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  • Zoe Lim

5 Pianists Who Struggled Before Fame

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

a picture of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart pianist

When we listen to our favourite pianists and their compositions, it is easy to assume that they were born with a natural talent and has succeeded from the very beginning. However, like the rest of us, they have gone through major setbacks before emerging successful in the world of Piano. Even the best of the best were off to a rocky start but that did not stop them from fulfilling their dreams and passion. Here are 5 pianists who went from rags to riches and from failure to success.

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart aka Mozart was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period.

He showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood, already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. However at 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court but grew restless and travelled in search of a better position. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. Having lost his job, he decided to to stay in Vienna where he achieved fame and composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas.

2. Lang Lang

Lang Lang is a Chinese concert pianist who has performed with leading orchestras in China, the United States, Europe, and many other places in the world. When Lang was 9 years old, he intended to audition for Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music, but, having difficulties with his lessons, was expelled from his piano tutor's studio for "lack of talent". Years later, when Lang Lang turned 14, he was featured as a soloist at the China National Symphony's inaugural concert, which was broadcasted by China Central Television and attended by President Jiang Ze Min. Today, he is a highly successful classical pianist who has attained recognition worldwide.

3. Sergei Rachmaninov

Sergei Rachmaninov was a Russian composer, virtuoso-pianist, and conductor of the late Romantic period. In 1897, following the negative critical reaction to his Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff entered a four-year depression and composed little until successful therapy allowed him to complete his enthusiastically received Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. In the course of the next 16 years, Rachmaninoff conducted at the Bolshoi Theatre, relocated to Dresden, Germany, and toured the United States for the first time. Rachmaninoff often featured the piano in his compositions, and he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument through his own skills as a pianist.

4. Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is an American legend known for his song-writing and piano skills despite have an eyesight disability. He face many obstacles throughout life but used hard work and dedication to overcome them - especially his lifelong blindness. Nothing stopped him from fulfilling his dreams of building a career as a musician. He loved music from a very young age, teaching himself to play the harmonica by the age of 5 and taking piano lessons at 6. At age 8, he started learning the drums which makes him the legendary multi-instrumentalist of today.

5. Ludwig van Beethoven

The world’s most famous musical genius who couldn’t hear his own work -Beethoven. There is no doubt that with this disability, the composer has gone through various hardships that we can't even begin to imagine. Yet, Beethoven managed to keep working even though he completely lost his hearing by the age of 45. He would clench a stick in his teeth, hold it against the keyboard of his piano and discern faint sounds from there. Even though deafness had overtaken him, he still managed to emerge with one of the world's most famous composition - The Ninth Symphony.


Zoe is an avid fan of all kinds of music. Her primary instrument is the guitar but she is always passionately learning how to play other instruments such as the drums and keyboard. She is currently playing the bass guitar in a band and has been routinely involved in music since she was a child.

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