Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Vermeer painting: Young Woman Seated at a Harpsichord
The harpsichord was widely used in Renaissance and Baroque music. During the late 18th century it gradually disappeared from the musical scene with the rise of the piano.
The piano: pressing a key on the piano's keyboard causes a felt covered hammer to strike steel strings. The hammers rebound, allowing the strings to continue vibrating at their resonant frequency. These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a sounding board that couples the acoustic energy to the air so that it can be heard as sound. When the key is released, a damper stops the string's vibration.
The word piano is a shortened form of the word pianoforte, which is derived from the original Italian name for the instrument.
The invention of the modern piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) of Padua, Italy, who was employed by Prince Ferdinand de Medici as the Keeper of the Instruments. He was an expert harpsichord maker and was well acquainted with the previous body of knowledge on stringed keyboard instruments. It is not known exactly when Cristofori first built a piano. An inventory made by his employers, the Medici family, indicates the existence of a piano by the year 1700; another document of doubtful authenticity indicates a date of 1698. The three Cristofori pianos that survive today date from the 1720s.