The A-Z of the piano

We celebrate the world's most popular instrument with a look at 26 of its greatest features

W is for Wunderkind: famous child prodigies 

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)
Played the piano, clavichord, organ and violin; composed at five and toured aged six (pictured below). Ruthlessly exploited by his father.


2. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47)
Began playing aged four and composing by eight, by which time he could play all of Beethoven’s symphonies on the piano from memory.

3. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
His first composition was dated 1839, his debut at ten playing Mozart and Beethoven concertos. He offered as an encore any one of Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas (see 'C') from memory.

4. Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909)
Made his debut at four and composed at seven. He stowed away to America aged 12, supporting himself by giving concerts.

5. Josef Hofmann (1876-1957)
Played his debut at six and toured America aged 10 with 52 concerts in 10 weeks; a philanthropist paid his father $50,000 to prevent any further exploitation by him.

6. Georges Cziffra (1921-94)
Improvised aged five on themes submitted by the public; the youngest ever entrant to the Liszt Academy, Budapest, at nine.

7. Martha Argerich (b1941)
Began lessons aged three; she made her orchestral debut at nine playing Mozart and Beethoven concertos.

8. Evgeny Kissin (b1971)
Playing from the age of two, he entered Moscow’s Gnessin School for Gifted Children at six; he made a live recording of both Chopin Concertos aged just 13.

9. Lang Lang (b1982)
Began lessons aged three, won the Shenyang Piano Competition and made his public debut aged five.