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The piano is one of the most expressive instruments for creating classical music. While there is a ton of difficult classical music for piano, there is also plenty out there for intermediate players. However, knowing which kind of music to select that sounds interesting and is at your playing level can be tricky.
To help others out, I thought it would be a great idea to put together a huge list of classical piano music for intermediate players. Keep in mind that most intermediate pianists should have a firm grip on the following:
- Major and minor scales
- Note reading (including sharps and flats)
- Syncopated rhythms
The pieces on this list were chosen with that in mind. These pieces are a step above easy repertoire, but not too advanced! Most are from level 3 to 6 difficulty levels with a few exceptions.
This list contains an interesting selection of classical music pieces that are challenging, but also something pianists can learn with consistent practice. I’ve also linked out to videos and sheet music pdf if you want to give these pieces a try. Below is a breakdown of each piece by Early, Mid, and Late intermediate classifications.
|Piano Piece||Composer||Difficulty Level|
|Minuet in G, BWV Anh 114||Bach||Early Intermediate|
|Minuet in G, BWV Anh 116||Bach||Early Intermediate|
|Claire De Lune||Debussy||Late Intermediate|
|Polonaise Op. 40 No. 2 In C minor||Chopin||Late Intermediate|
|Piano Sonata No. 12 K332 In F Major||Mozart||Late Intermediate|
|Piano Sonata No. 12 K333 In B Flat Major||Mozart||Late Intermediate|
|Little Fugue In G minor BWV 578||Bach||Late Intermediate|
|Bagatelle "Fur Elise"||Beethoven||Late Intermediate|
|The Entertainer||Joplin||Late Intermediate|
|Sonatina in C, Op. 36 No. 1||Clementi||Early Intermediate|
|Sonatina Op. 20 No. 1||Kuhlau||Mid Intermediate|
|Sonatina Op. 151, No. 1||Diabelli||Mid Intermediate|
|Sonatina Op. 39, No. 1||Lynes||Mid Intermediate|
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1. Bach – Minuet in G, BWV Anh 114
This is one of the first classical piano pieces you’ll hear from Bach’s massive collection. It’s the Minuet in G, BWV Anh 114 which is part of the Anna Magdalena notebook. It was written in 1725. Technically the piece is not very challenging at all and only lasts around 32 measures.
The right-hand plays the melody while the left-hand supports underneath with a moving bass line. More intermediate pianists will want to add in some ornamentation and change the dynamics and touch, especially on the repeat of the material.
Overall it’s a great starting piece if you want to get into Baroque music.
2. Bach- Minuet in G, BWV Anh 116
This Minuet is very similar to the BWV Anh 114. In this Minuet, Bach uses ascending arpeggios in the tonic key supported by single notes in the left hand. The second section of this Minuet moves to E minor, B major, and a series of other keys before returning to tonic.
The piece ends the same way it starts. To start, I suggest learning the piece without the ornamentation. Once a solid rhythm and balance are achieved, then it’s okay to add the trills in and work on the timing of those. This is an early to intermediate piano piece.
3. Debussy – Claire De Lune
It’s always helpful to play a piece of piano music that is familiar to the ear. Claire De Lune is certainly one of those pieces. It’s been featured in film and television as well as modern commercials. The piece is fairly straightforward although it does have it’s difficult moments.
Claire De Lune starts in D flat major, so it has five flats written into the key signature. That’s something to consider as some of the more difficult harmonies have accidentals. The tune opens up softly with pianissimo harmonies that pass between the left and right hand.
After some variation of the melodies, the song moves to the B section. This is where the pianist has to play some really big chords in the right hand. It takes some coordination because the left hand also has to play a series of blocked triads and chords spanning up to an octave.
The C section is where the left hand has the most activity. Pianists have to play sixteenth notes in arpeggios and other groupings. This lasts for a while before the main A theme returns and the song concludes.
While the piece is not the most technically advanced piano work, it takes some musical maturity to really capture the full essence of it. There’s a lot of changes, but the sections are easy to identify visually and by ear.
This is one of the most beautiful intermediate piano pieces in the list of repertoire. Almost every pianist plays it at some point in their musical journey, but it helps to have some technical facility first before giving it a spin.
4. Chopin – Polonaise Op. 40 No. 2 In C minor
Many of the Chopin polonaises are quite difficult for most piano players, however, one of the polonaises that work well for intermediate to advanced students is Op. 40 No. 2 in C minor. It was written in 1838, and as a whole, this entire polonaise moves slowly.
