC
by The_Mexican
I was wondering what you guys thought the hardest piano piece to play is. In my opinion, it's a tie between Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee and Beethoven's 3rd Movement of The Moonlight Sonata.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 4:33 am UTC
by Blatm
I don't play piano, but this seems like it would be a bit tough.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 4:46 am UTC
by poxic
Blatm wrote:I don't play piano, but this seems like it would be a bit tough.

Oh dear lord.

It would be nifty to hear this played on a real piano, though it would require mechanised key-pushing (something like this).

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:16 pm UTC
by hyrrn
Reich's Piano Phase played solo is probably pretty hard.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:22 pm UTC
by Briareos
I'll go with an old standard: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 (d minor). The whole thing is pretty much ridiculous, but especially the third movement.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:27 pm UTC
by achan1058
I thought it would have been this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjUiN4zr ... re=related

Rach 3 isn't that hard. I can play the first 24 measures. :lol: Seriously though, I think Godowsky's Chopin Etudes would give Rach 3 a good run for its money.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:57 pm UTC
by Jar'O'Jam
Sorry for breaking the seriousness around here, but no thread like this is complete without "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz".

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 8:41 pm UTC
by The_Mexican
Jar'O'Jam wrote:Sorry for breaking the seriousness around here, but no thread like this is complete without "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz".


Holy jesus.

But seriously, I meant something that's an actual piece lol.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:02 am UTC
by cjmcjmcjmcjm
I'm not a pianist, but I've heard stories about Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji's Opus Clavicembalisticum

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:20 am UTC
by phlip
Jar'O'Jam wrote:Sorry for breaking the seriousness around here, but no thread like this is complete without "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz".

You're missing the second page.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 1:26 pm UTC
by Phill
Hmmm, the third movement of the moonlight sonata is hard but probably not impossibly so. Something played at speed isn't necessarily hard. I'd say Chopin's Fantasy Improptu was probably harder.

As for most difficult pieces... impossible to say, but I'll add to the list Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:34 pm UTC
by BurningLed
There's OSTER Project's Etude - Demon Fire

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uLdLDoEjIU

Phill wrote:Hmmm, the third movement of the moonlight sonata is hard but probably not impossibly so. Something played at speed isn't necessarily hard. I'd say Chopin's Fantasy Improptu was probably harder.


Depends on whether you define "learning" a song as learning how to play it at all or learning how to play it dynamically and smoothly. Third movement of Moonlight sonata is hard to get down the notes for, but the dynamics and tempo changes on Fantasie-Impromptu are really hard to master even once you can play the song through.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 2:24 am UTC
by Euphonium
Mikrokosmos no. 153?

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Tue Nov 23, 2010 8:32 pm UTC
by Midnight
the cadenza in prokofiev's 2nd concerto?

otherwise, it's probably something by Rachmaninoff. The guy played and composed like a Russian war machine, powered by coal and vodka.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 3:25 am UTC
by BurningLed
Midnight wrote:It's probably something by Rachmaninoff. The guy played and composed like a Russian war machine, powered by coal and vodka.


Sig'd.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2010 1:09 pm UTC
by balderduck
Hence the song:

Ra Ra Rachmaninof Russia's craziest piano machine

Well in conservatory it was widely considered that Rachmaninov's 3rd concerto is the most difficult piano piece. Of course that's subjective.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 8:11 am UTC
by Midnight
I googled " Ra Ra Rachmaninof Russia's craziest piano machine" and this thread was the first to show up.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:56 am UTC
by balderduck
*tears of hapiness*

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:22 pm UTC
by Blatm
balderduck wrote:Hence the song:

Ra Ra Rachmaninof Russia's craziest piano machine



Spoiler:

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:45 pm UTC
by Jave D
Oh hmm.

Rachmaninoff's Etude Op. 39 No. 6

(There's another version around there that she plays even more insanely fast.)

This one is also damn tricky. Not that Ravel, who only had ten fingers, can stop Valentina. That woman is amazing.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Fri Dec 17, 2010 5:45 am UTC
by black_hat_guy
There are different types of difficulty in pieces. A lot of these pieces are difficult because they are very fast, whereas some, such as the Death Waltz, are not extremely fast, but require pressing a lot of keys at the same time (ignoring the fact that in order to even be physically able to play the Death Waltz, one must have obscenely large hands.) On a more exotic note, I can see having a piece that is difficult because of weird dynamics, pedal techniques, or something like that.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 8:26 pm UTC
by bobbygreencheese
For "flat out ridiculous" I always turn to Ferneyhough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJwxKxJVps4

The piece actually sounds quite pretty (if you don't look at the score!!)

