Video: Is This the Most Difficult Piano Piece Ever Written?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012 - 02:03 PM

Ravel's Scarbo is considered one of the most fearsome virtuoso works in the piano repertoire. The composer is said to have written the piece in 1908 in a conscious attempt to out-difficult Balakirev's Islamey – then considered the hardest piece ever written for the keyboard.

Because of its technical challenges, Scarbo is a relatively rarity in piano recitals. But the New York-based Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan has decided virtuosity shouldn't be an end in itself. He asked the artist Zack Smithey and videographer Tristan Cook to create their own video vignettes for the piece, along with several others on his forthcoming album, "Darknesse Visible."

Watch this performance of Scarbo and tell us what you think: Is it the hardest piece ever? If not, what’s more difficult?

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Comments [7]

mark fortais from london ontario

I remain solid on Rach 3 being the most death defying feat ever.

Mar. 07 2017 12:13 PM
Ashton from Utah

As a professional concert pianist, having performed this work, and several others, I would argue that there are some piano concertos that are more difficult than this piece (as difficult as it is), for instance, I had more issues with Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto than I did this piece. Also, to name a difficult solo work that compares, if not exceeds the difficulty of this piece, I would have to say that Liszt's El Contrabandista, and his transcendental etudes are more difficult in some sections than this piece. If you disagree with me, I'd love your input as well as to why, but I'm just giving you information based on my experiences as a professional. Have a lovely and musical day!

Jan. 30 2017 04:38 PM

First- bravo for an incredible performance!
I think some other comments are missing the point a little bit. This is not a video of a live performance, but rather a video that helps bringing across the frantic and demonic aspects that are in the music. The music speaks for itself, but if you are going to add a visual element to it, why not do it in a creative and interesting way, the way it is done here?
There are hundreds of Scarbo videos on youtube, but the performance and the visual elements of this one combine to make it truly unique and exciting. Whenever classical musicians try and make a "music video" it usually ends up being cheesy and uninspired- this is obviously neither of those.

Apr. 08 2012 12:28 PM
Jeffrey Gross from Brooklyn

The video's a bit silly but can easily be ignored. There are probably harder pieces from the mid or late 20th century, but who cares? Gaspard de la Nuit, from which Scarbo is drawn, is a wonderful example of the grotesque in music, and one of the great Impressionist piano works. Indeed, great tout court.

Apr. 06 2012 03:01 PM
arnie from Manhattan

Not being a musician, I don't have a clue if this is the hardest piece to play but for us to appreciate Mr.Barnatan's wonderful technical skills, all we needed was a stationary camera on him while he played. The whole video MTV approach is distracting, annoying nonsense and prevents us from paying attention to what's important, the pianist and the music.

Apr. 05 2012 01:12 PM
tony b. from new jersey

Who cares, it's crap. Just because it's dificult to play doesn't make it good. Plus the way they videographed it, I am sure there were a lot of cuts and paste.

Apr. 04 2012 04:01 PM
Ben Sharpsteen from The Netherlands

"pianist Inon Barnatan has decided virtuosity shouldn't be an end in itself", how often I've heard this phrase, but still they all want to learn and play the most difficult pieces.

Apr. 03 2012 03:19 PM

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