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COFFEE BREAK | The World's Oldest Surviving Piano Sounds Better That You'd Think

By Ludwig Van on May 1, 2019

oldest known piano in the world(Photo: MetMuseum)
Watch a performance of one of the piano pieces ever written, played on the oldest known piano in the world. (Photo: MetMuseum)

Preserved historical instruments provide a tangible link to our musical past, but pianos are delicate creatures, and unlike violins, violas, and cellos, don’t always age well.

So when we find a video featuring a performance on a piano nearly 300 years old that sounds as good and this, it’s a special treat.

This priceless instrument was made in 1720 by the inventor of the piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731). The video features pianist Dongsok Shin performing one of the first pieces ever written for the piano — a Sonata composed in 1732 from the 12 Sonate da cimbalo di piano e forte detto volgarmente di martelletti, Op. 1, by Lodovico Giustini (1685-1743).

The early fortepiano is part of the collections at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is the oldest of three surviving Cristofori pianos.

One of the most striking things is how different the fortepiano sounds from the modern piano (pianoforte). While the mechanics behind the instrument are essentially the same as a modern piano, the methods of piano construction and materials are what has made the most significant impact on the sound characteristic.

Modern pianos (those produced after 1820) have higher string tensions, iron frames, and felt lined hammers rather than leather/cork or plain wood.

Take a listen here:

Kristian Bezuidenhout walks us through the ins and outs of the fortepiano:



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