15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Italian Piano Players

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Music historians regard Italian piano players to be some of the most influential musicians in the world. Throughout history, they have stood out for their musical innovation and pioneering.

Their stories are as captivating as their performances, filled with passion, dedication, and an unwavering love for music. From legendary figures to contemporary artists, these Italian pianists represent the pinnacle of musical achievement.

So if you’re ready to delve into the rich tapestry of Italian piano music, continue reading to learn about 15 of the greatest and most famous Italian piano players.

1. Ludovico Einaudi

Begining this list is Ludovico Einaudi, who is regarded as one of the most important Italian pianists and composers of recent times.

He gained recognition early in his career for his classical compositions. Later, he dove into other genres and styles such as pop, rock, folk, and world music, with his work being featured in multiple award-winning films and trailers.

Einaudi’s impact on mainstream pop culture is undeniable, and it’s why he is so inspirational to many people across the globe. He continues to work and tour worldwide, showing off his amazing talents that are still changing the Italian music scene to this day.

2. Muzio Clementi

Up next is Muzio Clementi, an Italian-born English pianist and composer. He was most famous for his series of piano sonatas. The impact of his sonatas was so great that he was nicknamed Father of the Piano.

In addition to his contributions as a composer, Clementi also gained fame as a pianist, showcasing his skill in a famous piano duel with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Despite their rivalry, both musicians held mutual respect for each other’s talents.

Clementi’s unique legato-style of playing greatly influenced many renowned pianists, including Ludwig Van Beethoven and Frédéric Chopin. His compositions, performance style, and contributions to piano manufacturing have left an indelible mark on the history of western classical music.

3. Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Beginning his formal study of music at 10 years old, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli enrolled at the Milan Conservatory. Despite his family’s wishes for him to pursue a career in medicine, Michelangeli’s passion for music remained unwavering.

His passion for music never wavered. Through his passionate ambition, he went on to be one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.

Notorious for his eccentricity, Michelangeli often canceled performances if things were not exactly to his standards and specifications. It was this relentless pursuit of perfection that many believe contributed to his musical greatness.

4. Beatrice Rana

The youngest Italian pianist on our list, Beatrice Rana was born in 1993 in Copertino, Italy. She made waves by making her first orchestral debut at age 9, performing Bach’s Piano Concerto in F Mino

Later, Rana won first prize at the 2011 Montreal International Piano Competition. This solidified her position in modern culture as one of the most prominent and exciting Italian pianists of our time.

Continuing to make waves in the international music scene, Rana tours globally, allowing fans from all corners of the world to witness her exceptional talent firsthand. Her breathtaking performances and youthful energy bring a fresh perspective to classical piano.

5. Maurizio Pollini

Our next pianist, Maurizio Pollini, is well-known for his musical sophistication and integrity. Early in his career, he was inspired by left-wing politics and used his music as statement pieces in the Italian political climate.

He is most famous for his performances of compositions by Beethoven, Chopin, and Debussy. In these performances, Pollini is celebrated for his ability to accurately express the composer.

He has received many awards throughout his career, but the most noteworthy are the Grammy Awards he received in 1980 and 2007 for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance.

6. Romano Mussolini

The youngest child of notorious dictator Benito Mussolini, Romano Mussolini, achieved musical fame outside of his father’s shadow. Born in 1927, his passion for music was evident from a young age.

He had a privileged upbringing, during which he studied music and even played classical pieces with his father on the violin. Early in his career, he often played under an alias to avoid any association with his surname. While he denounced his father’s anti-Semitic policies, he did speak fondly of him as a father in his memoir.

Romano Mussolini was not only an accomplished Italian jazz pianist but also found success as a filmmaker and painter. His unique, melancholic playing style won him widespread acclaim in the world of music.

7. Maria Tipo

Born in 1931, in Naples, Italy, pianist Maria Tipo is known for her Romantic performances. She was first introduced to the piano at a very young age by her mother, a gifted pianist herself.

Her career took a significant turn when she won the first prize at the Geneva International Piano Competition at the mere age of 17. This win catapulted her into fame and recognition on the international stage.

Her first appearance in North America in the late 1950s, where she played over 300 concerts, caused her to be nicknamed the Neapolitan Horowitz. Her performances are often described as deeply moving and special, with some of her best work including her renditions of Chopin’s Complete Nocturnes.

8. Ferruccio Busoni

As a pop culture icon of his era, Ferruccio Busoni worked closely with many musicians, artists, and creatives, influencing them greatly. His skills as a pianist and composer, combined with his intelligence, catapulted him into fame and recognition.

Born in 1866, in Empoli, Italy, Busoni was recognized early on as a child prodigy. His talent did not fade as he grew older but blossomed further.