The melody is actually located in the left hand and written in octaves. Pianists with small hands will want to work on stretching and octave exercises to prepare for it. A quick analysis of the melody shows that it moves around the entire scale pattern of C minor, so some preparatory work playing in three flats can help a student studying this piece.
The right hand has some elements of Beethoven in it with its repetitive chords played in between the left-hand melody. The chords in the right hand are also large at times, often playing blocked arpeggios. Because most piano music places the melody in the right hand, some simple practice of playing the right hand silently can help when trying to achieve good balance and tone.
The second theme of the polonaise is in A flat major. It’s a beautiful theme with a tranquil melody, and at this point, the right hand has more of a role over the melody line. The dynamic is much more expressive and less dark and angry sounding like the opening of the piece.
To end the polonaise, Chopin returns back to the opening material with some variation including a layered melody in the right hand. Overall it’s a good piece and very similar to the famous Chopin Prelude in E minor.
5. Mozart – Piano Sonata No. 12 K332 In F Major
If you’re just getting started out with Classical era music, then Mozart is a good starting point. The melodies and application of the ornamentation such as trills and turns are much easier to digest than in Haydn. Of all the Mozart piano sonatas one could play, I definitely recommend starting out with the F major sonata.
Its number is K.332, and the first movement is one of the most popular for intermediate piano players. Like most music of this time period, there is a clear melody and accompaniment assigned to each hand. It’s the easiest of the three movements and great for a beginner or intermediate pianist.
The second movement is in complete contrast to the first. The tempo is Adagio so it moves really slowly, a great thing for novice players. Interestingly enough it’s in B flat major rather than a minor key. This movement features a lot of musical form elements such as a first and second subject, codetta, and a recapitulation. The last movement returns to F major.
6. Mozart – Piano Sonata No. 12 K333 In B Flat Major
This sonata by Mozart has a lot in common with the K332 sonata in F major. From the first movement to the last there are a few things you’ll want to be proficient at first. Pianists need to be comfortable with chromatic harmonies, major and minor scales, syncopated rhythms, and phrasing; specifically two-note phrases.
The first movement has a clearly defined melody and accompaniment, so maintaining balance in sound is easier to achieve. Harmonically, its easier to understand where Mozart is going musically and to anticipate the overall flow compared to K332. The second movement moves really slowly and is honestly a good starting point if this sonata is new to the pianist.
The most challenging of the three sonata movements is the third movement. Both the right and left hands have passages where they move in contrary motion, instances of chromatic thirds in the left hand, and two-note phrases. The ending also has flourishes of sixteenth notes in the right hands supported by chords and octaves in the left hand.
Syncopated rhythms are all over this movement, so slow practice will help greatly with coordinating both hands.
7. Bach – Little Fugue In G minor BWV 578
A great wave to dive into Bach’s music is to check out the Little Fugue In G minor. You’ll find arrangements for this for both organ and piano, but other instruments such as brass and guitar have arrangements for it as well.
It’s an energetic piece that starts with a single melody line that continues to build out into additional countermelodies. As each layer is added into the piece, the piece becomes more difficult. At times there are trills, octaves, and sequential patterns. Piano students will want to focus their ears on balance, controlling the tempo, and making sure the hands play together evenly. Understanding which hand has the melody at all times is also crucial.
The piece is around 3 to 4 minutes long, so the perfect length for an intermediate student. Have a listen to this piece below!
8. Beethoven – Bagatelle “Fur Elise”
Fur Elise is one of the most popular classical piano pieces in the entire world. Quite frankly, it might be the most recognizable piece of music in general! Fur Elise was composed in 1810 and officially published by 1850. The piece was dedicated to “Elise”, although there’s still some debate over exactly who that person was.
Fur Elise is written in the key of A minor. Fur Elise briefly travels to F major for a more energetic theme before returning the main theme. Overall the piece follows ABACA rondo form.
While the righthand handles the melody, the left hands support with an arpeggio accompaniment. That accompaniment moves mostly between the tonic and dominant, although other harmonies are present.
Pianists who attempt this piece need to be comfortable moving around the instrument at least 6 octaves. Playing broken octaves is important as well as understanding the basic principles of playing triads.
9. Joplin – The Entertainer
Classical piano music is really enjoyable for young pianists when it’s infused with something else. In this case, ragtime meets classical! Scott Joplin’s entertainer is a fun piece, and it’s so popular that it’s been arranged at every difficulty level imaginable.
