A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Pianoforte

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PIANOFORTE—or Forte Piano, as often written in the 18th century—an instrument of Italian origin. The earliest mention of the name appears in records of the family of Este, in the letters of a musical instrument maker named Paliarino, dated June 27 and Dec. 31, 1598, and addressed to Alfonso II, Duke of Modena. They were found in 1879 by Count L. F. Valdrighi, custos of the Biblioteca Estense, at Modena; and the discovery was immediately announced in the Florentine musical paper, 'Boccherini.' In August of that year Valdrighi published the text of the letters, with an essay, in a pamphlet entitled 'Musurgiana' (Olivari, Modena, 1879). In the first letter Paliarino mentions the recovery of 'the instrument Piano e Forte, with the organ[1] underneath'; in the second, 'the recovery from certain priests, with other instruments, of the Piano e Forte above mentioned and another Piano e Forte on which the late Duke Alfonso had played.'[2] Here are two instruments distinctly named Piano e Forte (correcting Paliarino's uncertain spelling). In the second letter the same Hippolito Cricca, detto Paliarino, as he there signs himself (or Pagliarini as he spells his name elsewhere), seizes the opportunity of his brother's visit to Venice, to ask for sundry materials to be procured there, as needful for repairs, and for building a new 'Pian e Forte'; namely, limetree, boxwood, and ebony for keys, cypress for the belly, brass wire, German glue, etc., etc. In Paliarino's inventory of the Duke's keyed instruments, also given in Count Valdrighi's appendix to his essay, there are, including organs, fifty-two,[3] but only one 'Piano e Forto,' the one with the organ beneath, as specially distinguished; the other, and perhaps more, being possibly recorded under the simple name 'instrument' (istromento), which is used to describe 11 of the 52. The clavicembalo or cembalo (harpsichord) and spinetta (spinet) might also have been classed under this general designation, yet Paliarino separates them. We can come to no conclusion from these names as to what kind of instrument this Piano e Forte was. It was most likely, as suggested by Sig. Cesare Ponsicchi in the 'Boccherini' (1879, No. 6), a harpsichord with a contrivance for dynamic change; but whether hammers were applied, making it a real pianoforte, we are at present in the dark. The 'gravecembalo col piano e forte' of Cristofori of Padua, a hundred years later, may not have really been the first attempt to make a hammer-harpsichord; indeed Cristofori's invention seems almost too completely successful to have been the first conception of this instrument—a dulcimer with keys.

We must now transfer our attention from Modena to Florence, and skip from 1598 to 1709, when we find Prince Ferdinand dei Medici, a lover of music, in fact an eminent musician, and deeply interested in mathematical and mechanical questions, accepting at the request of three scholars, one of whom was the Marchese Scipione Maffei, the protection of a quarterly publication intended for learned and cultivated readers, viz. the 'Giornale dei Letterati d'ltalia.' This patronage was the result of a personal visit of Maffei to Florence, where he met with Bartolomeo Cristofori, harpsichord-maker and custodian of the Prince's musical instruments, and was shown by him four specimens of a new harpsichord with piano and forte, the invention and make of Cristofori. Of these, three were of the usual long shape; the other was different we know not in what way, but a detailed account of Cristofori's invention, written by Scipione Maffei, appeared in the Giornale in 1711, with a diagram, from a rough sketch, of his hammer-action. He calls the inventor Cristofali, which form of the name has been until now followed, but an autograph and the inscriptions upon the pianofortes of his make are decisive evidence in favour of the real name being Cristofori.[4]

The complete text of Maffei's article, in the original language, with an indifferent English translation, is to be found in Rimbault's 'The Pianoforte' (Cocks, London, 1860)—the faults of translation being most obvious in the technical terms. There is no doubt about Cristofori having made these instruments under the patronage Prince Ferdinand, who had brought him fron Padua some time about 1690. [See Cristofori.]

We owe a debt of gratitude to Maffei for record of the invention, which he reproduced in the collection of his works entitled 'Rime e Prose,' 1719. The reprint has been the cause of a misconception of the date of the inventor through want of reference to the earlier publication, which was anonymous. An accurate German translation was made at the time by Koenig, and published in Matheson's 'Musikalische Kritik,' vol. iii. p. 340 (Hamburg, 1725). This early translation has been reprinted by Dr. Oscar Paul in his 'Geschichte des Klaviers,' p. 105 (Leipzig, 1868), and may be referred to with confidence by those who know German and do not know Italian.

