The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works Series

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24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Piano Starts Here!
Begin by reflecting on the life of the concert pianist and the extraordinary rigors and demands of this unique profession within the music world. Then trace the history of the…
Episode 2 J. S. Bach—The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book One
Learn about the aesthetic of the High Baroque, with its duality of exuberant expression and intellectual control. Define the highly controlled fugue as a "polyphonic" musical form, and the free-form…
Episode 3 J. S. Bach—Goldberg Variations
Trace the roots of this masterpiece and the circumstances of its creation. Penetrate its complexity by digging into its "concentric" structure to discover the remarkable "trinities" and how they serve…
Episode 4 Mozart—Piano Sonata in C Minor, K. 457
Mozart single-handedly enlarged the scale, virtuosity, and importance of the piano sonata. Track Mozart's rise as a keyboard prodigy and his transition from the harpsichord to writing music specifically for…
Episode 5 Beethoven—The Appassionata Sonata
First, learn how Beethoven's relationship with the organ led to the orchestral power and sonority of his piano works. Also trace how the Appassionata grew from the composer's psychological self-reinvention…
Episode 6 Beethoven—Diabelli Variations, Op. 120
Arguably the greatest of all works for solo piano, these glorious variations were written on an invitation from composer Anton Diabelli. Grasp the extraordinary ways in which Beethoven varies the…
Episode 7 Schubert—Piano Sonata No. 21 in B-flat Major
Among relevant details of the composer's life, learn about Schubert's tragic struggle with ill health, Beethoven's influence as a role model, and the importance of song in the character of…
Episode 8 Chopin—Préludes, Op. 28
As context for studying the music of Chopin, delve into the aesthetics of 19th-century Romanticism, its emphasis on self-expression, and its model of the artist-hero. Discover the lyric intimacy, harmonic…
Episode 9 Chopin—Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23
Chopin's music for the piano was directly impacted by the evolution of the instrument itself. First, study two innovations in piano design that produced more resonant pianos. Then, take apart…
Episode 10 Schumann—Kreisleriana
Trace the origins of this landmark of Romanticism in Schumann's fascination with the novels of E.T.A. Hoffman. In the eight extraordinary movements of Kreisleriana, consider how Schumann writes a spiritual…
Episode 11 Liszt—Years of Pilgrimage
Explore the legacy of Franz Liszt as piano virtuoso, composer, and innovator in piano writing. Encounter the passionate, demonic figure of Liszt, the ultimate virtuoso-hero, packing concert halls and raising…
Episode 12 Liszt—Sonata in B Minor
Probe further into the extraordinary life and contribution of Liszt. Follow the events of his trailblazing virtuoso career and his near burnout that led to the introspective period in Weimar…
Episode 13 Brahms—Handel Variations, Op. 24
Contemplate the name of this work as it reveals Brahms's spiritual links to the musical past and his individualist stance as a Romantic-era composer. Learn also about defining influences in…
Episode 14 Brahms—Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118
Explore Brahms's musical aesthetics that combined 18th-century formal procedures with a fully Romantic expressive content. Uncover the riches of the six pieces of Opus 118, highlighting the compositional ingenuity of…
Episode 15 Mussorgsky—Pictures at an Exhibition
In 19th-century Russia, Mussorgsky and his contemporaries rejected the influence of German composers in seeking to create a music that would be purely Russian. Experience the power and directness of…
Episode 16 Debussy—“The Sunken Cathedral”
Here, journey into Debussy's early life as he broke with the musical past to create stunningly original piano works. Study five elements of Debussy's revolutionary style used to evoke the…
Episode 17 Debussy—Préludes, Book One
Begin this episode with reflections on Debussy's personality and artistic influences, including that of French Symbolist poetry, as they influenced his musical creations. Focus on the storytelling content, ethereal textures,…
Episode 18 Albéniz—Iberia
Albeniz's magnum opus for the piano celebrates the culture of the Andalucia region of Spain. Identify the characteristic elements of Andalusian folk music, such as the Phrygian mode, Flamenco rhythms,…
Episode 19 Ravel—Valses nobles et sentimentales
Explore the evolution of the waltz as a popular dance and musical form, and how the Viennese waltz, paradoxically, became a metaphor for both civility and tragedy. Experience the rich…
Episode 20 Scriabin—Piano Sonata No. 5
Beginning as a post-Romantic composer, Alexander Scriabin made a dramatic transition, embracing theosophy and a vision of music as mystical revelation. In this daring, modernist piece, see how Scriabin shapes…
Episode 21 Rachmaninoff—Études-tableaux
Explore Rachmaninoff's dual life as a composer and a peerless piano virtuoso, and the linking of his musical destiny with the American-made Steinway piano. In the Etudes, see how Rachmaninoff…
Episode 22 Prokofiev—Piano Sonata No. 7
In the Sonata no. 7, follow the unfolding of the first movement's two themes, alternating brutal force with quiet rumination. Grasp the expressive content of the second movement, based on…
Episode 23 Copland—Piano Variations
American concert music emerged in the early 20th century as a synthesis of musical types and influences. Trace its dynamic mix of elements, encompassing West African rhythm and melodic structures,…
Episode 24 The A-List
Survey nine iconic piano pieces from Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Rubinstein, Dvorak, and Debussy; the stories behind their writing; and the often amusing ways in which these works have…

