26 November 2019
By Ellie Palmer
To mark Thanksgiving, we've picked out 10 powerful American pianists who have been inspiring piano players around the world
Main photo: © WMKY
1. Constance Keene
Her 1964 recordings of Sergei Rachmaninov's Preludes are an absolute joy. And what a piano teacher she was later in her career! She can count Arthur Rubinstein and our very own Erica Worth (Editor of Pianist) among her students.
2. George Gershwin
Listen to the dapper American play Rhapsody in Blue and your heart will melt. A real American legend of the piano. Immerse yourself in this 149-track Gershwin album below.
3. Herbie Hancock
© 1978 CBS Television
Hancock's complete revamp of the role of the jazz rhythm section during his time in the Miles Davies Quintet scores him a place on this list. He's also released 42 albums during his career. Pretty remarkable to say the least.
4. Duke Ellington
The most recorded jazz composer/pianist of all time. Ellington led his own orchestra for over 50 years, melding his group of players into the best-known orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Take time to enjoy his masterpieces below.
5. Van Cliburn
© Nijs, Jac. de / Anefo
The first ever winner of the world-famous International Tchaikovsky Competition. So remarkable was his influence on the world of music that he created his very own piano competition to rival the very one he gained initial success with. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is held every four years, and is arguably held in just as high remark as any other piano competition in the world.
6. Jonathan Biss
Listen to his collection of Beethoven Piano Sonatas and you'll fall in love. He really knows how to make the piano sing. Biss appeared on the cover of issue 71 of Pianist.
7. Capitola Leodra Dickerson
© Frank Bolden
'Cappie' makes this list not just for her talents as one of America's most respected piano instructors. Her volunteer services and civil rights contributions are an inspiration to us all. The Ohio-born musician lived by The Golden Rule; the principle of treating others as they wish to be treated. Want to hear more about inspirational female pianists? Here are 10 female pianists we can't help but LOVE.
8. Eric Lu
© Eric Lu
A modern-day success just starting out his career who, with hope, will see many many more successful years to come. Lu gained international attention when he won 2018's Leeds International Piano Competition. He appeared on the cover of issue 106 of Pianist. Buy his debut album below.
9. Chloe Flower
©Instagram / @misschloeflower
She may not be on the same level as many of the piano legends above, but this list is about inspirational players. Chloe Flower is certainly one that stands out in that category. Flower works closely with organisations who focus on rescuing child sex slaves, victims of human trafficking in Cambodia, and victims of forced labour and slavery-like practices. If ever a young pianist needed inspiration, you only need to look at how Chloe Flower is using her fame. Download her debut recording with Sony Classics below. Chloe also spoke to Pianist earlier this year after her show-stopping Grammy performance with rapper Cardi B.
10. Leonard Bernstein
He may be more well known for his compositional skills, but we couldn't leave Mr Bernstein out. A genius in our eyes. It takes a truly special musician to say that they have not only directed the New York Philharmonic, but also composed the music for West Side Story and Peter Pan, won nine Grammys for a number of his symphonies, chamber works and solo works, AND conducted the world's leading orchestras.
We salute you. You can download his complete recordings below.
Main image: © Francis Wolff/Mosaic Images