These are the definitively the hardest pieces of music to play

11 September 2017, 17:35

berio sequenza scores

We’ve asked musicians, we’ve scoured the internet and our music library - these are the hardest pieces of classical music out there.

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji - Opus clavicembalisticum

Why not kick off with an impossible-to-pronounce piece? Here’s a blistering performance of this utterly bonkers piano piece - not for the faint-hearted:


Alexander Scriabin - Mysterium

So yeah, it’s an orchestral evocation of the end of the world that could potentially last for up to a week, and was intended to be performed in the foothills of the Himalayas. Here’s what Scriabin himself said about it:

“There will not be a single spectator. All will be participants. The work requires special people, special artists and a completely new culture. The cast of performers includes an orchestra, a large mixed choir, an instrument with visual effects, dancers, a procession, incense, and rhythmic textural articulation. The cathedral in which it will take place will not be of one single type of stone but will continually change with the atmosphere and motion of the Mysterium. This will be done with the aid of mists and lights, which will modify the architectural contours.”



Franz Liszt - La Campanella

It sounds innocent enough at the beginning, but give it a minute… This piece has been haunting encores for centuries.


Giovanni Bottesini - Double Bass Concerto No. 2

There was a reason Bottesini was known as the Paganini of the double bass. For extra difficulty points, be true to the period and play it on three strings.


J.S. Bach - Chaconne in D

The absolute daddy of violin showpieces. SO exposed.


Luciano Berio - Sequenzas

OK, it’s hard to narrow these down to just one - but Berio’s experimental Sequenzas were actually designed to push the boundaries of what might be possible with any given instrument. Try the soprano one for size:


Conlon Nancarrow - Studies for Player Piano

Imagine writing a piano piece so insanely tricky that you know a human wouldn’t be able to handle it. That’s what Conlon Nancarrow did, much to everyone’s consternation, and enlisted the help of a trusty player piano to make sure it was finally heard:


Heinrich Ernst - Variations on The Last Rose of Summer

This transcription of Thomas Moore’s poem is utterly bewildering - the techniques required are not only at the very extremes of the violinist’s capabilities, but also required at the same time as one another. See Hilary Hahn nail it: