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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I don't have real playing experience with a large amount of the pieces here so I would really appreciate feedback on placement. Even if you don't like lists like these I hope you can explore some new repertoire since I've tried to include many lesser-known concertos :)

Factors taken into account include technical difficulty, staminal difficulty, interpretative difficulty, difficulty of synchronization with ensemble, and it is vaguely sorted by difficulty within their classes from top to bottom.

Extraordinarily Difficult
Sorabji Concerto per suonare da me solo
Sorabji Concertos
Busoni Concerto
Messiaen Des Canyons aux Étoiles
Barber Concerto
Alkan Solo Concerto
Carter Concerto
Ives Emerson Concerto
Ginastera Concerto No.1
Rautavaara Concerto No.1
Lutoslawski Concerto
Ligeti Concerto
Rautavaara Concerto No.2
Corigliano Concerto
Cage Concert for Piano and Orchestra

Ridiculously Difficult:
Ginastera Concerto No.2
Bartok Concerto No. 2
Prokofiev Concerto No.2
Xenakis Palimpsest
Babbitt Concerto
Bartok Concerto No.1
Messiaen Oiseaux Exotiques
Bortkiewicz Concerto No.2
Strauss Burlesque
Rachmaninov Concerto No.3
Busoni Indian Fantasy
Tveitt Aurora Borealis
Scriabin Prometheus or the Poem of Fire
Perle Piano Concerto No. 1
Brahms Concerto No.2
Korngold Left Hand Concerto
Perle Piano Concerto No. 2
Rozycki Concerto No.1
Kapustin Concerto No.6
Ravel Left Hand Concerto

Extremely Difficult:
Tchaikovsky Concerto No.1
Marx Concerto
Atterberg Concerto
Ireland Concerto
Kapustin Concerto No.5
Rachmaninov Concerto No.1
Lyapunov Concerto No.1
Rubinstein Piano Concertos
Penderecki Concerto
Lyapunov Concerto No.2
Medtner Concerto No.1
Medtner Concerto No.3
Bortkiewicz Concerto No.3
Medtner Concerto No.2
Bliss Piano Concerto
Brahms Concerto No.1
Rachmaninov Concerto No. 4
Schoenberg Concerto
Liebermann Concerto No.2
Liebermann Piano Concerto No.1
Vaughan-Williams Concerto
Liszt Totentanz
Bortkiewicz Concerto No.1
Moszkowski Piano Concerto No.2

Very Difficult
Tchaikovsky Concerto No.2
Rimsky-Korsakov Concerto
Ravel Concerto in G
Tchaikovsky Concerto No.3
Prokofiev Concerto No.3
Chen Er Huang
Macdowell Piano Concerto No.1
Macdowell Piano Concerto No.2
Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini
Kapustin Concerto No.4
Schnittke Piano Concerto
Jaëll Concerto No.1
Stravinsky Concerto for Piano and Winds
Liszt Concerto No.2
Debussy Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra
Rautavaara Concerto No.3
Prokofiev Concerto No. 4
Scriabin Concerto
Xinghai Yellow River Concerto
Rachmaninov Concerto No.2
Stenhammar Piano Concerto
Franck Variations
Liszt Concerto No.1
Chopin Concerto No.2
Bronsart Concerto
Chopin Concerto No.1
Kapustin Concerto No.3
Reinecke Concerto No.1
Moszkowski Piano Concerto No.1
Britten Diversions for Piano Left Hand and Orchestra
Reinecke Concerto No.2
Prokofiev Concerto No. 5
Khachaturian Piano Concerto
Bartok Concerto No.3
Alkan 3 Concerti da Camera
Balakirev Piano Concerto
Schumann Concerto in A Minor

Saint-Saens Concerto No.3
Beethoven Concerto No.4
Hummel Concerto No.2
Kapustin Concerto No.2
Adams Century Rolls
Beethoven Concerto No.5
Poulenc Concerto
Saint-Saens Concerto No. 2
Mendelssohn Concerto No.2
Moscheles Concertos
Saint-Saens Concerto No.5
Massanet Concerto
Dvorak Piano Concerto
Saint-Saens Concerto No.4
Beethoven Concerto No.3
Mozart Concerto No.20
Mendelssohn Piano Concerto
Weber Konzertstück for Piano and Orchestra
Arensky Concerto
Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
Prokofiev Concerto No.1
Chopin Andante Spinato et Grande Polonaise Brillante
Gershwin Concerto in F
Grieg Concerto
Mozart Concerto No.27
Mozart Concerto No.15
Mozart Concerto No.17
Busoni Early Concerto
Mozart Concerto No.22
Mozart Concerto No.25
Janacek Concertino
Yoshimatsu Memo Flora
George Gershwin Variations on the theme of "I Got Rhythm"
Shostakovich Concerto No.1

Less Difficult:
Shostakovich Concerto No.2
Ustvolskaya Concerto
Nyman "The Piano Concerto"
Scott Early One Morning
Mozart Concerto No.21
Mozart Concerto No.23
Mozart Concerto No.16
Mozart Concerto No.26
Mozart Concerto No.19
Haydn Concerto No.11
Beethoven Concerto No. 2
Kabalevsky Piano Concerto No.2
Emerson Piano Concerto No.1
Kabalevsky Piano Concerto No.1
Beethoven Concerto No. 1
Kabalevsky Piano Concerto No.3

1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I am surprised you put the Dvorak so low. Isn't it supposed to be monstrously difficult to play?
According to Leslie Howard, yes.

