The History of the Piano

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Piano, stringed keyboard musical instrument, derived from the harpsichord and the clavichord. Also called the pianoforte, it differs from its predecessors principally in the introduction of a hammer-and-lever action that allows the player to modify the intensity of sound by the stronger or weaker touch of the fingers. For this reason the earliest known model (1709) was called a gravicembalo col pian e forte (Italian for “harpsichord with soft and loud”). It was built by Bartolomeo Cristofori, a harpsichord maker of Florence, Italy, who is generally credited with inventing the piano. Two of his pianos still exist. The case of one, dated 1720, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; the other, dated 1726, is in a museum in Leipzig, Germany.

Early Evolution of the Piano
Beginning about 1725, when the noted German organ maker Gottfried Silbermann of Freiberg adopted Cristofori's action, the next major developments took place in Germany. Perhaps the most important contribution was made by Johann Andreas Stein of Augsburg, who is credited with inventing an improved escapement that became the foundation of the “Viennese” piano praised by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and favored by most German composers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Twelve masters from central Germany migrated to London about 1760 and established the English school that, under John Broadwood and others, turned to the production of pianos of a stronger build, resembling those of our own day. The French manufacturer Sébastien Erard founded the French school in the 1790s, and in 1823 created the double action that is still in general use. By this time artisans in all Western nations were working to perfect the pianoforte. Numerous improvements were and are still being made in design and construction. Germany and the United States have long been distinguished for fine pianos, notably those of the German firm founded by Karl Bechstein and the American firms of Baldwin, Mason &...
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