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PIANO TIMELINE

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1700, Pianoforte

Pianoforte instrument from 1720, built by Bartolomeo Cristofori, in the Museum of Metropolitan Art, New York City.
Pianoforte by Bartolomeo Cristofori, Florence, Italy, 1720. 1

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.’

YouTube Placeholder Image for A2WdjyKQ57A
Cristofori Piano: Domenico Scarlatti's Sonata K.9, performed by Dongsok Shin. 2
YouTube Placeholder Image for ixKath2K0Mw
The Difference Between Fortepiano
and Piano (Forte)
. 3

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.

Page Sources

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[1]
Under License, Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY.
[2]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  "Cristofori Piano: Sonata K.9 by Domenico Scarlatti, Performed by Dongsok Shin."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 29 July 2006.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
[3]
ear8002.  "The Difference Between Fortepiano and Piano(Forte)."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 13 Oct. 2012.  Web.  16 Oct. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
Additional References:
  • 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.

1728, Stein

Nameboard plaque which Frère et Soeur Stein Augsbourg à Vienne, in the Music Museum, Basel, Switzerland.
Stein Nameboard Plaque. 1

Johann (Georg) Andreas Stein (1728 – 1792), German keyboard instrument maker and organist, whose many experimental contributions to the piano rival its inventor, Bartolomeo Cristofori.

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[1]
mattes.  “Frère et Soeur Stein Augsbourg à Vienne“ an einem Instrument – Basil, Musikmuseum.”  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 28 Sept. 2012.  Web.  5 Feb. 2016.  CC BY 2.0 DE.
Additional References:
  • Latcham, Michael.  "Stein, Johann (Georg) Andreas."  Oxford Music Online.  Oxford University Press, 2007 – 2015.  Web.  14 Sept. 2015.

1730, Kirkman

Detail of a Kirkman piano, photographed by Rob Hannay in 2012.
Kirkman Piano. 1

Kirkman established by German born Jacob Kirchmann (1710 – 1792) (Changed his name to Kirkman) in London – Builder of harpsichords and pianos.

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[1]
Hannay, Rob.  "Kirkman!"  Photograph.  Flickr.  Flickr, a Yahoo Company, 7 Jan. 2012.  Web.  13 Oct. 2015.  CC BY-SA 2.0.
Additional References:
  • "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).

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Additional References:
  • 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.

1775, Behrent's Forte

Advertisement for John Behrent's newly built pianoforte, 1775.
1775 Advertisement in the "Pennsylvania Packet" for John Behrent's Pianoforte. 1

It is believed that John Behrent (a German or Swiss immigrant) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania built the first pianoforte in the United Colonies, soon to be United States of America. The Revolutionary War of Independence presumably preempted any further development of Mr. Behrent manufacturing musical instruments.

John Behrent, Joiner and Instrument Maker, living in Third-street continued, in Campington, directly opposite Coates's Burying-ground, Has just finished for sale, an extraordinary fine instrument, by the name of Piano Forte, of Mahogany, in the manner of an harpsichord, with hammers, and several changes: He intends to dispose of it on very reasonable terms; and being a master in such sort of work, and a new beginner in this country, he requests all lovers of music to favour him with their custom, and they shall not only be honestly served, but their favours gratefully acknowledged, by their humble servant, John Behrent.
John Behrent from Dunlap's Pennsylvania Packet 2

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[1]
Dunlap’s Pennsylvania Packet or, The General Advertiser  Vol. IV., Numb. 177 13 March 1775.  Newspapers.Com.  Web.  27 Sept, 2019.  No Known Copyright Restrictions.
[2]
Ibid.
Additional References:
  • Drummond, Robert Rutherford, Ph.D.  Early German Music in Philadelphia. New York: University of Pennsylvania, D. Arthur & Company, publishing agents, 1910.  Google Books.  Web.  27 Sept. 2019.

1777, Érard

Érard built his first five-octave bichord piano (presumably based on the Zumpe Square) for the Duchesse de Villeroy.

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Additional References:
  • 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:

In whatever way I touch the keys, the tone is always even. It never jars, it is never stronger or weaker or entirely absent; in a word, it is always even. It is true that he does not sell a pianoforte of this kind for less than three hundred gulden, but the trouble and the labour which Stein puts into the making of it cannot be paid for. 1

Page Sources

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[1]
Palmieri, Robert, ed.  The Piano: An Encyclopedia.  2nd Edition.  New York: Routledge, June 1, 2004: pg. 240.  Google Books.  Web. 14 Sept. 2015.

1779, Érard

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.

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