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Great pianists of the 21th Century

Martha Argerich (born June 5, 1941)  born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and initially studied with her mother who was a piano teacher. She gave her debut concert at the age of eight, playing a concerto by  Mozart. The family moved to Europe in 1955, and Argerich studied with Friedrich Gulda in Austria. She later studied with Arturo B. Michelangeli and Stefan Askenase. In 1957, she won two major piano competitions in Geneva (The International Music Competition) and Bolzano (The Busoni Competition) within a few weeks, and her career as a professional pianist was launched.

Argerich took the musical world by storm in 1965 at the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.  In the same year, she made her first recording, including works by Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, and Franz Liszt. A few years later she recorded Chopin's Sonata no. 3, Polonaise, op. 53, and other short works. Her technique is considered amongst the most formidable of her time. Indeed, her early recordings (made at age 19) of such competition mainstays as the Prokofiev Toccata and Liszt's Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody remain yardsticks for these works. Although she has been criticized over her often exaggerated dynamics and tempi, her playing is characterized by her passionate and unique sound.

Argerich has been tireless in promoting younger pianists, through her annual festival, and frequently appears as a member of the jury at important competitions.


Vladimir Ashkenazy (лади́мир Дави́дович А́шкенази) (born July 6, 1937) is a well known  pianist and conductor. He was born in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, but has been an Icelandic citizen 1972.

Ashkenazy began his studies at the age of 6 and showing prodigious talent, was accepted at the Central Music School at 8. A graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, he won second prize in the prestigious International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1955 and shared first prize in the 1962 International Tchaikovsky Competition. He is celebrated for his intelligent and well thought-out interpretations. He often recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; two of these recordings were of the Emperor Concerto by Beethoven, and a number of Rachmaninov pieces (including his Second Concerto). He has recorded the complete 24 Preludes and Fugues of Shostakovich, and Chopin's entire works for piano.

Midway through his pianistic career, Ashkenazy branched into conducting. His performances of the Sibelius symphonies have been lauded in particular. In 1998, he became principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Vladimir Ashkenazy is currently President of the Rachmaninoff Society.

 

Earl Wild (born November 26, 1915) is an American pianist known especially for his transciptions of classical music and jazz. Wild is recognized widely as a leading virtuoso of his generation.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wild was a precocious child and studied under Selmar Janson, Simon Barere and Egon Petri, amongst others. As a teenager, he started making transcriptions of romantic music and composition. In 1942, Arturo Toscanini invited him for a performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the first for orchestra and soloist, which was a resounding success and made him a household name. During World War II, Wild served in the United States Navy as a musician and after the war moved to the newly formed American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as a staff pianist, conductor and composer until 1968.

Wild is renowned for master classes he held throughout the world, from Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo to the United States.

 

Van Cliburn (born July 12, 1934) is an American pianist who achieved worldwide recognition in 1958 when, at the age of 23, he won the first quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War.

Cliburn was born  in Louisiana and began taking piano lessons at the age of three from his mother.  At twelve he won a statewide piano competition which enabled him to debut with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. He entered The Juilliard School at age 17, and studied under Rosina Lhévinne. At age 20, Cliburn won the prestigious Levintritt Award, and made his Carnegie Hall debut. But it was his recognition in Moscow which propelled him to international fame.  Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City.  His subsequent recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, became the first classical album to sell a million copies.

In 1962, Cliburn became the artistic advisor for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. In 1987, he was invited to perform at the White House for US President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev, and afterwards was invited to open the 100th anniversary season of Carnegie Hall. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003 by President George W. Bush, and, in October of 2004, the Russian Friendship Medal, the two highest civilian awards of the two countries.  He has played for royalty, heads of state from dozens of countries, and for every President of the United States since Harry Truman.

Murray Perahia (born April 19, 1947) Perahia was born in New York City, and began playing the piano at four. At the age of seventeen, he attended Mannes College, where he studied keyboard, conducting, and composition with Mieczysław Horszowski. During the summer,  Rudolf Serkin, and Pablo Casals

In 1972, he won the fourth Leeds Piano Competition, helping to cement its reputation for advancing the careers of young pianistic talent. His first major recording project was the complete piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with the English Chamber Orchestra. In the 1980s, he also recorded the complete Beethoven piano concertos. He has since made critically acclaimed recordings of Bach's Goldberg variations . Frédéric Chopin's etudes, and of Franz Schubert's late piano sonatas.  He is regarded as one of the finest pianists on record today, treasured for his rare musical sensitivity. He receiver Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance

Besides his solo career, he is active in chamber music and appears regularly with the Guarneri and Budapest Quartets. He is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra, with which he records and performs.Today, he lives in London. On March 8, 2004, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth made him a Knight Commander of the British Empire.

 

Maurizio Pollini (born January 5, 1942) is an Italian classical pianist. He was born in Milan, the son of the Italian rationalist architect Gino Pollini. Maurizio studied piano first with Carlo Lonati, until the age of 9, then with Carlo Vidusso, until he was 18. He got the diploma at the Milan Conservatory and won the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1960, after which he studied under Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.

Since the mid-1960s, he has given recitals and appeared with major orchestras in Europe, the United States, and the Far East. He made his American debut in 1968 and his first tour of Japan in 1974.