His compositions, which often pushed the boundaries of traditional harmonic language, were characterized by a unique blend of Romantic emotion and Baroque structures. These works ranged from operas to chamber music.

9. Gilda Buttà

Hailing from the beautiful island of Sicily, Italy, Gilda Buttà graduated from the prestigious Conservatorio Musica Verdi Milano with the highest honors at the tender age of just 16.

Her musical journey is marked by success both as a soloist and as part of chamber ensembles. Her remarkable skills have been put to use in several film soundtracks, where her musical contributions have significantly influenced the sound of cinema.

As a dedicated educator, Buttà has shared her knowledge and passion for music with the next generation of Italian youth. Through her teaching, she has inspired countless students to pursue their musical dreams, thereby ensuring that her artistic legacy continues to thrive.

10. Alfredo Casella

Alfredo Casella

With an undeniable influence on 20th-century Italian music, Alfredo Casella was a passionate advocate for the study and revival of classic Italian compositions. Born in Turin, Italy, in 1883, he showed an early aptitude for music and went on to study at the prestigious Paris Conservatoire.

Following his studies, he returned to Italy. He then founded the Italian Society of Modern Music. The Society organized concerts, promoted new works, and became a vital platform for contemporary Italian composers.

Casella was not only a facilitator but also a prolific composer himself. His compositions, which spanned a range of genres from symphonies to chamber music, blended traditional Italian elements with modern musical trends.

11. Renato Carosone

A striking figure in the world of music, particularly in the later part of the 20th century, was none other than the Italian pianist Renato Carosone. Born and raised in Naples, he was an ardent performer of Canzone Napoletana — a traditional form of Neapolitan music.

Carosone’s talent transcended borders, making him one of the first post-war Italian musicians to find success in the United States. Not only did he tour extensively across the country, but his records also found their way into many American homes.

In 1958, his song “Totero” hit the charts in the United States. His other song “Tu Vuò Fa’ L’Americano” is another popular hit even to this day.

12. Enrico Pieranunzi

A unique blend of classical elements with jazz characterizes the musical style of Enrico Pieranunzi, an Italian pianist and composer who has made significant contributions to the world of music.

His creativity and versatility have resulted in a staggering repertoire of over 60 albums, demonstrating his prolific output as a recording artist.

Before embarking on his illustrious recording career, Pieranunzi honed his skills and shared his love for music through teaching. This experience not only enriched his understanding of music but also allowed him to inspire young musicians.

In addition to his achievements in recording and teaching, Pieranunzi expanded his creative horizons by composing scores for films.

13. Paolo Conte

In the world of Italian music, few names shine as brightly as that of Paolo Conte. Before stepping into the limelight as a musician, Conte demonstrated his diverse talents and dedication by successfully becoming a lawyer.

In addition to his legal and musical careers, Conte’s songs found their way onto both the big and small screens. His compositions have been used in films and television, like Mickey Blue Eyes and La freccia azzurra.

The pinnacle of Conte’s achievements came in 1999 when he was honored with the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. This prestigious award, presented to him by President Giorgio Napolitano, recognized his significant contributions to the field of music.

14. Elio De Angelis

One of the most interesting people on this list is ​​Elio de Angelis. He was not only a successful pianist, but he was also a professional Formula One race car driver. He was known to entertain his fellow F1 drivers with impromptu piano performances in their hotels

Born into a wealthy family in 1958, de Angelis inherited a passion for speed from his father Giulio. However, Elio’s love for racing was equaled by his passion for music, leading him to become an accomplished pianist.

However, his promising careers in both music and racing were tragically cut short on May 15, 1986. During a private testing session at the Paul Ricard track in France, de Angelis’s car crashed, and he succumbed to his injuries later.

15. Alessio Bax

Closing this list is Alessio Bax, who had an impressive start to his career. He graduated from the Bari Conservatory at the astounding age of 14 years old.

He won first prize at both the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition and the Leeds Competition. These wins launched him to worldwide success.

He is renowned for his achievements as a recitalist, chamber musician, and soloist. After his studies in Italy, he continued to study across Europe and then moved to the United States.

Now living in New York, Bax is a Steinway artist. He is also a faculty member of Boston’s New England Conservatory.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous Italian Pianists

The realm of Italian piano music is adorned with many brilliant names. From Ludovico Einaudi to Elio de Angelis, Italy has produced some of the world’s most renowned pianists.

These artists have carried forward Italy’s rich musical heritage. Their contributions, diverse styles, and unwavering dedication to their craft serve as an inspiration for aspiring musicians worldwide.

As we celebrate the accomplishments of these men and women, we acknowledge we might have missed other Italian pianists. Send us some recommendations, and we’ll be sure to include them here!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.