A fortepiano [ˌfɔrteˈpjaːno] , sometimes referred to as a pianoforte, is an early piano. In principle, the word "fortepiano" can designate any piano dating from the invention of the instrument by Bartolomeo Cristofori in 1698 up to the early 19th century. Most typically, however, it is used to refer to the mid-18th to early-19th century instruments for which composers of the Classical era, especially Haydn, Mozart, and the younger Beethoven wrote their piano music. Starting in Beethoven's time, the fortepiano began a period of steady evolution, culminating in the late 19th century with the modern grand. The earlier fortepiano became obsolete and was absent from the musical scene for many decades. In the 20th century the fortepiano was revived, following the rise of interest in historically informed performance. Fortepianos are built for this purpose in specialist workshops.
The fortepiano has leather-covered hammers and thin, harpsichord-like strings. It has a much lighter case construction than the modern piano and, except for later examples of the early nineteenth century (already evolving towards the modern piano), it has no metal frame or bracing. The action and hammers are lighter, giving rise to a much lighter touch, which in well-constructed fortepianos is also very expressive.
The range of the fortepiano was about four octaves at the time of its invention and gradually increased. Mozart wrote his piano music for instruments of about five octaves. The piano works of Beethoven reflect a gradually expanding range; his last piano compositions are for an instrument of about six and a half octaves. (The range of most modern pianos, attained in the 19th century, is 7⅓ octaves.)
Fortepianos from the start often had devices similar to the pedals of modern pianos, but these were not always pedals; sometimes hand stops or knee levers were used instead.
Like the modern piano, the fortepiano can vary the sound volume of each note, depending on the player's touch. The tone of the fortepiano is quite different from that of the modern piano, however, being softer with less sustain. Sforzando accents tend to stand out more than on the modern piano, as they differ from softer notes in timbre as well as volume, and decay rapidly.
Fortepianos also tend to have quite different tone quality in their different registers – slightly buzzing in the bass, "tinkling" in the high treble, and more rounded (closest to the modern piano) in the mid range.In comparison, modern pianos are rather more uniform in tone through their range.
The piano was invented in 1698 by harpsichord maker Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence.The first reliable record of a piano appears in the inventory of the Medici family (who were Cristofori's patrons), dated 1700. Cristofori continued to develop the instrument until the 1720s, the time from which the surviving three Cristofori instruments date.
Cristofori is perhaps best admired today for his ingenious piano action, which in some ways was more subtle and effective than that of many later instruments. However, other innovations were also needed to make the piano possible. Merely attaching the Cristofori action to a harpsichord would have produced a very weak tone. Cristofori's instruments instead used thicker, tenser strings, mounted on a frame considerably more robust than that of contemporary harpsichords. As with virtually all later pianos, in Cristofori's instruments the hammers struck more than one string at a time; Cristofori used pairs of strings throughout the range.
Cristofori was also the first to incorporate a form of soft pedal into a piano (the mechanism by which the hammers are made to strike fewer than the maximum number of strings; Cristofori's was a hand stop). It is not clear whether the modern soft pedal descends directly from Cristofori's work or arose independently.
Cristofori's invention soon attracted public attention as the result of a journal article written by Scipione Maffei and published 1711 in Giornale de'letterati d'Italia of Venice. The article included a diagram of the action, the core of Cristofori's invention. This article was republished 1719 in a volume of Maffei's work, and then in a German translation (1725) in Johann Mattheson's Critica Musica. The latter publication was perhaps the triggering event in the spread of the fortepiano to German-speaking countries (see below).
Cristofori's instrument spread at first quite slowly, probably because, being more elaborate and harder to build than a harpsichord, it was very expensive. For a time, the piano was the instrument of royalty, with Cristofori-built or -styled instruments played in the courts of Portugal and Spain. Several were owned by Queen Maria Barbara of Spain, who was the pupil of the composer Domenico Scarlatti. One of the first private individuals to own a piano was the castrato Farinelli, who inherited one from Maria Barbara on her death.
The first music specifically written for piano dates from this period, the Sonate da cimbalo di piano (1732) by Lodovico Giustini. This publication was an isolated phenomenon; James Parakilas conjectures that the publication was meant as an honor for the composer on the part of his royal patrons.Certainly there could have been no commercial market for fortepiano music while the instrument continued to be an exotic specimen.
It appears that the fortepiano did not achieve full popularity until the 1760s, from which time the first records of public performances on the instrument are dated, and when music described as being for the fortepiano was first widely published.
It was Gottfried Silbermann who brought the construction of fortepianos to the German-speaking nations. Silbermann, who worked in Freiberg in Germany, began to make pianos based on Cristofori's design around 1730. (His previous experience had been in building organs, harpsichords, and clavichords.) Like Cristofori, Silbermann had royal support, in his case from Frederick the Great of Prussia, who bought many of his instruments.
