04.05.

1655: Who Invented the Piano?

1655: Who Invented the Piano?
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ "Piano forte Cristofori 1722" by LPLT - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Piano_forte_Cristofori_1722.JPG#/media/File:Piano_forte_Cristofori_1722.JPG

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 4 May 1655
  • Bartolomeo Cristofori was born on this day in the Italian city of Padua. Shortly before 1700, he invented a new musical instrument – the piano.

On this day famous Bartolomeo Cristofori, the man who is generally regarded as the inventor of the piano, was born. 

Cristofori was born in the Italian city of Padua, which at that time belonged to the Venetian Republic. By profession he was a maker of musical instruments. His ascent started in 1688, when he was employed by Tuscan Prince Ferdinand of the famous Medici dynasty.

Prince Ferdinand was heir to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and is usually titled “Grand Prince” (Italian: Gran Principe). He was known as a great patron of musicians and it seems that his financing of Cristofori made the invention of the piano possible.

When he started to work for the “Grand Prince” in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, Cristofori was 33 years old. He had probably already experimented with new forms of musical instruments by then. His job in Florence, where he had his own workshop, enabled him to resume finding new designs. It was the Baroque period, and a considerable number of different instruments with keys (virginal, spinet, and harpsichord) were already in use.

It is impossible to determine exactly when Cristofori built the first piano. It is assumed that he did it already before 1700 (some say 1698). The piano is called “pianoforte” in Italian, and the term “piano” originated from that word, which is used in English and French language. The name “pianoforte” comes from the Italian “piano e forte” roughly meaning “quiet and loud”. Namely, Cristofori’s piano could be played both quietly and loudly because the sound was produced when a hammer head struck a string. The sound was as strong as the pressure of the finger.

Bartolomeo Cristofori died in 1731, at the age of 75 years. To this day, only three pianos that he made have been preserved. They are located in New York (the oldest), Rome, and Leipzig.

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