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Great Classical Works for Piano Beginners to Listen to

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Essential Piano Classics Players should Study

When you are beginning as a piano player, you may be wondering what Classical pieces to listen to in order to inspire you. Listed below are several well-known classical works which have stood the test of time. It is beneficial to review this list and give these tunes a listen even if you don’t listen to a lot of classical. You may find yourself a convert!

Please keep in mind that these are not necessarily works you should try to play in the beginning. (A future article will discuss certain easy-to understand-and-play classical works.) The purpose of this list is to discuss works that have basic chord or harmony structures and memorable melodies to help you understand how music is constructed. To keep things simple, we will be looking at the first movements of each of these works in instances where there is more than one movement.

Ludvig van Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor "Quasi una fantasia", Op. 27, No. 2, better known as the “Moonlight Sonata,” is a melancholy and beautiful work featuring a relatively simple structure. Unlike most popular works of the era, which have a fast-slow-fast-fast order of movement structure, the first movement is slow relative to the others. When listening, consider the complex, yet flowing way the music moves from one part to the next. Then, reflect on the fact that Beethoven was completely deaf when he wrote the piece.


Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring

One of the most beautiful and popular works in Classical music is Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben,” BWV 147, commonly known as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” It has not only been used as a hymn (several sets of lyrics have been used, both in English and German), but it has been used frequently in weddings as well as Christmas and Easter celebrations. It is proof of the adage that simple is beautiful. A lovely orchestral instrumental version can be found here:


Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Major

Brahms was one of the world’s finest composers, and this work was among his best and most beloved. Although it was written for violin, and is a very challenging work for a violinist, it is listed as a great example of how melodies can be layered and built into a thing of true beauty.


Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3

You will not be able to play this your first year on the piano, or your first decade, unless you are a prodigy with godlike powers. This complex and masterful work is among the most challenging piano pieces in Classical music. Van Cliburn, Evgeny Kissin, and the legendary Vladimir Horowitz are among the very few pianists who have truly mastered this great work. So why list it here? Because it demonstrates what a pianist is capable of achieving with hard work and devotion to playing. Enjoy this masterpiece of the genre and let it inspire you.



These are but a few of the many great works that can inspire the beginning piano player. A future article will list and describe Classical piano works that you can play with just a little training.

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