Bartolomeo Cristofori (Italian)
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889 (89.4.1219)
"Les Cyclopes" by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Elaine Comparone, harpsichord
David Barnes, recording engineer
Steve Jambeck, videographer
A Harpsichord Unlimited Production. Copyright 2009
Grand Piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori (89.4.1219) played by Dongsok Shin at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 13, 2013.
"The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin, Courtesy Shout! Factory
- In the history of ideas I think the piano is one of the real standouts.
- This is the earliest surviving piano. It was made in 1720 by
- Bartolomeo Cristofori, who was the inventor of the piano. The harpsichord
- ruled the keyboard landscape of the Baroque, and no matter how much energy
- you put behind touching the keys of the harpsichord the volume of sound that it produces is always the same.
- Whereas, the piano is a touch-sensitive
- instrument: if the player
- touches the keys gently, it
- produces a soft sound; if you
- put the weight of your body into it, it really sings out.
- And that's the revolutionary part of the idea.
- devised the escapement, which
- allows the
- player's finger
- to control the flight of the key
- until the last
- minute before it touches the string,
- and then it
- lets the key
- fall away
- so that
- the string
- can sing out
- It's completely intuitive,
- it's very responsive,
- it's incredibly
- intimate. The piano becomes
- all things to all people, from the aristocratic drawing room right to the piano-pounders of
- Tin Pan Alley. It also becomes liberating for unmarried women,
- because teaching the piano got them out of the
- home and that helped them attain some financial independence.
- It's humbling to me to think that Cristofori didn't
- have any idea of what a phenomenon the piano was to become. It wasn't until
- some forty or fifty years after his death
- that the piano starts to flourish.
- In the days before recordings, in the days when
- it was quite expensive to
- attend concerts, by having a piano, all of a sudden, you're opening up
- a whole world of musical entertainment. And I think that's hard for us to remember
- today, because we live surrounded by sound. But the piano was
- the nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century
- music-on-demand system.
- It's there for anyone who can sit down in front of it.