The 10 Greatest Pianists of All Time

The most influential legendary pianists, as voted by modern day masters of the instrument.

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10. Artur Schnabel (1882-1951)

Who was he? An Austrian pianist who specialised in core German composers and made the first complete recording of the Beethoven sonatas.

What makes him great?
A commitment to plumbing the intellectual and spiritual depths of  a work, while eschewing displays of technical bravura. 

Jonathan Biss on Schnabel's living sound

“If I was asked which pianist I loved the most, I’d never be able to answer ­– too many possibilities! But if it’s a question of who has inspired me, that’s easy: Artur Schnabel. My first exposure to his recordings of the Beethoven sonatas came in my early teens, and quickly led to an obsession with those works which I expect to last for the rest of my life. I could not understand how he could convey so much meaning – spirituality, even – between two notes, or how he managed to produce from this instrument of keys and hammers a sound which was so buoyant, resistant to gravity, alive. Those two aims – to make a sound that lives, and to find music not only in the notes, but around them – are still primary for me, nearly two decades later.

When I went to study with Leon Fleisher, I was touched to hear him speak of Schnabel, his own teacher, with the same kind of awe. Fleisher’s own ideas about music are compelling, and he is matchlessly eloquent in expressing them, but it was often that he would simply tell us what Schnabel had told him about this piece or that, in a tone of voice which suggested that there was no greater authority. I like to think I may have learned something through this lineage, and each and every day I try to bring to my music something of the devotion, understanding and, above all, love, which emanates from every note the man played.”

Also chosen by: András Schiff, Ronald Brautigam, Garrick Ohlsson…

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The 10 Greatest Pianists of All Time
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