Jason Crews MTC 205 10:00 AM MWF

Ever since its conception, “The sound of the piano has been wedded to our psyche”, and “has become as important to music as the printing press was to literature.” If you were to visit any one home at random it is likely that you would find a piano, and as such its presence in society has become taken for granted, but society hasn’t always accepted the piano. Quite the contrary, shortly after its development Voltaire said “The newcomer pianos will never replace the harpsichord.” Even Bach said he didn’t like “newfangled piano” at first, though he later learned to love the instrument and compose several different works specifically for piano. The piano isn’t the first of the keyboard instruments to gain popularity throughout the ages. In fact, its immediate predecessor, the harpsichord, enjoyed much musical success. The harpsichord produced a musical tone by plucking the string with a hook, while the modern piano strikes the string with a felt hammer. The plucking could only produce one dynamic volume level when plucking the strings, and so the many harpsichords would contain many different sets of string to provide some dynamic variety. It wasn’t until Cristofori invented a mechanism to strike the keys that would allow a keyboard instrument to produce many different dynamic levels with only a single set of strings. While this did make one aspect of the piano simpler, the piano was “a product of the


industrial age” comprised of thousands of different parts and often taking a very long time to assemble. Their have been many famous composers and performers on the piano throughout the ages most leaving an everlasting impression not only on the piano, but on the wider world of music. Beethoven was, perhaps, one of the first creating “powerful emotions, never heard before on the piano.” Beethoven created peaces such as “Fur Elise”, Sonata in G, and Sonata Pathetique. Later Dusek was taught on the harpsichord in Vienna by Georg Christoph Wagenseil and established himself around 1770 in Prague as a successful keyboard teacher. Mozart was his guest in his Villa Bertramka in Kosire, and finished at least two of his major works there: in 1787 the opera Don Giovanni and probably also La clemenza di Tito in 1791.1 Dusek's wife Josepha Hambacher had been taught by him and was a famous pianist and soprano. She sang important soprano roles in Mozart operas in early performances, and Mozart's concert aria Bella mia fiamma was written for her. Dusek composed sonatas, variations and concertos for harpsichord and piano and several symphonies and string quartets.2 It was during his lifetime that he became “the piano became the most popular instrument in the home.” Franz Liszt was a Hungarian virtuoso pianist and composer. He was a renowned performer throughout Europe during the 19th century, noted especially for his showmanship and great skill with the keyboard. Today, he is generally

1 2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frantisek_Xaver_Dusek Ibid


considered to be one of the greatest pianists who ever lived, despite the fact that no recordings of his playing exist.3 Liszt studied and played at Vienna and Paris and for most of his early adulthood toured throughout Europe giving concerts. He is credited with inventing the modern piano recital, where his virtuosity won him approval by composers and performers alike. His great generosity with both time and money benefited the lives of many people: victims of disasters, orphans and the many students he taught for free.4 Clara Schumann considered herself a performing artist rather than a composer and no longer composed after age thirty-six. It is suggested that this may have been the consequence of the then prevalent negative opinions of women's ability to compose, which she largely believed as her statements show: "I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose --there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?" This belief influenced her composing, as well as, perhaps, the intimidating geniuses of Brahms and her husband, and, without doubt, the stress her fame placed on her marriage. She was considered an impressive composer in her own right5, and considered by many to be “the most influential female pianist.” Chickering and Sons was an American piano manufacturer located in Boston, known for producing award-winning instruments of superb quality and design. The company was founded in 1823 by Jonas Chickering and produced
3 4

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Liszt Ibid 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Schumann


its first piano that year. Chickering pianos continued to be made until 1983. Jonas Chickering made several major contributions to the development of piano technology, most notably by introducing a one-piece, cast-iron plate to support the greater string tension of larger grand pianos. By the mid-1800s, the Chickering piano was second in American sales only to Steinway.6 These are but a few of the influential composers and performers that have graced the piano since is conception, but their have been, and their undoubtedly will be too many more to mention in any one single publication. The piano has proven, despite initial public resistance, to be a powerful and versatile instrument that will most likely remain firmly engrained in society for years to come.