Most Beautiful Piano Songs and Pieces – Top 18

Of all the instruments, the piano has the most number of songs written for it. From the classics to today, you are bound to find many songs that you enjoy. In this article, I’ll list the most beautiful piano songs and pieces – old and new.

Most Beautiful Piano Songs – The Classics:

  1. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
  2. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C-sharp Major
  3. Clair de Lune
  4. Goldberg Variations
  5. Piano Concerto No. 20
  6. Piano Concerto No. 5
  7. Polonaise-Fantasy
  8. Sonata in A Major D959

Most Beautiful Piano Songs From the 20th Century:

  1. Let It Be
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. Imagine
  4. Someone Like You
  5. Don’t Look Back in Anger
  6. Wuthering Heights
  7. Mad World
  8. The Last Time I Saw Richard
  9. Anecdotes
  10. Clocks

Read on to learn more about the most beautiful piano songs and pieces including the story behind each.

Most Beautiful Piano Songs – The Classics

1. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata

This piano solo by the great Ludwig van Beethoven is also known as the Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2: Sonata quasi una fantasia. It is an incontestable fact that this piece is just absolutely exquisite. This piano piece is dreamy, lively, romantic, and mysterious rolled into one.

Beethoven wrote this piece when he still had enough sense of hearing. However, it was rapidly deteriorating at that time. His masterpiece was completed in the year 1801 and then published the following year. It was already considered a brilliant piece then.

The common sonatas of this era, had an animated first movement, a toned-down second movement, and a vibrant third movement. But the talented Beethoven created the Moonlight Sonata with a dreamy first movement, a lively and vibrant second movement, and a turbulent and tempestuous third movement.

2. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C-sharp Major

The Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 is part of the Hungarian Rhapsodies 1 to 19 by the great composer Franz Liszt. The No. 12, which takes about eleven minutes to play, has become one of the more popular ones. The rhapsodies are based on Hungarian folk themes, which are quite known for their difficulty.

Liszt was a Hungarian pianist and one of the most influential composers in the Romantic era. He incorporated in the rhapsodies numerous themes from his hometown in Western Hungary. Moreover, he used many effects in his piano pieces that are distinctive, such as the twanging of the cimbalom and displaced rhythms.

3. Clair de Lune

This piano piece is one of Claude Debussy’s famous works. Clair de Lune is French for “moonlight.” However, Clair de Lune should not be confused with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as there are very stark differences to it.

As a beginner or intermediate pianist, don’t be tricked by the easy introduction of the piece. The middle part of Clair de Lune is difficult and demands the very best from its performers. In this piece, many chords can be daunting to play. So, consider it a huge accomplishment when you master this piece.

4. Goldberg Variations

The Goldberg Variations is Johann Sebastian Bach’s towering masterpiece. It is said that Bach composed this piece for a Russian count who had insomnia and needed music to help him sleep.

This piece was originally written for the harpsichord. It was later performed on the piano, and Johann Goldberg was likely the first to play it. Therefore, the piece was named after him. However, to this day, this piece is still greatly performed on the harpsichord.

The Goldberg Variations is very demanding to play as it is very long – it has 30 variations and an aria. This masterpiece is also considered as the highest model of Baroque theme and variations.

beautiful piano pieces

5. Piano Concerto No. 20

The Piano Concerto No. 20 was composed by the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The story behind this fascinating piano piece is that Mozart had just finished writing it before his first public performance of the piece. The ink was literally still wet!

This piece showcases the brilliant and prolific talents of Mozart. He wrote this piece in the key of D minor and is the first of two concertos written in a minor key. Ludwig van Beethoven truly admired this piece and even wrote a cadenza on it. It is in three movements: allegro, romanze, and rondo, allegro assai.

6. Piano Concerto No. 5

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote this piece, which is also popularly known as Emperor Concerto. He wrote this piece in Vienna and regarded as his last completed piano concerto.

This beautiful piano piece was dedicated to Archduke Rudolf of Austria, a great friend and student of Beethoven. It is the most performed and best-known piece of Beethoven since it premiered in 1811 in Leipzig, Germany. This piece was composed during very challenging times when Napoleon’s troops were bombing Vienna.

It is a powerful and expressive piece that has earned a place in the piano repertoire. Moreover, it has become a favorite of many great pianists, including the talented Franz Liszt.

7. Polonaise-Fantasy

Composed by Frederic Chopin, this piano piece shows the composer’s passion for the music of his native Poland. The Polonaise is Poland’s national dance, which already existed long before Chopin’s time. Chopin wrote polonaises that show his patriotic side.

The components of an authentic polonaise are ¾ time, rhythmic formulas, moderate tempo, and a distinguished character. The Polonaise-Fantasy is a concentrated, intense, meditative piece that slowly gained favor from performers because of its intricate and complex form.

Many performers find the Polonaise-Fantasy the most challenging to play out of all the polonaises that Chopin composed.

8. Sonata in A Major D959

This piece is the second of Franz Schubert’s last three piano sonatas. He wrote these last three pieces just a few months before his death. It was ten years later that these sonatas were published because they were neglected in the 19th century.

During the late 20th century, the public took notice of Schubert’s work, and to this day, these sonatas are considered among the most important of his masterpieces.

Many pianists and musicologists believe that the Sonata D959 shows the composer’s mental and emotional instability, which was said to have stemmed from his advanced syphilis when he composed the piece. It is a brilliant piano piece, which somehow shows desolation with its dramatically harsh modulations.

