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Charles Valentin-Alkan - "12 Etudes in All the Minor Keys", Op.39 is one of the most technically demanding, large scale piano works ever written. Far surpasses the Liszt Transcendental Etudes in difficulty.

Speaking of Liszt, his solo piano transcriptions of the 9 Beethoven symphonies are (at least) equal in difficulty to Alkan's Op.39. My favorite recording of the complete set is by Cyprien Katsaris. Konstantin Sherbakov's recording is excellent as well.

Almost everything that Alkan wrote for the piano could be included in the most difficult piano repertoire, actually. My favorite Alkan interpreter is Jack Gibbons: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAB78B05E76DBE0BC

By the way, we cannot have a thread like this without mentioning the music of Leopold Godowsky. I won't ramble about GODowsky, but his "Passacaglia", "Piano Sonata in E Minor", and "Studies after Frederic Chopin" are also large scale works that require superhuman virtuosity.

So far we have:
-Alkan- 12 Etudes in All the Minor Keys, Op.39
-Liszt- Solo Piano Transcriptions of the 9 Beethoven Symphonies
-Godowsky- Passacaglia
-Godowsky- Piano Sonata in E Minor
-Godowsky- Studies after Frederic Chopin

I would add:
-M.Moszkowski- Piano Concerto in E Major, Op.59
-F.Busoni- Piano Concerto in C Major, Op.39
-M.Ravel- Gaspard de la nuit
-M.Ravel- Miroirs ("Alborada del gracioso" in particular)
-Any Alkan piece, really

...There are others, but those are the pieces that immediately come to mind for me.
 

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I'm curious about the hardest piano work. Please tell me and I can try it, to know my skills.
You must be a far better pianist than I am if you can even consider trying to play the more difficult works in the piano repertoire.

That said (and these are just off the top of my head, I'm sure others can think of even more difficult pieces):

Alkan - Le Chemin de Fer
Balakirev - Islamey
Beethoven - Sonata 29 ("Hammerklavier")
Prokofiev - Toccata
Ravel - Gaspard de la Nuit
Scriabin - Sonata 5
 

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Maybe you should check out Schumann's "Symphonic Etudes, Op.13". I obviously don't know how skilled you are as a pianist, but if you've never attempted the music of Alkan, Godowsky, etc; you should be able to handle something like Schumann's Op.13 before attempting some of the most difficult piano repertoire in history.
 

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There is no "hardest work".

Every hand is different.

Every pianist has different strengths and weaknesses.

I might find several of Chopin's Etudes to be incredibly difficult, while finding others to be simplicity itself...
...while you find the exact opposite to be true.

Every piece mentioned in this thread is extremely difficult to play well.

But if you asked for the "easiest pieces to play" I would contend that they are all difficult to play well as well. Chopin's E minor Prelude is a great example. Any young piano student can pluck out the notes, but I can tell virtually all I need to know about any professional pianist by hearing them play it. It makes interpretive demands at the highest level.

That distinction aside. Of course there is a class of piano music that makes extreme technical demands, on top of the requisite interpretive demands , like all the ones mentioned in this thread, any one of them could be the "most difficult" that any random pianist ever attempts.

***

All that said, for me personally as a pianist, Ives' Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., is the most difficult piece I have put serious time into.
I have also visited Alkan's Minor Key Etudes' on several occasions, and they deserve mention; I know them quite well, but the Ives was harder in more ways...
 

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There is no "hardest work".

Every hand is different.

Every pianist has different strengths and weaknesses.

I might find several of Chopin's Etudes to be incredibly difficult, while finding others to be simplicity itself...
...while you find the exact opposite to be true.

Every piece mentioned in this thread is extremely difficult to play well.

But if you asked for the "easiest pieces to play" I would contend that they are all difficult to play well as well. Chopin's E minor Prelude is a great example. Any young piano student can pluck out the notes, but I can tell virtually all I need to know about any professional pianist by hearing them play it. It makes interpretive demands at the highest level.

That distinction aside. Of course there is a class of piano music that makes extreme technical demands, on top of the requisite interpretive demands , like all the ones mentioned in this thread, any one of them could be the "most difficult" that any random pianist ever attempts.

***

All that said, for me personally as a pianist, Ives' Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass., is the most difficult piece I have put serious time into.
I have also visited Alkan's Minor Key Etudes' on several occasions, and they deserve mention; I know them quite well, but the Ives was harder in more ways...
Excellent post and I totally agree with the Op 28/4 as a way of gauging a pianist. Op 28/6 & 7 are similar. The hardest Chopin piece to get right interpretatively IMO is the Berceuse.
 

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I'm curious about the hardest piano work. Please tell me and I can try it, to know my skills.
I think it goes without saying that you shouldn't try any of these pieces unless you want tendonitis (applies to most of the pieces suggested here)- there's so much technique you need to learn for these. Like I've heard of beginners trying to play the liszt hungarian rhapsodies and injuring their hands as a result

Anways, the hardest solo piano pieces in the standard repertoire I can think of are

Beethoven Hammerklavier
Liszt Sonata Bmol
Liszt Don Juan, Norma, etc
Liszt TE#5
Schumann tocatta
Ravel Gaspard de la nuit
Scriabin sonata 5
Rachmaninoff Sonata #2
Bartok piano sonata
Barber piano sonata
Mussorsky pictures at an exhibition
Stravinsky petroucka/firebird suite
Balakriev Islamy
Brahms paganini variations
pretty much everything by Alkan
 

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I honestly have no idea, but as far as Liszt goes I was interested in Leslie Howard's perspective as per his most difficult works (from having played every note Liszt ever wrote for solo piano):

"Among his original works, and allowing for the fact that his greatest technical demands always proceed from an intrinsically musical need, the Scherzo and March tests an enormous variety of skills. Among the transcriptions, I'd nominate the finale of Beethoven's Ninth, and, from the fantasies, those on Don Giovanni (with the fuller text), Figaro/Don Giovanni(original version, not the Busoni), Les Huguenots and I puritani."

All this being said, difficulty is extremely subjective.

I also think the "pretty much anything by Alkan" comments are unfair: the guy wrote a lot of technically accessible music.
 

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Hardest?

Try playing a Mozart adagio or andante from piano concertos 20-27 or the andante from the piano sonata in F Major K 533.

Anyone graduating from Curtis or Juilliard can play Liszt Transcendental Etudes or Chopin Etudes like a mechanical robot, not missing a note.

The real virtuosity? A Mozart slow movement played in an emotionally satisfying manner that moves someone. Most difficult thing in music.
 

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Hardest?

Try playing a Mozart adagio or andante from piano concertos 20-27 or the andante from the piano sonata in F Major K 533.

Anyone graduating from Curtis or Juilliard can play Liszt Transcendental Etudes or Chopin Etudes like a mechanical robot, not missing a note.

The real virtuosity? A Mozart slow movement played in an emotionally satisfying manner that moves someone. Most difficult thing in music.
"The sonatas of Mozart are unique; they are too easy for children, and too difficult for artists."
― Artur Schnabel

"In Mozart's keyboard works everything is exposed. There are relatively few notes and each of them counts. Not only that you find the right key, but that you give each key the right nuance, the right inflection. If you are not careful you fall into a trap. This is also why these pieces are relatively rarely performed. I think that most players shy away from them. They either don't see the complications and think the pieces are too easy, or they do see the complications and find them too difficult."
Alfred Brendel
 
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