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 1:46 am UTC
by BurningLed
bobbygreencheese wrote:For "flat out ridiculous" I always turn to Ferneyhough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJwxKxJVps4

The piece actually sounds quite pretty (if you don't look at the score!!)


It's actually really beautiful as a sort of ambient music -- Something along the lines of listening to water droplets and bat's wings in a cave, but translated to the piano.

Spoilered for excessive cursing:
Spoiler:
OH MY GOD IS HE ACTIVELY FUCKING ATTEMPTING TO EARN THE NUMBER ONE GORRUM' SPOT ON THE HIT LIST OF EVERY PIANIST WHO EVEN FUCKING THINKS OF ATTEMPTING HIS SONG?


Actually, he probably was, just to make it that more of a satisfaction to complete for the pianist. Plus, it is aesthetically pleasing artistically, just horribly difficult to read.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 1:18 pm UTC
by SirMustapha
That composition sort of reminds me of Xenakis' stuff. I didn't listen to the whole thing, but it seems Ferneyhough is trying to do something actually beautiful, whereas Xenakis always aimed for scientific rigour and true randomness. As far as difficulty of playing goes, that piece must be near the piano part of Xenakis's Eonta -- with the difference that Eonta seems to purposefully try not to make any fucking sense.

I didn't know Ferneyhough. I really like that piece.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:18 pm UTC
by Dream
About Xenakis, I'd say he might be the composer furthest from randomness without being a serialist. His scores are exquisitely constructed, and the very literally architectural forms he used are among the most deliberate in modern music.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:51 pm UTC
by SirMustapha
Dream wrote:About Xenakis, I'd say he might be the composer furthest from randomness without being a serialist. His scores are exquisitely constructed, and the very literally architectural forms he used are among the most deliberate in modern music.


Forgive me for the pedanticness, but most of his compositions are random, in the sense that he used mathematical formulas and absurdly complex means to guarantee that the note pitches and durations where purely, statistically random. The structures are well thought out, though. He isn't random in the sense that he just did a lot of crap betting that it would pass off as "artistic", but in the sense that he was absurdly anal in doing randomness right. He's pretty hardcore.

Ferneyhough, on the other hand, doesn't care much about rigour and writes more, if you forgive the horrible term, "from the heart". That doesn't make him "better" or "worse", mind: I'm not those who preaches that heart and emotion are the only things that matter in music, nor those who preach a certain kind of "inelligence" in music.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:52 pm UTC
by APolaris
I once heard someone claim he'd "proven" that Lizst's original (1837) Transcendental Etudes were the most difficult playable piano pieces ever written. However, since I haven't found peer review of any such proof anywhere, I'm open to the person being wrong.

EDIT: Here's a typical example of a "simplified" 1852 version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfN7xf6JymQ

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:13 am UTC
by Midnight
BurningLed wrote:
bobbygreencheese wrote:For "flat out ridiculous" I always turn to Ferneyhough:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJwxKxJVps4

The piece actually sounds quite pretty (if you don't look at the score!!)


It's actually really beautiful as a sort of ambient music -- Something along the lines of listening to water droplets and bat's wings in a cave, but translated to the piano.

Spoilered for excessive cursing:
Spoiler:
OH MY GOD IS HE ACTIVELY FUCKING ATTEMPTING TO EARN THE NUMBER ONE GORRUM' SPOT ON THE HIT LIST OF EVERY PIANIST WHO EVEN FUCKING THINKS OF ATTEMPTING HIS SONG?


Actually, he probably was, just to make it that more of a satisfaction to complete for the pianist. Plus, it is aesthetically pleasing artistically, just horribly difficult to read.


i feel like that piece is just ridiculous to READ cause he notates out every last trill and such. Where another composer might write a glissando, this guy is writing every single note in the chromatic scale, as 64th notes.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sat Jan 08, 2011 11:34 pm UTC
by Various Varieties
Blatm wrote:I don't play piano, but this seems like it would be a bit tough.

Jar'O'Jam wrote:Sorry for breaking the seriousness around here, but no thread like this is complete without "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz".

I recently came across a blog post by the nephew of Death Waltz's composer John Stump, talking about some of his memories of his uncle. The post also contains high-res images of a couple of his other, equally difficult to play scores.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:17 am UTC
by TheGrammarBolshevik
phlip wrote:
Jar'O'Jam wrote:Sorry for breaking the seriousness around here, but no thread like this is complete without "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz".

You're missing the second page.