Silbermann's instruments were famously criticized by Johann Sebastian Bach around 1736, [ original research? ]but later instruments encountered by Bach in his Berlin visit of 1747 apparently met with the composer's approval. It has been conjectured that the improvement in Silbermann's instruments resulted from his having seen an actual Cristofori piano, rather than merely reading Scipione Maffei's article. The piano action Maffei described does not match that found in surviving Cristofori instruments, suggesting that Maffei either erred in his diagram (he admitted having made it from memory) or that Cristofori improved his action during the period following Maffei's article.
Silbermann is credited with the invention of the forerunner of the sustain pedal, which removes the dampers from all the strings at once, permitting them to vibrate freely. Silbermann's device was in fact only a hand stop, and thus could be changed only at a pause in the music. Throughout the Classical era, even when the more flexible knee levers or pedals had been installed, the lifting of all the dampers was used primarily as a coloristic device.[ citation needed ]
The fortepiano builders who followed Silbermann introduced actions that were simpler than the Cristofori action, even to the point of lacking an escapement (the device that permits the hammer to fall to rest position even when the key has been depressed). Such instruments were the subject of criticism (particularly, in a widely quoted 1777 letter from Mozart to his father), but were simple to make and were widely incorporated into square pianos.
One of the most distinguished fortepiano builders in the era following Silbermann was one of his pupils, Johann Andreas Stein, who worked in Augsburg, Germany.Stein's fortepianos had (what we, or Cristofori, would call) "backwards" hammers, with the striking end closer to the player than the hinged end. This action came to be called the "Viennese" action, and was widely used in Vienna, even on pianos up to the mid 19th century. The Viennese action was simpler than the Cristofori action, and very sensitive to the player's touch. According to Edwin M. Ripin (see references below), the force needed to depress a key on a Viennese fortepiano was only about a fourth of what it is on a modern piano, and the descent of the key only about half as much. Thus playing the Viennese fortepiano involved nothing like the athleticism exercised by modern piano virtuosos, but did require exquisite sensitivity of touch.
Stein put the wood used in his instruments through a very severe weathering process, and this included the generation of cracks in the wood, into which he would then insert wedges. This gave his instruments a considerable longevity, on which Mozart commented, and there are several instruments surviving today.
Stein's fortepiano business was carried on in Vienna with distinction by his daughter Nannette Streicher along with her husband Johann Andreas Streicher. The two were friends of Beethoven, and one of the composer's pianos was a Streicher. Later on in the early 19th century, more robust instruments with greater range were built in Vienna, by (for example) the Streicher firm, which continued through two more generations of Streichers. Composer Johannes Brahms had also preferred pianos by Streicher.
Another important Viennese builder was Anton Walter,a friend of Mozart who built instruments with a somewhat more powerful sound than Stein's. Although Mozart admired the Stein fortepianos very much, as the 1777 letter mentioned above makes clear, his own piano was a Walter. Haydn also owned Walter piano, and even Beethoven expressed a wish to buy one. The fortepianos of Stein and Walter are widely used today as models for the construction of new fortepianos, discussed below. Still another important builder in this period was Conrad Graf (1782–1851), who made Beethoven's last piano. Graf was one of the first Viennese makers to build pianos in quantity, as a large business enterprise. His instruments were played by Chopin, Mendelssohn and Schumann.
Prominent piano makers among the French during the era of the fortepiano included Erard, Pleyel (Chopin’s favorite maker)and Boisselot (Liszt’s favorite).
The English fortepiano had a humble origin in the work of Johannes Zumpe, a maker who had immigrated from Germany and worked for a while in the workshop of the great harpsichord maker Burkat Shudi. Starting in the middle to late 1760s, Zumpe made inexpensive square pianos that had a very simple action, lacking an escapement, (sometimes known as the "old man's head"). Although hardly a technological advancement in the fortepiano, Zumpe's instruments proved very popular (they were imitated outside England), and played a major role in the displacement of the harpsichord by the fortepiano. These square pianos were also the medium of the first public performances on the instrument in the 1760s, notably by Johann Christian Bach.
Americus Backers, with John Broadwood and Robert Stodart, two of Shudi's workmen, produced a more advanced action than Zumpe's. This English grand action with an escapement and check enabled a louder, more robust sound than the Viennese one, though it required deeper touch and was less sensitive. The early English grand pianos by these builders physically resembled Shudi harpsichords; which is to say, very imposing, with elegant, restrained veneer work on the exterior. Unlike contemporary Viennese instruments, English grand fortepianos had three strings rather than two per note.
