The first piano, pianoforte, described as an ‘arpicimbalo ,’ built by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1732) while he was appointed ‘to the Florentine court of Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici in 1688,’ vastly improved upon the harpsichord and clavichord, ‘with hammers and dampers and two 8′ choirs, having a range of four octaves.’
His innovations included an “escapement” mechanism to prevent the hammers from dampening the strings, a “backcheck” to ensure the hammer did not fall against the strings after being struck, and a dampening mechanism to silence strings not in use. Other technical advancements included isolating the soundboard from its stress-bearing parts and using thicker strings with increased tension. These numerous refinements expanded the range and versatility of the sound, affording the player an instrument responsive to touch, capable of dynamic gradations.
- O’Brien, Michael. "Cristofori, Bartolomeo." Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
- Robinson, J. Bradford. "Pianoforte: History of the Instrument." Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
Johann (Georg) Andreas Stein (1728 – 1792), German keyboard instrument maker and organist, whose many experimental contributions to the piano rival its inventor, Bartolomeo Cristofori.
- Latcham, Michael. "Stein, Johann (Georg) Andreas." Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
Kirkman established by German born Jacob Kirchmann (1710 – 1792) (Changed his name to Kirkman) in London – Builder of harpsichords and pianos.
- "Kirkman." Antique Piano Shop. Antique Piano Shop, n.d. Web. 14 Sept 2015.
- Palmieri, Robert, ed. The Piano: An Encyclopedia. 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge, June 1, 2004. Google Books. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
1748, Stein Apprentice
Johann (Georg) Andreas Stein believed to have been an apprentice at the Silberman workshop in Strasbourg (1748 – 1749).
- Latcham, Michael. "Stein, Johann (Georg) Andreas." Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.
1768, Bach Zumpe Recital
In London, at the age of 33, J.C. Bach performed the first public recital on a piano, a square grand built by Johannes Zumpe.
Érard built his first five-octave bichord piano (presumably based on the Zumpe Square) for the Duchesse de Villeroy.
- Macnutt, Richard. "Erard." Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
1777, Stein Praise From Mozart
Mozart praised the Stein piano for its knee-levers, allowing the composer to operate the dampers without removing his hands from the keyboard; and also for their escapement, which the piano maker had not quite perfected.
In a letter to his father, Leopold, he wrote:
Érard built a harpsichord known as the clavecin mécanique. Soon after he started successfully marketing his five-octave pianos.
1781, House Érard
Overwhelmed by all the requests, Érard and his brother, Jean-Baptiste Érard (1749 – 1826), opened a shop together, eventually calling it Érard Fréres (also known as the house of Érard). Over the years, Érard obtained numerous patents on the pianoforte and harp.
1781, German Action
“German action,” or Prellmechanik, ascribed to Johann Stein, first conceived as early as 1769 and refined during the 1770s. By 1781, hammers mounted directly on the keys.