A world of music

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A World of Music
at Your FingertipsBY AWAKE!  WRITER IN BRITAIN"THE greatest of all musical instruments"—that is how some view the piano. Versatile and expressive, it is equally at home in the worlds of classical, jazz, and popular music. It dominates the concert stage as a majestic soloist yet provides discreet support to even a shy singer. It functions as a "one-man orchestra" but readilyblends in with virtually every instrument. Described as "the musical equivalent of the artists' palette," it has inspired some of the most beautiful music ever written. Who invented the piano, and why is it still popular today?* | |

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| Related topics: |   | The Piano's AncestorsThe harp and the lyre were among the earliest hand-plucked stringed instruments. (Genesis 4:21)Later came the dulcimer, whose player hit the strings with small hammers. In Europe during the Middle Ages, instruments were developed with a keyboard for plucking or striking the strings, the most popular being the clavichord and the harpsichord. The clavichord was shaped like a rectangular box with a lid, and its strings were struck from below by little metal strips called tangents. It playedexpressively, but its tiny voice was easily drowned out by other instruments and by singers. The bigger harpsichord, looking rather like the modern grand piano, had long strings that were plucked by quills or plectra. It produced a strong, resonant tone but without any variation of volume.By 1700, with new dramatic, expressive music being composed, musicians wanted a keyboard instrument that playedsensitively, as the clavichord did, but with the power of the harpsichord.The Piano ArrivesThe Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori combined the basic design of the harpsichord with the hammer action of the clavichord, using small leather-topped wooden hammers to strike the strings. He called his invention the gravicembalo col piano e forte (harpsichord with soft and loud), shortened to thepianoforte, or piano. Here was a keyboard instrument that had a fuller, richer tone and could be played softer or louder.Sadly, Cristofori did not live to see the success of his new instrument. Because few people showed interest in it, he went back to making harpsichords. Almost 30 years after Cristofori's first piano, German organ builder Gottfried Silbermann took another look at the design andstarted making his own pianos. Craftsmen in Germany and Austria continued to experiment, concentrating on building a smaller, lighter model called a square piano.In England another group of piano makers were at work. They had emigrated from Germany in the late 1750's. One of them, Johannes Zumpe, developed a version of the square piano that sold well. Sébastien Érard of France and other makers inEurope and America added further improvements. Astute Scottish cabinetmaker John Broadwood perceived that the piano would be ideal for the young ladies of the newly affluent middle class. Soon his company was busy turning out large numbers of both square and grand pianos.The next challenge was to design a compact piano with the superior sound of a grand. So pianos were built upward and not outward,becoming ever larger. The vertical strings of one Broadwood model rose nine feet [2.7 m] above the keyboard; but being distinctly top-heavy, it proved too dangerous to play! Another upright called the giraffe model was really a grand piano set on end with its tail in the air. John Isaac Hawkins, an Englishman, designed the first successful upright in 1800 by placing the lower end of the stringsnear floor level. This eventually led to the phasing out of the square piano.Composers Discover the PianoIn the meantime, composers began to discover the piano. When young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited Johann Stein's Bavarian workshop in 1777 to try the new instrument, he was impressed. Soon he was writing music for it, composing no less than 15 piano concerti in just four years! However, it...
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