The piano is a sweet-sounding and melodic instrument, clearly distinguishable by the quality of its sound. For years, people have used the piano to compose and produce alluring, dramatic, captivating, and romantic pieces, many of which have now become classics.
The piano is also known for being an incredibly expressive instrument. Its ability to convey a whole range of human emotions make it unique, and the favorite of many.
When it comes to classical piano pieces, there's something for everyone. Whether a beginner, intermediate player, or an expert, there will always be scores that challenge your ability and help you grow.
In this article, we provide a list of intermediate classical piano pieces that are suitable for practice. The difficulty of these pieces may vary, but the majority are playable by those with some formal training.
What to Master Before Playing at an Intermediate Level
Learning how to play classical pieces on the piano can be tricky. It can be daunting for a beginner to hear pieces like La Campanella by Liszt, which may seem out of reach at first.
These intermediate classical piano pieces were written by some of the greatest composers of all time, and they’ve been selected as works that will assist your understanding of the piano’s complexity.
It may seem challenging at first, but a great way to improve your piano playing ability is by learning to play some of the classics. It will introduce you to the different parts and keys of the piano, and can be an exciting ride, so long as you don't go too hard on yourself.
Before you jump in and try playing these pieces, you should already be familiar with these basic elements:
- Note reading (sharps and flats)
- Major and minor scales
- Syncopated rhythms
Beginner-Intermediate Classical Piano Pieces
These simple piano pieces will help you perfect your technique.
1. Moonlight Sonata (1st Movement)
This piece was composed by the renowned Ludwig Van Beethoven. The original title of the piece was Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia. It is one of the most popular sonatas produced by Beethoven.
It is perfect for a beginner, as the Moonlight Sonata was composed in C-sharp minor. Nothing too complicated for a newbie.
In this musical piece, you’ll become accustomed to the sustain pedal, seeing as it's used throughout the composition.
As a beginner, knowing how to play this piece well is guaranteed to motivate and boost your confidence, seeing as it was written by one of the most historically influential classical composers.
2. Ave Maria
This is another popular and easily recognized classical piece. The piece was composed by Franz Schubert, and if it sounds familiar to you, you may have heard it played before at weddings or funerals.
For this piece, you will make use of arpeggios that are repeated throughout. When playing these repeating arpeggios, you must maneuver your hands to reach the upper notes.
There are many versions of this piece and you can work your way up from easiest to hardest.
3. Minuet in F
This piece was composed by Leopold Mozart, one of the most respected composers in Europe and the father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
This is a simpler classical piano piece that will help you work on your hand placement and positioning on the keys. Beginners should remember to start slow and progress steadily to work towards a fuller understanding of the necessary hand movements. The piece will also help you master the relationship between a quarter and eighth note rhythms.
4. Für Elise
Here is another popular piece composed by Ludwig Van Beethoven. There are few people in the western world who haven't heard it played at least once.
Composed of different movements, the first part is repeated. This is called a rondo.
The piece is composed in A minor, but briefly moves to F major, causing the melody to swell with energy. The melody is handled by the right hand while the left hand delivers the arpeggio.
The form is ABACA. The A-part is the easiest and most well-known. Beginners should have no difficulty starting with this.
Late Intermediate Classical Piano Pieces
1. Sonatina in C, Op. 36 No. 1
One of Clementi’s sonatas, it is known for being easy to follow and understand, which is why it is often recommended for intermediate players.
You should already have a grasp of G major, D major, and C major scales, which will come in handy. The beginning of the piece requires full-scale passages, which you should be comfortable with.
The sonatina in C has arpeggio passages throughout. The main passagework is on the right hand while the left hand provides support with single notes.
2. Diabelli Sonatina, Op. 151, No. 1
This is a long, beautiful piece five minutes in length. Due to its left-hand broken triads, it resembles Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven.
The right hand begins the melody before switching to the left hand, which plays the triplet rhythm in the upper register. The scherzo rhythm comes rather quickly, and the rondo movement then alters the rhythm.
3. Sonata No. 16 (Sonata Facile)
This work was produced by Wolfgang A. Mozart. While beginners may be intimidated by the thought of having to play a Mozart piece, the player should be assured by the fact that “easy” (facile) is in the title.
4. Arabesque Op. 18 in C Major
This work was produced by Robert Schumann and is suited for an intermediate pianist. For most of the composition, the right-hand controls the pacing of the rhythm.
The prelude of the work takes the form of ABACA. In the B section, there’s a key change to E minor, followed by a shift back to B major, which then progresses to an E minor melody. The C section is composed in A minor. This piece is more complex due to its syncopated pattern, although practiced intermediate players should not find it too challenging.
5. Un Sospiro
This composition by Franz Liszt is the third of the Three Concert Études. It is in D-
flat major and its title can be translated from the Italian to mean 'a sigh'.
Liszt wrote this étude to serve as a guide to train people to switch hands quickly. Right and left hands both play the melody, and the piece alternates between the two. The left hand crosses the right, continuing the melody before momentarily breaking.
6. Intermezzo Op. 118, No. 2
This work was produced by Johannes Brahms, who lived from 1833 to 1897. It was written at the twilight of his career during the Romantic period.
This particular song was composed in A major. It possesses a passionate and tender sentiment, having been written for Clara Schumann.
7. Song Without Words in F sharp minor, Op. 67 No. 2
This work was composed by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn between 1829 and 1845. At the time, the piano was gaining in popularity in Europe. The piece is easy to grasp and play, which contributed to its popularity among pianists.
Mendelssohn refused to put words to the piece, despite attempts by friends such as Marc-André, who tried to convince him otherwise.
8. Little Fugue in G minor BWV 578
Little Fugue in G minor is a four-minute-long composition. The short duration contributes to the ease with which intermediate pianists learn to play it.
The composition starts with a single melody and then gradually develops countermelodies. The piece becomes increasingly difficult as each layer is added. It is important to control one’s hands in order to ensure they play evenly, all the while listening to the balance to control the tempo.
Tips for Picking Intermediate Classical Piano Pieces
1. Know your Level
It is essential to select a piece that is appropriate to your skill level, and one that you find entertaining. Playing a piece you enjoy listening to will help you feel less intimidated, encouraging you to stick to your goals while having fun.
It can be difficult to know your skill level and select a piece that suits your ability. Having someone like a teacher to guide you will make the process easier. If you're learning to play by yourself, this might take more time.
As a beginner, you want to start with the easiest pieces before working your way up. Intermediates show more improvement if they started at an appropriate level before progressing higher.
It is advisable for an intermediate to begin working with levels 3-6, which are typical intermediate classical piano pieces.
2. Begin with shorter pieces
It will be easier to learn and master shorter pieces than longer ones, which may be more complex.
3. Listen to Originals
If you don't have access to original pieces, listen to renditions that are held in high regard. Don't just choose the first video that pops up on YouTube.
4. Start with a Piano Sonata
Piano Sonatas are written expressly for their piano solos and are often composed in three or four movements. This is a great way for anyone to start learning how to play the piano, and will help you progress to more intermediate pieces.
There is a long and rich history of classical piano compositions with many options to choose from. These pieces can serve as a guide to help pianists master the art of playing. If you’re interested in practicing intermediate classical piano pieces, then this list is a great place to start.
This list has covered works that are suitable for both beginner and intermediate pianists, as well as late intermediate piano players, and has outlined some helpful tips for improving your skill level. There’s something for everyone, as long as you’re willing to learn.