For this reason, I suggest studying from one of the early to intermediate versions such as this one. This version captures all the stylistic elements of the original without some of the advanced techniques needed. If you do want to try your hand at the original, understand it requires a lot of technical facilities along with good counting habits at the piano.
Below is a video that arranges the piece well by simplifying the chords and work the left hand has to do.
10. Clementi – Sonatina in C, Op. 36 No. 1
Clementi Sonatinas are some of my favorite starter pieces for piano. They offer the classical music style without some of the demands you would find in a Beethoven sonata. For this reason, they are easy to understand and perform well for intermediate players.
The first movement of the Sonatina in C is full of scale passages, so the pianist needs to have familiarity with that. In particular, a focus on G major, C major, and D major scales will help. There are also arpeggio passages so the piece never gets boring. While the right-hand controls the difficult passagework, the other hand supports that with single notes.
Kuhlau Sonatina Op. 20 No. 1
For many kids, this is their first real piano piece. This piano sonatina is filled with good energy and character that make it fun to play. This sonatina is a lot less boring than some of the easier ones, but it’s something a young student can play with consistent practice.
Kuhlau is a Danish composer, but his works sound very similar to Mozart’s, especially the piano sonata in C major both in how it’s written and how it sounds. While the left-hand plays the broken arpeggios, the right-hand plays the connected melody. There are some scale passages and areas where good detached note playing is a must to perform this up to standard.
If you plan to learn or teach this piece, I recommend getting the Jennifer Linn performance edition here. This copy has a lot of helpful notes about the difficulty of each movement and great editing.
12. Diabelli – Sonatina Op. 151, No. 1
Diabelli’s Sonatina Op. 151, No. 1 is on the longer side at around 5 minutes. It has three movements including a Scherzo and Rondo to conclude the piece. At first glance at the sheet music, one might think it was the Moonlight Sonata based on the left-hand broken triads.
The right-hand plays the melody on top of that, and then switches roles with the left hand playing the triplet rhythm in the upper register. The Scherzo movement is very similar in that the triplet rhythms return in the left hand. This movement moves more quickly and is in 6/8 meter instead of 3/4.
The Rondo movement is the first time when pianists will really see a change in the overall rhythm. It’s in 4/4 meter and has some interesting technical challenges. For example, the lefthand needs to sustain the first downbeat for two beats with the pinky finger while the other fingers play eighth notes. Sometimes those eighth notes are thirds and other times a fifth apart in distance.
Overall this is a fun piece that needs a delicate touch to play well.
13. Lynes – Sonatina Op. 39, No. 1
It’s not too often that you find a Frank Lynes piece mentioned, but his piano works are great for pianists needing great music without too much difficulty. Lynes has four sonatinas in the Op. 39 set, but we’ll focus on No. 1 in G major. This Sonatina is rather short in that it spans 3 movements in about 3 minutes of time. This sonatina has a nice dance-like character to it, and the melodies are distinct.
The Allegro movement features melodies built around triads and simple sequential patterns. The patterns are simple to play and make sense musically. Most of the passages are played with fingers 1, 3, and 5, and then a majority of the work uses the five-finger position from different starting points.
My favorite movement is the Minuet which is a nice contrast from the outer movements. Depending on how advanced the pianist is, you may or may not want to use the pedal in this movement. The piece concludes with the Rondo movement.
Tips For Choosing Intermediate Piano Pieces
Whether you’re a student or piano teacher, choosing the right level of music to play is an important process. Sometimes it’s not always easy to decide what makes a piece too hard or too easy. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered along the way that should help you pick the right intermediate pieces so that you can succeed at the piano.
- Pick a piano piece with a simple key signature
- Choose a piano sonatina
- Sort piano pieces by grade level
- Listen to recordings of each piece and compare
One helpful tip is to choose something with a simple key signature. Even if the piece might be simple rhythmically, having to deal with too many sharps, flats and accidentals will make it tougher to memorize the piece. Consider working on keys in C major, D major, G major, and A major to start.
Next, I would choose a piano sonatina as these pieces are exciting, but not too long and advanced as most piano sonatas. You might also want to pick through a list of piano pieces and sort by grade levels. ABRSM has a great list of pieces and I suggest working between grade levels 3 – 6. You can view a list of piano grade-level pieces here.
Before choosing anything, always listen to recordings of several pieces and compare them. This is a great opportunity to see if this is music that you can connect to and commit to learning.