Each thing has its own history, there is a piano. Knowing her is certainly not only interesting, but also useful. This allows you to better understand the musical styles and understand the content of a work.
The invention of the piano at the beginning of the XVIII century was a turning point in the history of European culture. The piano completely changed the character of the musical culture of Western civilization.
Keyboards existed in the Middle Ages. The organ, the oldest of them, is a wind keyboard instrument (it does not have strings, but there are many pipes), and it is not a direct relative of the piano, but it is one of the first keyboard instruments.
The first keyboard instrument that had strings was the clavichord. Clavichord had a device similar to that of a modern piano. However, its sound was too soft and quiet so that it could be played in front of a lot of people. Clavichord, being much smaller and simpler than its relative harpsichord, was quite a popular instrument for home music, and it could certainly be found in the homes of baroque composers, including Bach.
The clavichord had a very simple device. When you press a key, a small copper square called a tangent hit the string. At the same time, the raised damper allowed the string to vibrate. The clavichord had one string for each key, while a modern piano has up to three strings for each key. Being a very quiet instrument, the clavichord still allowed to make crescendos and diminuendos.
Another keyboard instrument, the harpsichord, was most likely invented in Italy in the 15th century.
The keyboard instrument, the harpsichord, was most likely invented in Italy in the 15th century.
In this case, the sound is extracted by bird feathers. In addition, the harpsichord strings are parallel to the keys, horizontally, like a modern piano, and not perpendicular, like a clavichord and a modern piano. The sound of the harpsichord – subtle, chamber. This does not reduce its sound capabilities. The composers of the Rococo era, namely this period of the peak of the harpsichord, showed imagination in every way. In music, this is manifested in an abundance of melismas, which only reveals the sound possibilities of the harpsichord.
The third type of string instrument played on the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries is spinet. In essence, spinet is a small harpsichord with one or two four-octave keyboards. It was usually richly decorated and therefore was the same decoration of the house, like beautiful furniture.
Spinet is a small harpsichord with one or two four-octave keyboards.
At the turn of the XVIII century, composers and musicians became acutely aware of the need for a new keyboard instrument that would not be inferior in expression to a violin. Moreover, a tool with a large dynamic range, capable of a thunderous fortissimo, the softest pianissimo and the finest dynamic transitions was needed. These dreams came true when, in 1709, the Italian Bartolomeo Cristofori, who was involved in the musical instruments of the Medici family, invented the first piano. He called his invention “gravicembalo col piano e forte”, which means “keyboard playing gently and loudly.” This name was then abbreviated, and the word “piano” appeared. Somewhat later, such instruments were created by German music teacher Christopher Gottlieb Schröter (1717) and Frenchman Jean-Marius (1716).
The device of the pianoforte was very simple. It consisted of a key, a felt hammer and a special return. This piano had no dampers or pedals. A blow to the key forced the hammer to strike the string, causing its vibration, not at all similar to the vibration of the strings at the harpsichord or clavichord. The recipient allowed the hammer to go backward and not remain pressed to the string, which would dampen the vibration of the string. Later, a double rehearsal was invented, which allowed the hammer to go down by half, which greatly helped in the performance of trills and quickly repeating notes.
The great thing about piano is the ability to resonate and dynamic range. The wooden case and the steel frame (invented later, in the 19th century, the frame of Kristofori’s piano was wooden) allows the instrument to achieve an almost bell sounding sound on a forte. Another difference between the piano and its predecessors is the ability to sound not only quietly and loudly, but also to make crescendos and diminuendo, to change the dynamics suddenly or gradually.
When the piano first declared itself, the Rococo epoch (1725-1775) reigned in Europe – a period transitional from baroque to classicism. In the period of classicism, the piano became a popular instrument for home-playing and concert performances. The piano could not have been more suitable for the performance of the genre of the sonata that appeared at that time, a vivid example of which is the work of Clementi and Mozart. The appearance of the piano also caused a change in the repertoire of ensembles and orchestras. Piano concert with orchestra is a new genre, which became very popular during the period of classicism. For a long time, the harpsichord was an accompanying instrument, very rarely acting as a soloist. The dynamic capabilities allowed the piano to stand in a row of solo instruments, such as violin and trumpet, and to occupy a central place in the concert halls of Europe.
Due to the fact that the piano could now be heard not only in the palaces of the nobility, the circle of lovers of piano music began to expand. More and more people were willing to pay to hear one or another soloist. This caused the need for all new and new works for piano, the number of composers who received recognition for piano music grew.
The era of Romanticism comes to replace classicism, when in music, and in art as a whole, the expression of emotions began to play the main role. This was expressed, in particular, in the piano works of Beethoven and Schumann, Liszt and Chopin. And here the expressive capabilities of the piano were very helpful. Works for piano four hands became very popular during this period, when up to twenty sounds were simultaneously extracted from the piano, generating new colors.
During the period of romanticism, the piano was a popular instrument of home music. Music lovers preferred the piano, because it made it possible to play both melody and harmony at the same time. The growing popularity of the piano led to the emergence of virtuoso pianists.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that, despite the decline in its popularity, the harpsichord did not disappear from the scene at all. His gentle sound today can be heard at concerts of early music. Composers continue to write music for this instrument, the harpsichords are made in fairly large quantities.
Obviously, the advent of the piano – it would seem such an insignificant event – was a turning point in the history of art. This invention has changed the character of all European music, which is an important part of world culture. Over the past three hundred years, almost all great composers have written for piano, and many of them are famous precisely for their piano works. Today one cannot find a musician – be it a singer or a composer, a clarinetist or a violinist – who would not have a piano in his house. Despite his youth, the piano has a greater impact on society as a whole than any other instrument, and it must be assumed that its glory is still very far from sunset.