However I took it upon to look through the score and learn much of the piece-it is not extremely difficult at all and most of the writing is very similar to Beethoven's concerti.

Perhaps Howard, being a Liszt specialist, found trouble with the more classically oriented writing.

1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I completely agree, the difficulty of the third movement is rather overstated. It's not an easy piece but nowhere near Beethoven at his hardest.

1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #23 · (Edited)
Th3 Henselt is usually mentioned as fiendishly difficult although it doesn't sound apparently has long stretches as the composer had a very long stretch himself. Of course the art of writing a virtuoso concerto is that it sounds difficult as well as being difficult and something like the Rachmaninov 3 or the Tchaikovsky does just that. Always seems to be pretty pointless to write a very difficult work which doesn't sound difficult and doesn't take the audience's breath away. Alkan is apparently fiendishly difficult but doesn't sound it which is why pianists avoid it.
The Alkan Concerto sounds plenty difficult to me. It has many flamboyant and sparkling passages, often heavily wrought with accidentals. I suspect people don't learn it as often because it is so long (nearly an hour) and contains far too many double notes and octaves to comfortably play in one sitting.

A truly difficult concerto that has almost no virtuosic writing in it whatsoever would have to be the Brahms' First. Very thin and Beethovenian writing but immensely awkward to play, far more difficult than the Tchaikovsky or Liszt concerti that sound much harder. I don't think it is pointless to be difficult without the virtuoso element if the flamboyance is replaced with sheer beauty, like in the Brahms concerto.

I think the four concertos of F.X. Scharwenka belong on this list. They are attractive to listen to yet extremely challenging for the pianist -- Scharwenka wrote them for himself to perform. Steven Hough's recording of Nos. 1 and 4 is superb. In your very fine list, which seems well-prepared to me, Scharwenka's concertos would probably belong in your first three categories.
I have indeed listened to the Scharwenka concerti. They are quite beautiful and look fairly difficult, but I am not sure where to put it quite yet. Most likely in the third category.

1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
I see you've ranked Barber (among others) in a tier above this one. Really, the Barber? It's a beautiful concerto, but it doesn't sound more difficult than the Prokofiev 2, to my ears anyway.
Both are extremely difficult and I would not be surprised if they are actually closer in difficulty than I originally presumed. However from what I have played from it, it is more awkward than the Prokofiev- which, despite it's huge flourishes is actually mostly pianistic. The Barber is also a less tonal which probably makes it harder to learn and memorize.

Additionally, it is reported that Horowitz considered the Barber concerto to be impossible...

1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)
How are the MacDowell piano concerti? Not in difficulty, but quality. Worthy of a listen?
Certainly the best American concerti until the 20th century! Very late-romantic in sound and technique.

Melodically it's more like Brahms than anything we'd associate with America, but the orchestration is more...exotic

1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #49 ·
I'm surprised the Moszkowski is ranked so low. I played the saint-saens in high school and it is nowhere NEAR how tough Moszkowski is. The first movement alone seems to throw every technique in the book at you. Definitely an underrated concerto in my opinion!
It is in the "extremely difficult" category so I don't see where your surprise comes from! The first movement is certainly technique heavy but quite pianistic, as long as you are up for it.

1,323 Posts
Discussion Starter · #58 ·
Applying some necromancy to this thread... I read through the Moszkowski concerto today (at an extremely slow pace), and while it's certainly long and contains many notes to learn, I don't think it's "extremely" difficult.

There is a distinct lack of explicitly challenging passages. For example, all two hand runs are at the octave (rather than at thirds or sixths). There's one annoying chromatic third run, but other than that the runs are just single note runs. Jumps are usually sensible and there's plenty of time to execute them. It's almost as though Moskowski decided to use the minimum amount of difficulty needed to write what he had to say.
Yes, I actually performed the Moszkowski and it is very pianistic. But I think you will find that the other concertos in the same category will be similarly difficult. After all, there are two more categories above "extremely" difficult so if you're a strong pianist the "ridiculous" and "extraordinary" sections are where I'd suspect the actual difficult passages lay.

Of course, if you're used to the Grieg and Saint-Saens concerti then the Moszkowski is indeed "extremely" difficult.

Interesting list.
Maybe too much weight of rather obscure "contemporary" concertos in the first group that most people have only heard about but never listened to.
Only three "real" repertoire works in the second group.
Hm, I don't see the point of only listing works that people already know.

I think you could add Mozart no 24, Gershwin's Second Rhapsody, Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, Dohnayi's Variations on a nursery tune, Messiaen's Turangila Symphony and a probably a dozen of romantic piano concertos that may, although forgotten, at least be as interesting as some of the newer stuff.
Yes, the list could do with these additions
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