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Bartolomeo Cristofori, the Inventor of the Instrument that changed music forever
Discover the story of the Italian genius behind the Piano
In the heart of the Republic of Venice, on 4 May 1655, Bartolomeo Cristofori was born, a man destined to leave an indelible mark on the world of music. Raised in the effervescent Italian cultural environment of the 17th century, Cristofori demonstrated from a young age a remarkable aptitude towards the mechanics and craftsmanship of musical instruments, a passion that would shape the rest of his life.

The turning point came when, recognized for his exceptional talent, he was called to Florence by the Prince Ferdinando de' Medici, a music enthusiast and a harpsichord virtuoso. This move was not just a change of residence, but the beginning of an adventure that would change music forever. Immersed in an environment where art and culture flourished, Cristofori was inspired to overcome the limitations of the keyboard instruments of the time.

Imagine Cristofori, in his days spent in the Florentine workshop, intent on exploring and experimenting with strings and hammers, driven by an incessant search for perfection. His great invention, the “grave harpsichord with piano and forte“, was the fruit of this research: an instrument capable of expressing the emotional nuances of music in ways previously unimaginable. But there was much more than technical genius behind this invention; there was a profound understanding of the human soul and its need for expression.

Despite his revolutionary innovations, Cristofori never sought fame. His life was marked by a silent dedication to his work, even after the death of his patron, Ferdinand. Remaining in the service of Cosimo III, Cristofori continued to perfect his instrument, despite the indifference with which he was received in Italy. However, his legacy transcended Italy's borders, inspiring musicians and builders in Germany and beyond.

The few Cristofori pianos that survive today are silent witnesses to an era when art was a window to the soul. Visiting these instruments in museums, we can almost hear the echoes of the notes played centuries ago, a reminder of the passion and dedication of a man who lived for his art.

Bartolomeo Cristofori left us much more than a simple instrument; he left us a legacy of beauty, innovation and human expression. His story reminds us that behind every great invention there are dreams, failures, and above all, a profound humanity.

There is more

Cristofori invented the piano with the intention of overcoming the dynamic limitations of the keyboard instruments of the time, such as the harpsichord, which did not allow variations in volume. His new tool, originally called “grave harpsichord with piano and forte“, was capable of producing sounds with variable intensity, thanks to an innovative hammer mechanism that they hit the strings, rather than plucking them. This ability to vary the volume allowed musicians to express a much wider emotional range in their performances. Despite the revolutionary importance of his invention, Cristofori did not enjoy great fame during his lifetime, and only a handful of his instruments survive to this day.

Other information

The news of the invention comes from Francesco Mannucci, court musician of the Grand Prince Ferdinando de' Medici, in his diary of 1710, where he notes that Cristofori would have built "new cymbals with piano and forte, manufactured in the Laboratory at the behest of the Most Serene Grand Prince Ferdinand, starting two years before the Jubilee", therefore in the year 1698. And in the same diary is recorded the vivid snapshot of the precise moment in which Mannucci himself witnessed the fateful eureka of the Paduan craftsman: "Before leaving I saw Mr. Cristofori come running into the Royal Rooms, to communicate with the Grand Prince, carrying with him a key with a hammer string, of a smaller size than the ordinary one, which he told me was better at hitting on the Strings than those from he himself used the piano and forte for the new cymbals".

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Bartolomeo Cristofori Piano Festival 2023 | 6th edition • Padua

This year the Festival looks to Japan: “Ukiyo – Il piano del Sol . . .

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