John Broadwood married the master's daughter (Barbara Shudi, 1769) and ultimately took over and renamed the Shudi firm. The Broadwood company (which survives to this day)was an important innovator in the evolution of the fortepiano into the piano. Broadwood, in collaboration with Jan Ladislav Dussek, a noted piano virtuoso active in London in the 1790s, developed pianos that gradually increased the range to six octaves. Dussek was one of the first pianists to receive a 5½ foot piano, and in 1793 he wrote the first work for piano "with extra keys", a piano concert (C 97). The firm shipped a piano to Beethoven in Vienna, which the composer evidently treasured.
From the late 18th century, the fortepiano underwent extensive technological development and thus evolved into the modern piano; for details, see Piano. The older type of instrument ceased to be made. In the late 19th century, the early music pioneer Arnold Dolmetsch built three fortepianos. However, this attempted revival of the fortepiano was evidently several decades ahead of its time, and did not lead to widespread adoption of the instrument.[ citation needed ]
In the second half of the 20th century, a great upsurge of interest occurred in period instruments, including a revival of interest in the fortepiano. Old instruments were restored, and many new ones were built along the lines of the old. Fortepiano kits also became available. This revival of the fortepiano closely resembled the revival of the harpsichord, though occurring somewhat later in time. Among the more prominent modern builders have been (in the United States) Philip Belt,Margaret F. Hood and Rodney Regier; and Paul McNulty.
The reintroduction of the fortepiano has permitted performance of 18th- and early 19th-century music on the instruments for which it was written, yielding new insights into this music; for detailed discussion, see Piano history and musical performance. More and more music schools start fortepiano study courses. There are several fortepiano competitions, including the MAfestival Brugge and the International Chopin Competition on Chopin era instruments, organized by the Warsaw Chopin Institute.
A number of modern harpsichordists and pianists have achieved distinction in fortepiano performance, including Susan Alexander-Max, Paul Badura-Skoda, Malcolm Bilson, Hendrik Bouman, Ronald Brautigam, Wolfgang Brunner, Gary Cooper, Jörg Demus, Ursula Dütschler. Richard Egarr, Richard Fuller, Tuija Hakkila, Christoph Hammer, Robert Hill, Knut Jacques, Jenny Soonjin Kim, Piet Kuijken, Geoffrey Lancaster, Gustav Leonhardt, Trudelies Leonhardt, Morgane Le Corre, Robert Levin, Alexei Lubimov, Steven Lubin, Yury Martynov, Costantino Mastroprimiano, Zvi Meniker, Bart van Oort, Olga Pashchenko, Trevor Pinnock, David Schrader, Viviana Sofronitsky, Andreas Staier, Melvyn Tan,Natalia Valentin, Jos van Immerseel, Andras Schiff, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Duo Pégase, Vladimir Feltsman.
People's opinions about fortepiano sound vary widely, both from person to person and from instrument to instrument. Here are three representative opinions about fortepianos:
"Fortepiano" is Italian for "loud-soft", just as the formal name for the modern piano, "pianoforte", is "soft-loud". Both are abbreviations of Cristofori's original name for his invention: gravicembalo col piano e forte, "harpsichord with soft and loud".
The term fortepiano is somewhat specialist in its connotations, and does not preclude using the more general term piano to designate the same instrument. Thus, usages like "Cristofori invented the piano" or "Mozart's piano concertos" are currently common and would probably be considered acceptable by most musicians. Fortepiano is used in contexts where it is important to make the precise identity of the instrument clear, as in (for instance) "a fortepiano recital by Malcolm Bilson".
The use of "fortepiano" to refer specifically to early pianos appears to be recent. Even the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary does not record this usage, noting only that "fortepiano" is "an early name of the pianoforte". During the age of the fortepiano, "fortepiano" and "pianoforte" were used interchangeably, as the OED's attestations show. Jane Austen, who lived in the age of the fortepiano and herself played the instrument, used "pianoforte" (also: "piano-forte", "piano forte") for the many occurrences of the instrument in her writings.
The piano is a stringed keyboard instrument in which the strings are struck by wooden hammers that are coated with a softer material. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings. It was invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700.
A keyboard instrument is a musical instrument played using a keyboard, a row of levers which are pressed by the fingers. The most common of these are the piano, organ, and various electronic keyboards, including synthesizers and digital pianos. Other keyboard instruments include celestas, which are struck idiophones operated by a keyboard, and carillons, which are usually housed in bell towers or belfries of churches or municipal buildings.
Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco was an Italian maker of musical instruments famous for inventing the piano.
The social history of the piano is the history of the instrument's role in society. The piano was invented at the end of the 17th century, had become widespread in Western society by the end of the 18th, and is still widely played today.
Malcolm Bilson is an American pianist and musicologist specializing in 18th- and 19th-century music. He is the Frederick J. Whiton Professor of Music in Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Bilson is one of the foremost players and teachers of the fortepiano; this is the ancestor of the modern piano and was the instrument used in Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven's time.