Regarded as one of the greatest pianists of the day, he is especially noted for his performances of Chopin and the modern composers such as Pierre Boulez. He displays an absolute technical sovereignty over the piano, but is sometimes criticized for his emotional conservatism. He has conducted both opera and orchestral music, sometimes leading the orchestra from the keyboard in concertos. With a sizable repertoire, he is currently one of Deutsche Grammophon's leading pianists and has performed the complete first book of Bach's Well-tempered Clavier and several cycles of the complete Beethoven sonatas, among many other works.

 

Alfred Brendel (born January 5, 1931) Brendel is an Austrian pianist, born in Czechoslovakia into a non-musical family. He is widely regarded as one of the great classical pianists of the second half of the 20th century. Throughout his childhood,  Brendel had occasional piano lessons, but otherwise little formal music education. Although he did attend master classes with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he is largely self-taught.

In 1949 he won 4th prize in the Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy and moved to Vienna the following year. At the age of 21, he made his first record, Sergei Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 5. He went on to make a string of other records, including three complete sets of the Ludwig van Beethoven piano sonatas . He has also recorded works by Brahms , Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.

 His breakthrough came after a recital of Beethoven at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the day after which three major record labels called his agent. Around the same time he moved to London. Since then, he has recorded extensively, and his fame has grown. Brendel is today seen as one of the most thoughtful interpreters of classical Germanic works by composers such as Beethoven, Schubert and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Brendel's playing is sometimes described as being analytic, and he has said that he believes the primary job of the pianist is to respect the composer's wishes without showing off himself, or adding his own spin on the music.

Evgeny Igorevich Kissin (Евге́ний Ки́син) (born October 10, 1971) is a well-known Russian pianist. At the age of 10, Kissin made his orchestral debut and the year after that he gave his first recital in Moscow. Kissin's talents were manifested to the international scene in 1984, when he played Chopin's two piano concertos with the Moscow State Philharmonic.

On September 30, 1990, 0, Kissin made his Carnegie Hall recital debut. Among many other pieces, he has recorded Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 3 and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 and Piano Concerto No. 20. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest pianists in the world, though his interpretations are regarded by some to be controversial and overly romantic.

 

Krystian Zimerman (born December 5, 1956) is a Polish classical virtuoso pianist. He was born in Zabrze and studied at the Katowice Conservatory under Andrzej Jasinski. His career was launched when he won the prestigious Warsaw International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in 1975. He performed with the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Herbert von Karajan in 1976 and he made his American début with the New York Philharmonic in 1979. He has toured widely and made a number of recordings. Since 1996 he has taught piano at the Academy of Music in Basel.

Zimerman is best known for his interpretations of Romantic music, but has performed a wide variety of classical pieces as well. He has also been a supporter of contemporary music. For example, Witold Lutosławski wrote his Piano Concerto for Zimerman, who later recorded it. Amongst his best-known recordings are the piano concertos of Grieg and Schumann with Herbert von Karajan, the Brahms concerti with Leonard Bernstein, the piano concertos of Chopin (twice; once conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini and a later recording conducted by himself at the keyboard), the piano concertos of Beethoven under Bernstein, the first and second piano concertos of Rachmaninoff and the piano concertos of Liszt with Seiji Ozawa, and solo piano works by Chopin, Liszt, Debussy and Schubert. Recently, Zimerman recorded Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1 with Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle.

Lang Lang (郎朗) (born June 14, 1982) Lang lang is a pianist who hails from Shenyang, China. He began piano lessons at the age of three . At the age of five he won the Shenyang Piano Competition. At the age of 11, he won the first prize and award for outstanding artistic performance at the Fourth International Young Pianists Competition in Germany. In 1995 at 13 years of age, he played the complete Chopin 24 Etudes at Beijing Concert Hall and won first prize at the Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians' Competition in Japan. At 14 he was a featured soloist at the China National Symphony's inaugural concert. The following year he began studies with Gary Graffman at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

Lang Lang's breakthrough came in 1999, when he was 17, at the Ravinia Festival's "Gala of the Century" in which he played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra The Chicago Tribune called him the biggest, most exciting keyboard talent encountered in many years. In 2001 he made his sold-out Carnegie Hall debut.  In 2003, he played to the BBC Proms for the First Night concert with Leonard Slatkin. After his recent recital debut in the Berlin Philharmonic, the Berliner Zeitung wrote: "Lang Lang is a superb musical performer whose artistic touch is always in service of the music." His 2004 performance with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic at the Waldbühne was attended by 23,000 people and was broadcast internationally on TV. Lang Lang has performed with the major orchestras  has collaborated with major conductors of the world.

 

Li, Yundi ( 李云迪 ) (born October 7, 1982) is a well-known young classical pianist.   Born in Chongqing, China, Li is most well known for being the youngest pianist to win the prestigious International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition at the age of 18.He was the first participant to be awarded First Prize in 15 years and the first Chinese winner.  Li currently resides in Hannover, Germany, where he studies with his teacher Arie Vardi at the Hannover Conservatory of Music.

Li has received top awards at various competitions. In 1995, he was awarded first place at the Stravinksy International Youth Competition. In 1998, he won the 1998 South Missouri International Youth Piano Competition. The next year, he won the Liszt International Piano Competition in the Netherlands, and the China International Piano Competition. He also won first place at the Gina Bachauer Young Artists International Piano Competition.


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