Pianists are great if they're paired with the right music for their personality--and if you have chosen them with care. If you want technical, perfect, exact renditions of Beethoven, listen to Maurizio Pollini--the cd is here.
If you want wild, punch drunk, exultant, slipping away from you Beethoven, choose Evgeny Kissin, the cd is here. Listen to the 3rd movement of Beethoven's 'piano sonata No. 14, the Moonlight Sonata', to hear how fast and horse racing pace it is here on Youtube. Compare it to Pollini's version--very different, for different moods!
If you want an even more Apollonian type of music, like a crystal mechanics of mathematical sound for the people who read Godel, Escher, Bach, try all of the Bach that Glenn Gould played. And make sure to see the artistic movie Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, info here [regardless of form it has great music, so see it for that] about Gould--it has an excellent moment where they play his recording of Beethoven's 'Sonata No. 13 in E-flat Major, Op. 27, N. 1 Sonata quasi una fantasia'--watch it here on youtube. He puts it on for the cleaning lady, and she listens to it with him.
Definitely, the last member of the top piano list is the Argentinian Martha Argerich. I heard her as a kid and never forgot it. She's truly incredible--listen to her play Rachmaninov here. It blows your mind. I would make sure not to watch her on the video as you listen [the cd is more clear and impeccable] because she sways, and it's easier to appreciate the music if you don't see anything. I think is the way to listen to much of classical music, actually. Here's Rachmaninov's piano concerto No. 3 [extremely famous] on Youtube here, and one of the many cds is here.
Also try the cd Rachmaninov 3; Tchaikovsky 1 too, especially for the the final movement, this one: 'Piano Concerto #3 In D Minor, Op. 30 - 3. Finale - Alla Breve'. It's incredible.
Also listen to Rachmaninov's 'Concerto No. 2: First Movement', on the cd Sergei Rachmaninoff, Greatest Hits. Try his 'Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No.5' off of the same cd. His 'Symphony No. 2: Third Movement' is famous, you'll recognize it as an Anne of Green Gables tv show type song.
I listen to many versions of all the classical music I like, and have chosen the cds in this post accordingly.