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Having played a few of these, I want to throw in my thoughts.

The biggest thing for me is that the Ravel left hand is really not that difficult. I learned the whole thing in about 2 months of light practice, on the side whilst learning some other repertoire. Perhaps that is just because I am very familiar with his playing style, having played Miroirs, Gaspard, Jeux D'eau and the trio already, but I think it should move down to difficult or maybe the very bottom of very difficult. The G major is also generally reputed as one of the easiest concerti among the pianists I talk with, though I have only ever sightread it. I would rank Saint-Saens 2 as harder than both of them.

Also, Shostakovich 2 is a weird one. I have played it and accompanied a couple of people who played it, and it always ends up being weirdly more work than we expect. First movement, easy. Second, sightreadable. Third, easy at first... but then somehow it just takes forever to really polish those 6ths, 3rds and octaves. From a technical standpoint, I think it is harder than any mozart concerto, or at least the 7 I have played and accompanied. I also think that it's not a walk in the park, musically--it has to be legitimately quirky and fun, which not everyone can pull off!
 

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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!
 

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You don't understand piano-playing. We don't need your 2 cents lol.
Without going into the subjective nature of such listings, it is interesting that difficulty in this list seems to be almost in inverse proportion to "musical worth" (in my subjective opinion.). You have the upper tier that's really of interest to piano nerds (again in my subjective opinion - but come on. Sorabji and Alkan?) and then on down the difficulty scale you come to works that are appreciated by a wider audience.
 

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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.
 

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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.
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.

If trying to be objective, my top 4 of hardest standard concertos would be:
1. Rachmaninov 3
2. Brahms 2
3. Prokofiev 2
4. Bartok 2

Finally, the Schumann and Chopin 2nd are harder than one might think.
 

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Most difficult piano concerto

I've so enjoyed your list and all the subsequent reactions! It's such fodder for passionate debate amongst lovers of the genre/pianists. What is evident, to my thoughts, is that the concept of "difficult" is so incredibly subjective and dependent on the criteria applied to the subject. We all read your list with very different eyes…as is clear from the discussions (the Mozarts being a clear illustration of this, as so often observed as being difficult in the sense of musicality). It seems redundant to make the observation that every pianist finds certain composers more comfortable/easier to play than others. Hence any list of this nature causing much heated and highly entertaining debate! For my part (as a failed musician/pianist, pretty good as a child/teenager but not good enough to pursue as a career, but a continued life long music devotee) I'm looking through the list based purely on my thoughts of technical difficulties alone. In my "heyday" I played the Schumann, Mendelssohn No.1, Beethoven 3 and a handful of Mozart's…(badly admittedly!)…so the one placement that really screamed out to me, was the Prokofiev 1….easier than the Schumann?… as a huge teenage fan of Prokofiev, I had the scores of all 5 and remember only being able to play scattered pages, around the same time as learning the Schumann, which didn't tax me too much. Just one thought. Many thanks again for creating this list…and also for including a few I've not heard before. I'm excited to look those up and get to know.
 

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I love the Moszkowski 2 ( I presume you’re referring to the Op 59?)…I always think of it as being the result of the Grieg, Schumann and Mendelssohn 1, put into a blender. So many passages recall them throughout!…my only gripe with it is the 4th mvt’s main theme…it’s a tad Disney to my ears, though absolutely redeemed when it leads into the wonderfully Schumann-esque development! I always felt that he had either a conscious or subconscious leaning towards these works when writing it.
 

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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.
 

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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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