Celebrating 10 fathers who shine brightly in the world of piano playing

09 June 2021
By Erica Worth
With Father's Day fast approaching, we shine a spotlight on 10 piano-playing fathers, past and present, who have made their mark. Who's your favourite?

1. Leif Ove Andsnes

© Greg Hohenberg

Norway’s most famous musical export, this amiable pianist adorned the cover of the first ever issue of our magazine (appearing twice after that).

He has since become a top name on the circuit, both as a soloist and chamber musician, and is founding director of the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival. Nobody plays the Grieg Piano Concerto better!


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2. Daniel Barenboim

 © Paul Schirnhofer / DG

Argentinian child-prodigy Barenboim was performing in top venues before his feet could touch the floor. He has in his solo repertoire all the great masterpieces and has performed concertos with all the main orchestras. These days you’ll more often find him on the podium – conducting those very same orchestras.

One of his biggest legacies is the creation of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he founded in 1999 with cultural theorist Edward Said. The Orchestra is comprised primarily of Palestinian and Israeli musicians (his son Michael is concertmaster). Barenboim was issue 19 cover.


3. Alfred Brendel

The Viennese pianist retired from the concert platform in 2008, but has remained active lecturing, writing, giving readings of his poetry, and teaching master classes. His recordings of Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Schubert and more – on the Philips and Decca labels – will remain forever in the catalogue. His son Adrian is a renowned cellist.


4. Ludovico Einaudi

© Ray Tarantino

With over one million streams a day, the Italian pianist-composer has become the most streamed classical artist of all time.

His concerts sell out months in advance and his hypnotic music continues to speak to our need for stillness in a busy world. Einaudi appeared on the cover of Pianist 113.  


5. Emil Gilels

In 1955, this gentle giant of the keyboard was the first Soviet musician to perform in the United States since Sergei Prokofiev in 1921.

Not one for displaying pyrotechnics for the sake of it, each and every note came from the heart. Listen to his stunning Bach arr. Siloti Prelude in B minor below and you’ll understand what we mean.



6. Vladimir Horowitz

© Artur Umboh / DG

Once heard, never forgotten. With a unique combination of virtuoso technique, astounding tone and the ability to excite, the eccentric Russian-born American pianist always produced magic from the keys.

He was married to the formidable Wanda Toscanini (daughter of conductor Arturo) and is regarded as one of the greatest pianists of all time (this magazine’s editor stood in line overnight to grab tickets to his last-ever recital at New York’s Met).


7. Paul Lewis

© Musica Viva Australia

This ex-Brendel student is renowned for his cycles of core piano works by Beethoven and Schubert – all on the Harmonia Mundi label.

He is co-Artistic Director of Midsummer Music, an annual chamber music festival held in Buckinghamshire, UK. Listen to his recent live lunchtime concert from Wigmore Hall here. Lewis appeared on Pianist’s issue 54 cover.


8. Menahem Pressler

© Sasha Gusov / DG

A founding member of the acclaimed Beaux Arts Trio, this kind-hearted German-born Israeli-American pianist is still producing great music at the age of 96. Everyone who has ever studied or worked with him has been mesmerised by his remarkable insight and love for humanity.

‘He has a personality of an angel,’ said our editor Erica Worth, after she interviewed him for the magazine. Pressler appeared on the cover of Pianist issue 108.  


9. Sergei Rachmaninov

Great pianist, great composer. And such huge hands! Whose heart doesn’t melt when they hear the slow movement of his Piano Concerto No 2? His Concertos 2 and 3 are performed constantly in concert halls around the world and always appear on international piano competition concerto lists.

Van Cliburn wowed his Moscow audience when he won the inaugural Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958 with ‘Rach 3’.


10. Krystian Zimerman

© Bartek Barczyk / DG

There aren’t many concert pianists who travel the globe with their own piano. Well, this Polish pianist – who shot to fame after winning the International Chopin Competition in 1975 – does just that. In incidents in 2001 and 2006, one of his Steinways was completely destroyed and another one damaged by security staff at New York’s JFK.

No wonder he doesn’t perform in the US anymore! Zimerman is an exclusive DG recording artist and is best known for his deeply felt interpretations of Romantic music. He appeared on the cover of issue 119 of Pianist.


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