The Best Piano Works of the 20th Century

My nonimations are:

Vignt Regards sur L’Enfant Jesus by Olivier Messiaen, and

The People United Will Never be Defeated by Frederic Rzewski

How about you?
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Trilogy, Karn Evil 9-2nd Impression - Keith Emerson
Gymnopedie - Eric Satie
Ecologue for Piano and Strings - Gerald Finzi
I was going to nominate Modest Mussorgsky’s "Pictures At An Exhibition", but during a little research learned that though the work became very popular and often performed after orchestrations were written for it in the early 1900’s, most famously by Maurice Ravel in 1922, Mussorgsky’s original piano transcription was written in 1874, and published in 1886, five years after the composer’s death. I love the work, both as performed on solo piano, and with full orchestration.
The works of Conlon Nancarro for player piano! I have a multi - CD set of these!
Epic piano concertos of the 20th century in my book:

  • Rach-3
  • Rach- Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini
  • Prokofiev-3Ravel- Concerto in G major
  • Poulenc—concerto for two pianos
  • Bartok- 2 (for modernist listeners)                                     and why not,
  • Messiaen: Vingt regards
I don't know about being the greatest anything, but Stravinsky wrote some good stuff for solo piano.  I really like this record and recommend it to anyone who is remotely interested in solo piano stuff.

Anyone up for Kaikhosru Sorabji’s "Opus Clavicembalisticum"? It is about 4.5 hours long and almost every minute is exhausting to listen to because of the complexity and changing rhythm. I particularly like the last two sections of the work (the fugue and the coda section).

I also agree that the Nancarro works are amazing. They are not conventional piano works and cannot possibly be played by a human.

Ravel's - Gaspard de la nuit and Debussy' Preludes. Both are post 1900 as are most of these composers music for solo piano. Their music should not be missed. 
I love "Gaspard" and the Debussy Preludes.  I think Satie is also worth looking into, although his most popular works were composed in the late 19th century.
Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", a uniquely American piece always has to be included in 20th century piano music. I agree with all of gregm's choices less  the Massiaen piece but will sure check it out! The impressionistic work Clair de lune by Debussy  would be on my list as well, less clear is when it was penned.
I was looking for pieces for solo piano, but I wasn’t clear. Regardless, there are some great suggestions here. Nancarrow is an excellent suggestion. I’ll add Prokofiev’s Piano Sonatas. 
I overlooked Prokofiev’s. :-(  FWIW I highly prize Chiu’s 9 CD traversal of all of his music for solo piano including some transcriptions. I also overlooked Rachmaninoff’s 24 Preludes and Sonata #2.
+1 on the Chiu suggestion

my additions would be the Shostakovich piano sonatas and something else I’m really into which reminds me of the Rzewski is Maxwell Davies’ “Farewell to Stromness” from The Yellowcake Review
I'm partial to early 20th century 'modern' piano-e.g., Scriabin.
Spare, angular, but not atonal. 
 But the one of the best artists who 'covered' him was his son-in-law and the recordings--from Russia- are not great. 
Should we add particular interpretation we like? There are some recordings of a certain work that give an overall better impression. I am not talking about "audiophile" standards, but about the music itself. of course, it will depend on a personal taste, but it may be worth a try.

Having said that, all my favorites are from way before 20th century, save for Satie, so I cannot even participate. I will peruse this thread to explore, though. Thanks everybody.
As far as "improvised" 20th century music is concerned, two of the most fertile minds and virtuoso pianists were Art Tatum ( "I got rhythm" 1940 from the "California melodies" radio program) and Bud Powell ( "Tempus Fugit" 1949 Clef records)  I love Scriabin and Nancarrow,but when it comes to emotionally charged,thrilling,fly by the seat of your pants piano I bow down to these two recordings. And yeah,Jazz WAS the greatest music of the 20th century....Was, I emphasize.
If you're interested in something relatively current,and noted as "Gourmet Jazz",  I will highly recommend Bill Laurance : " After Sun,"" Swift", or "Flint "( "Ready Wednesday" - My personal fav ).  I originally downloaded Flint from HD Tracks, then "Live at Union Chapel" and "After Sun" recently, but "Swift" was from his website.  All are exceptionally well recorded and addictive.

Happy listening...  
Bartok sonata, Alban Berg Sonata.
I always loved Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No.2
I always loved Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No.2
1901. You got in under the wire. 

Marta Argerich playing anything, or the Richter recording of Shostakovich Piano Concerto #1. 
+1 for Martha Argerich playing anything!!!
Bdp24 if you enjoy the solo piano version of "Pictures", I highly recommendd the Evgeny Kissen recording on RCA.

Thanks tubegroover. I have only one solo piano version, Richter's 1958/60 live recording issued on LP by CBS Records in the late 60's. The performance is great, but the recorded sound is pretty thin.
Very much enjoy Valentin Silvestrov (Ukrainian) music, much of which involves piano.
Would recommend checking out some of his CDs.
IMO: Thread title should be "personally most interesting" rather than "best piano works".

Robert Greenberg, music historian and educator, has a course: The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works. His choices from the 21st century are:

  1. Debussy— “The Sunken Cathedral”
  2. Debussy— Préludes, Book One
  3. Albéniz—Iberia
  4. Ravel—Valses nobles et sentimentales
  5. Scriabin—Piano Sonata No. 5
  6. Rachmaninoff—Etudes-tableaux
  7. Prokofiev—Piano Sonata No. 7
  8. Copland—Piano Variations
I have some listening to do!
Ligeti - Etudes
The last one might miss the 20th century (2001) but I always found these very enjoyable. I just realized I don’t have the third book :(

Excellent list as above.  Happy Listening!
Gotta have Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody
I am going to mention 3 works I did not see above that I think have to be on this list.  First, the Shostakovich piano quintet and his piano trio number 2.   I would also add the Prokofiev Concerto #3.    A couple more pieces that I would not necessarily call great works, but works that I perceive to be under appreciated.  Those would be the Copland piano concerto, and Symphony no. 3 by Rued Langaard (you either like Langaard or you don't).  

I'd love to see @devilboy, @schubert, @frogman, and @learsfool weigh in on this thread.  Especially with respect to hidden gems that beg for more play time. 
I wouldn’t call Shostakovich’s Trio #2 for Violin, Cello, and Piano, a piece for piano, but it is certainly one of the great masterpieces of the 20th Century. 
Speaking of Shostakovich, an addition to the many great nominations already made would have to be his “24 Preludes and Fugues”.  Inspired by a visit to J.S. Bach’s home this work is in the mold of Bach’s “The Well Tempered Clavier” in that it offers one prelude and fugue in each of the twelve major and minor keys.  Anyone new to this work should probably start with the recording by Tatyana Nikolayeva (Hyperion) who premiered the work.  

Two nominations for hidden gems would be another Bach inspired work, Ferrucio Busoni’s “Fantasia Contraputtista” and Leos Janacek’s “In The Mists”.  

Since Jazz has been mentioned, I would second the nominations of the Ravel piano works for, not only their greatness in their own right, but also their profound influence on improvising pianists, most notably Bill Evans.  

Hyperion released an extensive 'The Romantic Piano' series. Much of it is 20th Century. The Godowski 'The Complete Studies on Chopin's Etudes' 
is worth having. As far as the best, one can't ignore the Shostakovich  Piano Quintet.
Glen Gould playing "Goldberg Variations" by Bach.

@fixedincome---I too love the GV, but that is hardly a 20th Century piano work!