It is the most versatile of instruments; it alone can play complex harmonies, its tone ranging from harsh and percussive to gliding and song-like. It is no wonder that there is a larger repertoire for the solo piano than for any other solo instrument.
Bach wrote two complete cycles of Preludes and Fugues exploring every key, major and minor, to demonstrate the advatages of the new tuning system. In the process he created an entire universe of music. Sviatoslav Richter's recording of both sets on 4 CDs is warm and poetic.
The only Bach recording of Martha Argerich is a sampling of Bach's keyboard music. Her virtuosity is matched by Bach's dance-like suites. This is a treasured CD of ours.
Mozart's piano sonatas are little gems, sparkling in their inventiveness and wit. Christoph Eschenbach's performance is superlative. And all 18 sonatas plus the Fantasia in C and some surprises on 5 CDs at bargain price. Grab it!
If Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier was the Old Testament of piano music, then Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas is the New Testament. A massive (10 CD) and definitive recording that got me hooked on classical music many years ago, and still one of my favourites today.
If the prospect of the above 12 hours of Beethoven is too daunting, then try this selection of the best-loved of the sonatas. Inlcudes the Moonlight, Appassionata, Waldstein, Pastoral, Tempest, Les Adieux and Pathetique on 2 CDs at bargain price.
Schubert's Impromptus are miniature masterpieces that manage to express the widest range of emotions and demand the greatest sensitivity and skill from the pianist. Wondrous stuff.
Chopin's compositions are almost exclusively small-scale piano works. The Nocturnes or Night Music, are elegant, peaceful, beautiful. Artur Rubinstein plays them with a touch so perfect it may make you weep. Alternatively see Chopin's Complete Works.
Stephen Bishop Kovacevich
Johannes Brahms was first and foremost a pianist. This 2 CD collection includes his richly textured Intermezzi, Ballades, Rhapsodies and Fantasias.
Welcome to the eccentric and happily bizarre world of Erik Satie. In contrast to the Brahms above, Satie's music is gossamer light, almost not there. He makes us love the little things, and leave us a little sad. Read our review.
Mussorgsky's Pictures, inspired by an art exhibition, is music like no other. More familiar in Ravel's orchestration, the original piano version on this CD is spine-tinglingly sharp. The final movement The Great Gate of Kiev will bring the house down.