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University of Cambridge
Pianist
A pianist is an individual musician who plays the piano. Since most forms of Western music can make use of the piano, pianists have a wide repertoire and a wide variety of styles to choose from, among them traditional classical music, jazz, blues, and all sorts of popular music, including rock and roll. Most pianists can, to an extent, easily play other keyboard-related instruments such as the synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta, and the organ.

Modern classical pianists dedicate their careers to performing, recording, teaching, researching, and learning new works to expand their repertoire. They generally do not write or transcribe music as pianists did in the 19th century. Some classical pianists might specialize in accompaniment and chamber music, while others (though comparatively few) will perform as full-time soloists.

Mozart could be considered the first "concert pianist" as he performed widely on the piano. Composers Beethoven and Clementi from the classical era were also famed for their playing, as were, from the romantic era, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn and Rachmaninoff. From that era, leading performers less known as composers were Clara Schumann and Hans von Bulow. However, as we do not have modern audio recordings of most of these pianists, we rely mainly on written commentary to give us an account of their technique and style.

Jazz pianists almost always perform with other musicians. Their playing is more free than that of classical pianists and they create an air of spontaneity in their performances. They generally do not write down their compositions; improvisation is a significant part of their work. Well known jazz pianists include Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and Bud Powell.

Popular pianists might work as live performers (concert, theatre, etc.), session musicians, arrangers most likely feel at home with synthesizers and other electronic keyboard instruments. Notable popular pianists include Victor Borge who performed as a comedian; Richard Clayderman, who is known for his covers of popular tunes; and singer and entertainer Liberace, who at the height of his fame, was one of the highest paid entertainers in the world.