Related videos

Piano Starts Here!
Begin by reflecting on the life of the concert pianist and the extraordinary rigors and demands of this unique profession within the music world. Then trace the history of the harpsichord, the piano's predecessor, and how the piano evolved from its beginnings in 1700 into the modern concert instrument.
Beethoven—Diabelli Variations, Op. 120
Arguably the greatest of all works for solo piano, these glorious variations were written on an invitation from composer Anton Diabelli. Grasp the extraordinary ways in which Beethoven varies the theme, using allusion, humor, and parody.
The A-List
Survey nine iconic piano pieces from Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Rubinstein, Dvorak, and Debussy; the stories behind their writing; and the often amusing ways in which these works have taken root in our culture. Contemplate the scope of the piano repertoire, a literature that is, as Professor Greenberg says,…
Music as a Mirror of History
In the worlds of painting and literature, it's easy to see where history and art intersect. But what about music? What is the intersection--if any--between the masterworks of Western concert music and the historical times that surrounded them? The unique manner of inquiry of this course offers you an analysis…
Liszt—Years of Pilgrimage
Explore the legacy of Franz Liszt as piano virtuoso, composer, and innovator in piano writing. Encounter the passionate, demonic figure of Liszt, the ultimate virtuoso-hero, packing concert halls and raising audiences to heights of ecstasy and adulation. Through his Years of Pilgrimage, learn how Liszt redefined what was possible in…
Mozart—Piano Sonata in C Minor, K. 457
Mozart single-handedly enlarged the scale, virtuosity, and importance of the piano sonata. Track Mozart's rise as a keyboard prodigy and his transition from the harpsichord to writing music specifically for the piano. Through the great C Minor Sonata, grasp his lyric, operatic use of the piano that looks toward the…
Chopin—Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23
Chopin's music for the piano was directly impacted by the evolution of the instrument itself. First, study two innovations in piano design that produced more resonant pianos. Then, take apart the musical architecture of the G Minor Ballade to see how Chopin creates a dramatic poem with an emotional narrative…
Messiah: From Entertainment to Ritual
Learn about the sources and meanings of the Messiah's text, and witness the remarkable realization of the text in Handel's music. Explore Handel's brilliant compositional ingenuity in the oratorio, and follow the story of how the Messiah rose to become one of the centerpieces of the Western canon of classical…
The Great Works of Sacred Music
Western classical music is one of humanity's most sublime artistic traditions. This musical language - encompassing genres from symphonic and instrumental music to choral works and opera - was created through the meeting of art and faith. The lineage of sacred works produced some of the greatest masterpieces in Western…
Greek 101 - Learning an Ancient Language
Discover beauty that no translation can capture, and get direct access to a remarkable heritage. Learn ancient Greek with an innovative professor using two great masterworks: Homer's Iliad and the New Testament. Covering the topics in a typical year of introductory college-level ancient Greek, Greek 101 exposes you to authentic…
Subject Matters
Focusing on masterworks by Van Eyck and Rubens, define three levels of iconography (subject matter). Also study the academic codifying and ranking of subject matter in art, probing subject and deeper meaning in a variety of religious and history paintings, still lifes, landscapes, portraits, and genre works.
Man and Meaning: Bach’s Cantatas
Bach's sacred works are perhaps the most celebrated in Western music. Learn about the chorale and cantata, musical forms famously used by Bach. Study his great Cantata No. 80, a beautiful example of Bach's ingenious blending of the traditional (a chorale by Martin Luther) with the new (elements of recitative…