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Great Classical Music Performers


It is good to be familiar with some of the renowned performers of classical music.  Some of the following are specialists in certain types of music or composers, such as Bach or Spanish music.  Others are



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known for their distinctive interpretations of works by many composers.


Anton Kuerti is a respected Canadian pianist, having performed and recorded a large amount of the standard repertoire.  He has given especially distinctive performances of the Beethoven Sonatas and Concertos, while also covering the Schubert Sonatas, the Brahms concertos, and others.  Kuerti is also involved significantly in politics and has run for political office in Canada, especially promoting environmental issues.  Amazon catalog for Anton Kuerti


Martha Argerich is probably one of the most idiosyncratic or even eccentric pianists today.  She has superb technique, which allows her to produce often racing and highly energetic versions of some of the most famous and not-so-famous works.  For example she has performed the Shostakovich First Piano Concerto, an already fast-paced and carnival-esque work, at an even more uptempo pace than most.  She has performed Saint SaensCarnival of the Animals, again faster than usual.  It is a good experience when learning about a famous piece to check out Martha Argerich’s version, especially if the piece is a more upbeat or exciting one.  Amazon catalog for Martha Argerich


Richard Stoltzman is a clarinet player known for distinctive performances of various genres of music.  He is renowned for his performances of many classic works, and he presented the first clarinet recital at Carnegie Hall.  He has also produced strong interpretations of modern works, such as energetic renditions of John Adams’ clarinet concerto, Gnarly Buttons.  Stoltzman can even be heard in jazz concerts, playing with greats such as George Shearing and Chick Corea.  Amazon catalog for Richard Stoltzman


Alicia de Larrocha is well-known for her interpretations of Spanish works, such as Granados’ Spanish Dances and pieces by Mateo Albeniz.  These works can often be flamboyant and virtuosic, with a fiery, passionate sound.  She is also respected for performances of standard literature by Schumann and Mozart as well.  Amazon catalog for Alicia de Laroccha


Itzhak Perlman is one of the most famous and well-liked violinists today.  He has given great renditions of works from Saint SaensRondo Cappricioso, to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, to many pieces by Bach, Mozart, and Chopin.  Perlman also has made several jazz CD’s such as ragtime works and collaborations with Oscar Peterson.  Amazon catalog for Itzhak Perlman


Glenn Gould is famous for his recordings of Bach, including the Well-Tempered Clavier and Goldberg Variations.  He was extremely popular during his career, although about midway through he chose to stop giving live performances and only perform on recordings in the studio.  Gould was known to be somewhat solitary and very hard-working, and he was the subject of the movie, 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould.  Amazon catalog for Glenn Gould


Leonard Bernstein is the widely-known conductor, composer, and pianist who helped to infuse classical music with continued popularity in the 20th century.  As a pianist, he performed mainly three works: Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Ravel’s Concerto in G, and Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto.  He also conducted for the New York Philharmonic; wrote symphonies, chamber music, film scores, the Broadway musical West Side Story, and other popular works; and established a number of music festivals and educational events.  His influence is seen on dozens of recordings and in performances by many musicians today.  Amazon Catalog for Leonard Bernstein>


Gloria Cheng is a popular performer of new contemporary works.  Composers often come to her with dedications or to perform their new pieces, such as Esa Pekka Salonen’s Dichotomie and works by John Adams and Terry Riley.  She is a regular performer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and at many concerts featuring new music.  Amazon Catalog for Gloria Cheng


A few other famous pianists are:

Emmanuel Ax

Richard Goode

Vladamir Horowitz

Murray Parahia

Arthur Rubenstein

Earl Wild


Please note: this list is not meant to be comprehensive or to dismiss any artists—there are of course many other great performers to hear.  Those listed on this page are just some of those that people involved in classical music would often be familiar with.  For more performers one place to visit is Amazon’s list of featured performers and recordings.



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