Those are from two different pieces; note the change double bar at the end of the first page and the completely different instrumentation in the second (only noticed this due to VV's link).

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:47 am UTC
by phlip
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:the completely different instrumentation in the second.

I always assumed that was just there to compound the ridiculousness of the score... interesting to know that's not actually the case...

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:10 pm UTC
by Outis
I would definitely say a contemporary piano piece--Rachmaninoff and the others are hard, but certainly not unplayable for a typical concert pianist.

Perhaps something by Xenakis, Boulez, or Stockhausen?

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:38 pm UTC
by Midnight
I guess that, especially with the stockhausen pieces, it's carefully constructed to sound random. As with Xenakis. So you could record a five year old messing around, and transcribe it, and it'd be difficult for Vladmir Horowitz to play it, cause it's difficult to sightread and random. Whereas a Rachmaninoff or Liszt piece doesn't really sound random, but is challenging simply because it's fast with huge chords and the like.

I worry, though, that getting into this type of discussion will turn into someone translating the above paragraph as "those fuckers aren't REAL music", which I definitely am NOT saying. I just think they're harder to read, harder to conceptualize, but probably not more difficult to actually play. Same with that Brian Ferneyhough piece up higher, where he carefully transcribes every trill and gliss. A chromatic descent looks a lot more difficult when it's every note written out, I think.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:11 am UTC
by BurningLed
Contemporary pieces like Griebling's Toccata, and the aforementioned Xenakis and Ferneyhough definitely throw a pianist for a loop with a beat that's much harder to pick out, or nonexistent; but they're definitely not harder to actually play (discounting stuff like Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz.)

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:57 pm UTC
by Outis
It seems to me that if a piece throws "a pianist for a loop with a beat that's much harder to pick out," that's a perfectly valid way for a piece to be more difficult; difficulty isn't only derived from being "fast with huge chords and the like." Rhythmic or tonal complexity--which might sound like randomness when you listen to a performance--are other ways that a piece might be difficult to play.

You can certainly record a five year old messing around and it could be unplayable. If you wanted to, you could easily write an unplayable piece of music by making chords no pianist could reach, ridiculous choices of tempo, or any number of other ways. But that's not the case for the contemporary pieces: Stockhausen's Klavierstucke X, which I linked to above, was commissioned to be performed at a festival, so while it is a highly technically demanding study of variable form, it was certainly not designed to be unplayably difficult.

Of course, it's a reasonable question to ask what pieces in the standard repertoire are the most difficult, eliminating contemporary works like the Stockhausen, in which case I would agree that Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto and Prokofiev's 2nd Piano Concerto are excellent choices.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:38 pm UTC
by BurningLed
When I say difficult to play, I mean difficult to play consistently. After one has learned a contemporary piece, and picked out the beat, it becomes much easier to play. But things like Revolutionary Etude and Rachmaninoff's 3rd are always difficult to play, even after much practice -- it might be that we just define "difficult" differently. Those pieces rely on finger dexterity and a sense of dynamics, which are "general" piano skills that are always being used and trained; they apply to every song. Contemporary pieces are more difficult to learn as single pieces, but aren't as taxing on "general" skill.

Actually, I don't think I can define any of those as difficulty -- Complexity of beat, finger dexterity, dynamics, etc. Some songs are more difficult than others, but after a certain point they're all just really difficult on their own, and comparing them is apples to oranges.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 4:41 am UTC
by John Citizen
Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G minor
Rhapsody in Blue (piano solo version)
Both of these pieces are exceedingly difficult to play.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:03 pm UTC
by cjmcjmcjmcjm
Phill wrote:As for most difficult pieces... impossible to say, but I'll add to the list Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.

IIRC, that's the basis for a TSO song.

Anyway, I'm surprised that we aren't showing Sorabji any love (or hate!)

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2011 12:07 am UTC
by Charlemagne_
Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu springs to mind, as does Carl Vine's piano sonata No. 1, Ravel's Jeux De'au and Ravel's Alborada Del Gracioso.
If I thought about for a while longer, or had a look through my music library I'm sure I could find some more.

Re: Hardest Piano Piece

Posted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 4:12 am UTC
by Clumpy
Phill wrote:Hmmm, the third movement of the moonlight sonata is hard but probably not impossibly so. Something played at speed isn't necessarily hard. I'd say Chopin's Fantasy Improptu was probably harder.

As for most difficult pieces... impossible to say, but I'll add to the list Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.


I played the Fantaisie Impromptu a couple of years back for some sort of County Music Teacher's Association thing, and it's pretty damn hard. I've seen it played at some pretty crazy speeds as well that I could never manage.