What does the earliest known surviving piano sound like? Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, listen to the ‘Giga’ of Sonata number 6 in B flat major, played by professional keyboard player and music producer Dongsok Shin on the Cristofori piano, the oldest piano still in existence.
The piano was built in Florence, Italy in 1720 by harpsichord maker and piano inventor Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731). The sonata was composed specifically for the pianoforte, circa 1732, by Lodovico Giustini. From Open Culture, some history of how the piano evolved from the harpsichord:
Cristofori called his design the gravecembalo col piano et forte, “keyboard instrument with soft and loud” sounds. This soon shortened to simply pianoforte. It’s interesting that the word for “soft” eventually became its sole name. For all its grandeur and thunderous capability, it’s the piano’s softness that so often captures our attention—the ability of this lumbering beast of an instrument to pull its punches and move with quiet grace. As you’ll probably note in Shin’s demonstration, the earliest pianos still retained a bit of the harpsichord’s twang, but we can also clearly discern the woody thumps, rumbles, and tinkling highs of modern pianos.
Read more about the Cristofori Piano at Open Culture.Watch more videos: How playing an instrument benefits your brain, The Wheelharp & The Viola Organista, and the making of a Steinway Grand Piano from start to finish.