Johann (Georg) Andreas Stein was an outstanding German maker of keyboard instruments, a central figure in the history of the piano. He was primarily responsible for the design of the so-called German hammer action. Pianos with this hammer action, or its more developed form known as the Viennese action, may be said to be appropriate for the performance of the piano music of Haydn, Mozart, and the early Beethoven.
John Broadwood & Sons is an English piano manufacturer, founded in 1728 by Burkat Shudi and continued after his death in 1773 by John Broadwood.
Gottfried Silbermann was a German builder of keyboard instruments. He built harpsichords, clavichords, organs, and fortepianos; his modern reputation rests mainly on the latter two.
The modern form of the piano, which emerged in the late 19th century, is a very different instrument from the pianos for which earlier classical piano literature was originally composed. The modern piano has a heavy metal frame, thick strings made of top-grade steel, and a sturdy action with a substantial touch weight. These changes have created a piano with a powerful tone that carries well in large halls, and which produces notes with a very long sustain time. The contrast with earlier instruments, particularly those of the 18th century is very noticeable. These changes have given rise to interpretive questions and controversies about performing earlier literature on modern pianos, particularly since recent decades have seen the revival of historical instruments for concert use.
Johannes Zumpe was a leading maker of early English square pianos, a form of rectangular piano with a compass of about five octaves. The pianos sounded like mellow harpsichords, and had a damper stop in the left cheek of the case. Zumpe is known as the creator of English square pianos.
Piano pedals are foot-operated levers at the base of a piano that change the instrument's sound in various ways. Modern pianos usually have three pedals, from left to right, the soft pedal, the sostenuto pedal, and the sustaining pedal. Some pianos omit the sostenuto pedal, or have a middle pedal with a different purpose such as a muting function also known as silent piano.
Burkat Shudi was an English harpsichord maker of Swiss origin.
The harpsichord was an important keyboard instrument in Europe from the 15th through the 18th centuries, and as revived in the 20th, is widely played today.
Americus Backers, sometimes described as the father of the English grand pianoforte style, brought the hammer striking action for keyboard instruments from his master Gottfried Silbermann's workshop in Freiburg to England in the mid-18th century. Unlike the eleven other ex-apprentices of Silbermann who followed him to England and built square pianos with his action, Backers developed Silbermann's action into a reliable, powerful and responsive form that he built into a grand harpsichord case and added two tonal effects – una corda and damper lift – activated by pedals built into the dedicated trestle stand, again his original innovation. This new instrument altered the landscape of English music, causing composers and musicians to consign the plucked string harpsichord and its music to history. It is upon Americus's design that the modern grand pianoforte we know today is based.
Conrad Graf was an Austrian-German piano maker. His pianos were used by Beethoven, Chopin, and Robert and Clara Schumann, among others.
Gabriel Anton Walter was a builder of pianos. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians describes him as "the most famous Viennese piano maker of his time".
Paul McNulty is a builder of historical pianos, described by the New Grove as "famous for the high standard of [his] instruments." Within the community of builders, McNulty is noted for his efforts to extend the production of historically informed instruments later into history: while he has built many fortepianos in 18th-century style, he has also progressively sought to span the gap between the fortepiano and the fully modern piano that emerged around the last third of the 19th century. The expanding diversity of McNulty's productions has thus helped "provide an opportunity to extend keyboard performing practice to include the piano repertory of the 19th century".
Alfred James Hipkins FSA was an English musician, musicologist and musical antiquary.
Philip Ralph Belt was a pioneering builder of pianos in historical style, in particular the 18th century instruments commonly called fortepianos. His pianos were modeled on instruments made by historical builders, particularly Johann Andreas Stein and Anton Walter. Belt's pianos played a role in the revival of performance on historical instruments that was an important trend in classical music in the second half of the 20th century and continues to this day.
Mechanical music technology is the use of any device, mechanism, machine or tool by a musician or composer to make or perform music; to compose, notate, play back or record songs or pieces; or to analyze or edit music. The earliest known applications of technology to music was prehistoric peoples' use of a tool to hand-drill holes in bones to make simple flutes. Ancient Egyptians developed stringed instruments, such as harps, lyres and lutes, which required making thin strings and some type of peg system for adjusting the pitch of the strings. Ancient Egyptians also used wind instruments such as double clarinets and percussion instruments such as cymbals. In Ancient Greece, instruments included the double-reed aulos and the lyre. Numerous instruments are referred to in the Bible, including the horn, pipe, lyre, harp, and bagpipe. During Biblical times, the cornet, flute, horn, organ, pipe, and trumpet were also used. During the Middle Ages, hand-written music notation was developed to write down the notes of religious Plainchant melodies; this notation enabled the Catholic church to disseminate the same chant melodies across its entire empire.