Already familiar with Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", Debussy's "Clair de Lune", and a Chopin nocturne or two? Want to deepen your knowledge of beautiful, atmospheric classical works for solo piano?
Here are ten great selections for you to explore!
Amy Beach: Four Sketches: III. Dreaming
Amy Beach was a pioneering composer in 19th Century USA. "Dreaming" is from her "Four Sketches", and bears a tagline from the Victor Hugo poem "À celle qui est voilée" (To the Veiled One): "You speak to me from the depths of a dream".
Children ages 6-12 can learn about the inspirational life of Amy Beach through our activity book:
Classical Inspirations: Amy Beach
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata No. 8, Op. 13 "Pathétique": II. Adagio cantabile
This three-movement piano sonata is one of Beethoven's most celebrated works. The slow second movement is famous for its beautiful cantabile (singing-style) melody.
Johannes Brahms: Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118: II. Intermezzo in A major
Brahms' "Six Pieces for Piano" were dedicated to close friend (and object of his affections) Clara Schumann - one half of the famous Schumann couple. The second piece is an intermezzo (a type of piece traditionally placed as a light diversion between two larger sections of a work), and is intimate and introspective.
Claude Debussy: La fille aux cheveux de lin
This is the 8th piece in Debussy's first book of "Préludes"; the title translates to "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair". It was inspired by a poem of the same name by Leconte de Lisle, and is recognised for its simplicity compared to much of Debussy's musical output.
Franz Liszt: Consolation No. 3
The "Consolations" are a set of 6 works by musical phenomenon Franz Liszt. The third Consolation is the most popular, and bears similarities to Chopin's "Nocturnes", particularly his Op. 27, No. 2.
Engagement with classical music through activities for ages 0-6:
Composer Activity Guide: Franz Liszt
Arvo Pärt: Für Alina
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is known for his "tintinnabuli" (bell-like) style of composing, clearly shown in this piece. It is dedicated to a family friend's 18-year-old daughter, who had moved to England with her father when her parents split up. It was meant as a consolation for her mother, missing her child.
Learn about the science of calm through classical music:
Classical Sessions for...Calm (for adults and teens)
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Prelude in C# minor
It is rare that we have recordings of famous historical composers performing their own works; listen below to hear Rachmaninoff playing his C# minor prelude! He actually grew to detest this piece, as he was requested to play it so often.
Children ages 6-12 can learn about Rachmaninoff's inspirational life in our activity book...
Classical Inspirations: Sergei Rachmaninoff
Maurice Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit: I. Ondine
The three-movement work "Gaspard de la nuit" is inspired by the poetry collection "Gaspard de la Nuit – Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot" by Aloysius Bertrand. The first movement "Ondine" is based on a poem of the same name about a water nymph who sings to seduce an observer into visiting her underwater kingdom.
Clara Schumann: Piano Sonata in G minor: II. Adagio
This work was Clara Schumann's first attempt at composing in the piano sonata form. Clara was a famous pianist and also a composer (though her husband Robert was more famous in this regard). She wrote in her diary: “I tried to compose something for Robert, and lo and behold, it worked! I was blissful at having really completed a first and a second sonata movement, which did not fail to produce an effect – namely, they took my dear husband quite by surprise". She gifted two movements of the work to her husband for Christmas, completing the "Adagio" and "Rondo" movements later.
William Grant Still: Three Visions: II. Summerland
"Three Visions" is a suite of three piano pieces. According to the composer's daughter, "the three segments of the suite, Dark Horsemen, Summerland, and Radiant Pinnacle, tell the story of the human soul after death: the body expires, and the soul goes on to an apocalyptic judgment. If it is seen that the past life has been a good one, the soul may enter “heaven,” or “Summerland”".