Music History

Discover Classical Piano: Composers, Musical Pieces, and History

By Jesse Preis
Info on Classical Piano: Composers, Musical Pieces, and History.

Learn about classical piano composers and music below

Do you want to learn about classical composers and their music for piano? In this article, you’ll discover some great classical composers and find out about the classical piano pieces they created. 

Background information on classical piano music

What makes piano music classical and how is that different from jazz piano music or new-age piano music? Classical music has a deep tradition that began in Europe during the middle ages. First, classical music developed as a vocal art form, because the voice was the easiest instrument for people of that time to obtain. As time went on, instruments were developed and composed for, leading to the invention of the piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori in the early 1700s. Classical music is not easily described because there are many different styles and time periods within classical music. These time periods include the Baroque Era, Classical Era, Romantic Era, Modern Era, and Contemporary Era. Classical music is often performed exactly as the composer wrote it on the page, but jazz music includes much more improvisation. New-age music is often more influenced by popular music and uses simpler chord progressions.

Nearly every musical genre includes music written for the piano, making the piano one of the most versatile instruments ever invented. Whether you are listening to rock, pop, rap, jazz, country, or classical music, you are likely to hear a piano or electronic keyboard instrument included somewhere within the track.

There have been so many wonderful classical pieces written for the piano that this article barely scratches the surface, but we hope that this article inspires you to do more research and find other piano pieces that you enjoy!

Where to get classical piano sheet music

Whether you are a beginner, intermediate level pianist, or an advanced pianist, you can find and download classical piano sheet music from the Hoffman Academy website by clicking here. There are so many beautiful pieces to choose from!

Who are some famous composers of piano music?

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer who lived from 1685 until 1750. Although we’re listing him here as a composer of piano music, Bach was not a pianist. The piano was invented during his lifetime and wasn’t popular yet, so Bach is more well-known for playing and composing for the predecessors of the piano, such as the clavichord, harpsichord, and organ. His keyboard compositions, such as the twenty-four preludes and fugues that make up The Well-Tempered Clavier, are considered staples of the piano repertoire. An example of a very famous piece from The Well-Tempered Clavier is the Prelude and Fugue no. 1 in C Major

Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived from 1756 until 1791. Check out this article on his life and this article about some of his compositions. During his lifetime, Mozart was an extremely prolific composer, especially for classical piano. He composed over 18 piano sonatas, dozens of variations, small piano pieces, and piano concertos. Two very famous Mozart piano pieces include his Piano Sonata no. 16 in C Major and his Piano Sonata no. 11 in A Major, which includes the exciting Rondo alla turca (Turkish March).

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer who lived from 1770 until 1827. Check out this article about Beethoven’s life. Beethoven wrote many famous works for piano, including 35 piano sonatas, many variations, and smaller one-movement piano pieces. Here are some piano pieces that you can check out by Beethoven: Für Elise (you can download the music for this piece here), Piano Sonata no. 20 in G Major, Piano Sonata no. 14 in C# Minor (better known as the Moonlight Sonata), 

Polish composer Frederic Chopin was a popular piano virtuoso and composer who lived from 1810 until 1849. Some Chopin pieces that you may already be familiar with are his sad and beautiful Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28 no. 4 and his exciting Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. posth. 66. If you’d like to learn more about Chopin, check out this article about his life. 

Franz Liszt was a very popular Hungarian composer and piano rock star who lived from 1811 until 1886. Two pieces that you may already be familiar with are the Hungarian Rhapsody in C-sharp Minor and Liebestraum in A-flat Major “Notturno.” His pieces are known for their beauty and the technical challenges of performing them.

Claude Debussy was a French composer who lived from 1862 until 1918. You are most likely familiar with his famous “Clair de lune,” which, interestingly, was one of his least favorite compositions. He believed that it was an immature work since he composed it when he was only 28. He composed many other beautiful and beloved works using a unique style of composition that is now known as impressionism. Check out the list below to see other compositions by this brilliant composer!

Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer who lived from 1873 until 1943. He composed his extremely popular Prelude in C-sharp Minor when he was only nineteen! Similarly to the way Debussy viewed “Clair de lune,” Rachmaninoff also disliked this piece, believing it to be an immature work, but he performed it regularly since it was so popular with his audience! As a very skilled pianist, he went on to compose some of the most challenging and beautiful piano pieces in the modern concert repertoire, including preludes, etudes, piano sonatas, and piano concertos.

Examples of famous classical piano pieces

Johann Sebastian Bach

The Well Tempered Clavier, BWV 846-893

Italian Concerto, BWV 971 

Carl Philip Emanuel Bach

Solfeggietto in C Minor

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Piano Sonata no. 16 in C Major, K545

Rondo alla turca (Turkish March), from the Piano Sonata no. 11 in A Major, K331 

Ludwig van Beethoven

Bagatelle no. 25 in A Minor, “Für Elise”, WoO 59

Piano Sonata no. 20 in G Major, Op. 42, no. 2

Piano Sonata no. 14 in C# Minor, Op. 27, no. 2 “Moonlight

Franz Schubert

Impromptu in E-flat Major, Op. 90 no. 2

Impromptu in A-flat Major, Op. 90 no. 4

Frederic Chopin

Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28 no. 4

Prelude in D-flat Major, Op. 28 no. 15, “Raindrop” 

Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, Op. posth. 66

Waltz in D-flat Major, Op. 64 no. 1 “Minute Waltz”

Modest Mussorgsky

Pictures at an Exhibition Suite (“Baba Yaga” and “The Great Gates of Kyiv”)

Franz Liszt

Hungarian Rhapsody in C-sharp Minor, S244 no. 2 

Liebestraum in A-flat Major, S541 no. 3 “Notturno”

Consolation in D-flat Major, S172 no. 3

Claude Debussy 

“La cathédrale engloutie”

“Clair de lune”

Arabesque no. 1 in E Major


Sergei Rachmaninoff 

Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 3 no. 2

Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23 no. 5

Etude-Tableaux in D Minor, Op. 33 no. 4

Sergei Prokofiev

Tales of the Old Grandmother, Op. 31

Classical piano sheet music, piano tutorials & lessons for easy and intermediate classical piano pieces

If you are interested in piano tutorials for easy or intermediate classical piano pieces, Hoffman Academy’s YouTube channel has video tutorials that you can check out! Here is an intermediate level video for “Clair de lune.” Have fun and happy playing!

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