Classical Piano for Beginners

An Introduction to Classical Piano

Although piano did not start out as a major instrument in classical music, by the 18th century it was an integral part of this art form. It is impossible to consider classical music without understanding the importance of the piano. In this article, we will go over a brief history of Classical piano and provide you with several musical pieces you are sure to enjoy.

Basics of classical piano music

Classical music as we know it began in the 11th century and continues to grow in popularity to this day. Whereas most popular styles lend themselves to the song form, classical music has been noted for its development of highly sophisticated forms of instrumental music.

Piano has its origins in earlier stringed instruments that were struck with hammers, such as the dulcimer, the clavichord and the harpsichord. The pianoforte as we know it was invented around 1700 by Bartolomeo Cristofori. (Three of his pianos dating from the 1720s still exist.)

The Classical era, from about 1750 to 1820, established many of the norms of composition, presentation, and style and was also when the piano became the predominant keyboard instrument.  During the Romantic era which followed, pianos were used more and more by the middle class, due to their improved construction and affordability.

Piano concertos

A piano concerto is a work written for a piano accompanied by an orchestra or other large ensemble. Although there were earlier concertos composed for other keyboard instruments and later adapted for piano, concertos were composed for piano beginning in the classical period in the 18th century.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the most important composer in the early development of the form. Mozart’s body of masterly piano concerti put his stamp firmly on the genre well into the romantic era. Mozart wrote many piano concertos for himself to perform, and his 27 piano concertos also include concerti for two and three pianos. With the rise of the piano virtuoso, many composer-pianists did likewise, notably Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, and Robert Schumann.

A classical piano concerto is often in three movements:

1. A quick opening movement in sonata allegro form including a cadenza (which may be improvised by the soloist).
2. A slow, free expressive movement
3. A faster rondo

Over time, the term “concerto” was used a little more loosely to describe multiple forms of classical works composed primarily for piano with orchestra, even if they didn’t fit narrowly into that mode.

Recommended works

  • Harpsichord Concerto No. 1, BWV 1052, Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750
  • Piano Concerto No. 4, G Major, Op. 58, Ludwig van Beethoven, 1805-06
  • Piano Concerto No. 21, C Major, K. 467, W. A. Mozart, Time: 1785
  • Piano Concerto No. 1, D Minor, Johannes Brahms, 1881
  • Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Dmitri Shostakovich, 1933
  • Piano Concerto No. 3, E Major, Bela Bartok, 1945
  • Piano Concerto No. 1. B-Flat Minor, Op. 23, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1874-75
  • Piano Concerto No. 2, C Minor, Op. 18, Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1900-01

Listen and learn

Enter a new world of musical wonder with these and other classical piano works.