Do you know that the grand piano we are so used to see on stage these days, did not always look that way?
Gravicembalo col piano e forte = soft and loud
The first wing-shaped piano Gravicembalo col piano e forte was a large harpsichord with a soft and loud sound. It was presented in 1709 at a reception at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, by Bartolomeo Cristofori; the master and keeper of the collection of harpsichords of Duke Ferdinando Medici.
Time after, Cristofori redesigned the harpsichord: He created a fundamentally new mechanism with soft (then leather) hammers, which made it possible to change the strength of the sound when played. Cristofori’s first instrument has not survived. Several of his later pianos from the 1720s were kept in museums in Italy and in the United States.
InterestingLY, the world’s first piano appeared thanks to the sponsorship of one of the richest nobles of Europe: the Florentine Duke Ferdinando Medici.
According to a legend, the duke was in a sad state after unrequited love. Rejected by his beloved lady, he decided to indulge in some “forgetfulness of feelings”: he went to Venice – the capital of “spicy” entertainment of that time – and spent several months there. Infected with an incurable disease and realizing that he had little time left to live, the duke returned to Florence and decided to invest in the innovative (as they would say today) activities of Cristofori, who convinced Ferdinando that he could create a fundamentally new musical instrument. A special workshop was organized and, after many unsuccessful attempts, such an instrument was nevertheless created around 1709.
Throughout the 18th century, the piano “punched” its way, competing with harpsichords and clavichords. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven tried to play on new experimental instruments. Gradually, the center of piano building from Italy began to move to other countries; the most outstanding craftsmen and factories began to work in German Saxony.
Grand Piano appearence
At the beginning of the19th century, the new term: “grand piano” appeared, to refer to a new improved wing-shaped piano with a solid cast iron frame for a higher “holding” of the musical scale.
After the 1850s the rapid development of grand piano building began in Europe, Russia and the USA.
The first grand pianos of the so-called “perfect design” appeared suggesting three main points:
- A double rehearsal (fluency) mechanism
- A full cast iron frame
- A cross arrangement of strings.
Finally, the 1910s perfect (modern) design became the universal standard that still exists today!