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The 19 th Century Piano Jemma Pagsibigan MuL 216

The 19th Century Piano

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Page 1: The 19th Century Piano

The 19th Century Piano

Jemma PagsibiganMuL 216

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The best known, most loved, most versatile of all musical instruments

The most complicated with over 2,500 parts

Many aspiring musicians learn piano as their first instrument

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Structural and Mechanical Areas of a Piano (Grand or Vertical)

• case of the wing-shaped grand piano (or the cabinet of the vertical or upright piano)• the soundboard and the ribs and bridges that are its components• the cast iron plate• the strings• and, collectively, the keys, hammers, and piano action or mechanism

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The Playing Mechanism

A Complex Chain Reaction

The PLAYING MECHANISM consists of several main components that work together in a complex chain of events in order to set the string vibrating:• The KEYBOARD is comprised of 88 individual keys which are mounted on the keyframe. Each key controls its own action and damper assembly.• The ACTION is the system of levers responsible for throwing the hammer at the string when the key is depressed.• The DAMPER is the part designed to silence the strings when they are not being played.• The PEDALS can be activated to affect the tone of the piano.

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Evolution of the Piano

DulcimerThis ancestor of the piano originated in Iran shortly after the birth of Christ. It illustrates the basic principles of the piano, hammers striking multiple strings tuned over a flat soundboard. Instead of mechanical hammers, dulcimer players used two light sticks ending with broader blades.

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ClavichordFirst built around 1400, the clavichord was most popular three centuries later in the music of Bach. When a key is pressed, a vertical brass strip (tangent) is lifted toward a pair of strings. The clavichord has a quiet tone, but the way it is built allows for some control of dynamics and even vibrato.

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VirginalThe typical virginal is a small harpsichord with keys at right angles to a single set of strings. When a key is pressed, a vertical rod (jack) holding a leather or quill plectrum rises and plucks the string, producing a louder tone than the clavichord but without its dynamic variety.

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SpinetThough originating in Italy, the spinet was perfected by English builders in the late seventeen century, about the time of composer Henry Purcell. The jack mechanism plucks the strings just as in the virginal, but the wing shape permits longer strings, increasing the volume and expanding the range to as much as five octaves.

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HarpsichordPictured as early as the fifteenth century, the harpsichord form (where the keys are in line with strings) reached its peak in the period of Bach and Handel. In this shape, the pattern for the modern grand, the strings are longer,and the instrument sounds louder than the clavichord.

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About 1709, Bartolommeo Cristofori built several instruments in the harpsichord shape but with hammer mechanisms surprisingly like the modern piano action. Because players could control soft and loud (piano-forte), which was impossible on plucked keyboard instruments, Cristofori named his new instrument "pianoforte".

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During the eighteenth century, piano builders gradually extended the keyboard. Two important new developments were the escapement action for faster repetition of notes (about 1770 by Stein in Augsburg), and the damper and soft pedals (1783 by Broadwood in London). Special pedals were often added to produce exotic effects.

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The upright design was already in use for harpsichords in the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth century, many builders (especially in Germany) tried to apply this form to the pianoforte. In 1800 the first satisfactory uprights were invented.

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The square piano originated when German builders (especially Johannes Socher in 1742) tried to adapt Cristofori's pianoforte to the traditional rectangular shape of the clavichord. The square piano was popular until about 1900.

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During the nineteenth century, the piano continued to become more powerful and responsive. The outstanding improvements were the double-repetition action of Sebastien Erard (Paris, 1821) which allowed very rapid repetition; and the full cast-iron frame of Alphaeus Babcock (Boston 1825), the basis for today's extended keyboard.

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The grand piano of today incorporates the best qualities of early keyboard instruments. Cross stringing - a way to achieve greater richness of tone by passing more strings over the center of the soundboard - was invented by Alphaeus Babcock in 1830, but was not used in the grand piano until the second half of the nineteenth century. The sostenuto, or middle, pedal was introduced in the late nineteenth century, permitting greater musical coloring.

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The Piano in 19th Century Society

• the gap between the aristocratic elite and the rural peasantry• with harpsichords and concerts en salon • with fiddle, fife and drum• the rise of the educated middle-class in urban areas of Europe• investment in a new form of domestic art: the family piano• establishing concert halls and orchestras

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The Piano in 19th Century Society

• along with the new instrument came new methods and styles of music• daring artists like Liszt, Chopin, and Moscheles, all virtuoso players and composers, paved the way• public concerts such as orchestra and piano recitals• piano transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies and Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique• music publishers to keep up with a huge public demand for transcriptions

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The Piano in 19th Century Society

Two-player piano music

• allows much more power and richness• among mother and daughter, master and pupil, friends and lovers • social instrument• TV room of the 19th century

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The Piano in 19th Century Society

Chamber Music

• duos, trios and quartets with voice and violin

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The Piano in 19th Century Society

Recorded Piano Music