Most Beautiful Piano Songs From the 20th Century

1. Let It Be

This beautiful piano piece was written and sung by The Beatles’ legendary Paul McCartney. The story behind this song is that he had written it for his mother, who died from cancer when he was 14.

He stated in an interview that he dreamt of his mother, and in that dream, his mother told him, “Everything will be okay. Just let it be.” Thus, the birth of the song. This piece was also his last song before he left the band.

Playing Let it Be on the piano is actually a great training ground for beginners since it has effective and steady chord progressions in the piece. So when you play this beautiful piece, you’re learning the key ingredients to playing the chords of other songs, too!

2. Bohemian Rhapsody

Who hasn’t ever heard of this iconic song by Queen? Here is an amazing trivia about this song: Queen’s Freddie Mercury used the same piano to record Bohemian Rhapsody as Paul McCartney for Hey Jude.

This bold and totally fearless song was actually from a material that Mercury wrote for three songs. He, however, decided to use them all in one long extravaganza.

There’s no doubt about Mercury’s talent in playing the piano, as it was truly showcased in this piece. He said that he had worked out all the harmonies in his head and that he was going to make the song somewhat operatic – and that is indeed the Bohemian Rhapsody!

The Bohemian Rhapsody has become a popular piece to play for the intermediate-advanced pianists.

3. Imagine

This beautiful song was written by John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono. The song “Imagine” is so popular that it is in the list of 100 most performed songs of the 20th century.

Lennon composed this song on a white Steinway piano (which later sold for $1.7M at an auction) in a bedroom in his home in England. Yoko watched as he composed the chord structure, melody, and almost all the lyrics. He nearly completed that song on that day!

Luckily, Imagine is a piece that can be learned by beginners. It is a fairly easy piece with a rhythmic motion that will help build and practice your skills as a piano player.

4. Someone Like You

This absolutely beautiful piano piece was written by English singer-songwriter Adele. The piano playing in this song is exquisite with beautiful lyrics to match.

In an interview with Adele, she said that she wrote this piece after experiencing heartbreak, which makes the song very personal to a lot of listeners. Adele worked together with Dan Wilson on this song. It took them two days to complete the song.

5. Don’t Look Back in Anger

most beautiful piano songs

This piece is the beautiful signature song of the English band Oasis. Noel Gallagher was the genius behind this song, which was recorded in 1995 and released in 1996.

This song brought luck to the band because in the same month that it came out, Oasis won Best Album, Best Band, and Best Video (for Wonderwall – another signature song) in the Brit Awards!

The piano playing in Don’t Look Back in Anger is quite challenging but beautiful!

6. Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is a Kate Bush song released in 1977. It is inspired by the novel of the same title by Emily Bronte. Kate Bush wrote this song on the piano in one sitting, on a full moon night.

This song exceeded all expectations when it went up to number 1 in the United Kingdom in a span of three weeks. It was also a smash hit in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Italy. Listen to the piano that accompanies the lyrics – it truly is amazing!

7. Mad World

This song was written by Tears for Fears keyboardist and guitarist Roland Orzabal and sung by bassist Curt Smith. It was originally written for the guitar when Orzabal was only 19. He said that it didn’t sound quite right on guitar, with him as the vocalist.

With a few tweaks on the synthesizer with a good friend, the song ended up being sung by Curt Smith, and the guitar was traded in for the piano.

Mad World has a timeless nature because of its expressive lyrics and dynamic piano accompaniment. Whenever you listen to this song, you feel that the piano is totally speaking to you. 

8. The Last Time I Saw Richard

This song is written and performed by Canadian Joni Mitchell. It has exceptional piano playing that just touches you to your core. Mitchell exposes a part of her intimate self with this song.

Mitchell has received numerous awards, including nine Grammy Awards and the induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Joni Mitchell was also recognized as one of the best songwriters ever by Rolling Stone.

9. Anecdotes

Written by American singer-actress and multi-instrumentalist Joanna Newsom, this song clearly shows her talent as a keyboardist. In Anecdotes, Newsom sings about life, aging, and death. This song was part of her album “Divers,” released in 2015.

Joanna Newsom has this magical allure of taking you to another time, puts you in a dreamy reverie, and sweeps you up in her stories about life, love, and vast landscapes.

10. Clocks

This song was written by Chris Martin of the very popular British band Coldplay. Clocks was a last-minute addition to their second album. The song showcases a simple but effective piano riff that is cyclical and pulsing.

The song went on to achieve commercial success, and many critics commended the song’s piano melody. It won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 2003.

Conclusion – Most Beautiful Piano Pieces

So what are the most beautiful piano pieces? The most beautiful piano pieces and songs are as follows:

Most Beautiful Piano Songs – The Classics

  1. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
  2. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C-sharp Major
  3. Clair de Lune
  4. Goldberg Variations
  5. Piano Concerto No. 20
  6. Piano Concerto No. 5
  7. Polonaise-Fantasy
  8. Sonata in A Major D959

Most Beautiful Piano Songs From the 20th Century

  1. Let It Be
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. Imagine
  4. Someone Like You
  5. Don’t Look Back in Anger
  6. Wuthering Heights
  7. Mad World
  8. The Last Time I Saw Richard
  9. Anecdotes
  10. Clocks