Fig. 1.

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a is the string; b the key bottom; c the first lever, or key. There is a pad, d, upon the key, to raise a second lever, e, which is pivoted upon f. g is the hopper—Cristofori's linguella mobile—which, controlled by the springs i and l, effects the escape, or immediate drop, of the hammer from the strings after a blow has been struck, although the key is still kept down by the finger. The hopper is centred at h. m is a rack or comb on the beam, s, where the butt, n, of the hammer, o, is centred. In a state of rest the hammer is supported by a cross, or fork, p, of silk thread. On the depression of the key, c, the tail, q, of the second lever, e, draws away the damper, r, from the strings, leaving them free to vibrate.


We reproduce the diagram of Cristofori's action as the kernel of this part of our subject, the action being the equivalent to the violinist's bow; as the instrument itself is the equivalent of the violin, though stopped by a mechanical construction instead of the fingers of the player's left hand. We follow Maffei's lettering of the parts; a lettering which will be adhered to throughout. The reader will observe the smallness of the hammer-head and the absence of what is called a 'check,' to arrest the hammer in its rebound; and also of any control but springs over the forward movement, or escapement, of the hopper. To admit of this machinery—so much more complicated than the simple action of the harpsichord—being taken out, Cristofori inverted the tuning-pin block (technically the 'wrestplank'), and attached the wires to the tuning-pins ('wrestpins'), at their lower ends, as in the harp. Being obliged to use heavier strings, which exerted a greater pulling force or tension, to withstand the impact of his hammers, he found it necessary to remove the pins to which the further ends of the strings were attached (the 'hitchpins'), from their old place on the soundboard of the harpsichord, to a stiff rail of wood ('stringblock') built round the angle-side and narrow end of the case. Without this alteration his instruments could not have stood in tune and would soon have collapsed.

Two pianofortes of Cristofori's make are fortunately still existing. The earlier one, dated 1720, belongs to Signora Ernesta Mocenni Martelli of Florence, and is described by Leto Puliti, with illustrations of the action, in the essay referred to in footnote 3. The second, dated 1726, is in the museum of the eminent collectors and musicologists, the Signori Kraus of Florence. The writer, when making the biographical notice of Cristofori in the present work (vol. i. p. 417) was unaware of the existence of this instrument, or of its having been exhibited with Signora Martelli's, when the commemoration of Cristofori took place in Florence. But in 1878 the Signori Kraus showed the instrument at the Trocadero in Paris, and the writer then had the opportunity of examining and playing upon it, and found it light, prompt, and agreeable in touch, with a tone not at all to be despised. The instrument happens to be more perfect than that of Signora Martelli, because the hammerheads remain in their original condition, as may be seen by comparing Fig. 1 with Fig. 2, which represents the action of the latter.

Fig. 2.

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On further comparing the two diagrams we observe in No. 2 first the extension of the lever, or key, c: the transformation of the second lever e into what is technically an 'underhammer,' removing the hopper, g, from direct attack upon the butt, n, a change in the wrong direction, but probably necessitated by the want of a regulating button and screw to the hopper. Other modifications will be noticed; one is a pin, k, passing through the back part of the key (replacing the piece of whalebone behind the key; see drawing of Zumpe's action, p. 715), a step towards the front pin, since used to steady the lateral motion. The damper, r, now lies upon the strings, dropping, wedge-fashion, between the two unisons. But the great improvement upon the first action is the substitution of the check, p—Cristofori's paramartello, which graduates the rebound of the hammer according to the blow—for the mere support of the silk threads which formerly received it when it fell.

Both instruments, the 1720 and the 1726, have the overdampers and check, the latter the mechanical completion of the action. That of 1720 has been restored by Sig. Ponsicchi, a pianoforte maker, who has himself given, in 'Il Pianoforte, sua origine e sviluppo (con tavole),' Florence, 1876, a valuable contribution to the literature of the instrument. Both pianofortes are bichord and have white natural keys, but the compass differs, the earlier having 4½ octaves, C to F, and the later only 4 octaves, C to C, the old normal compass equivalent to the human voice.

Cristofori died in 1731, aged 80, and in 1730, the year before his death, his assistant, Giovanni Ferrini, made a pianoforte which has become famous through Burney's reference to it. It was bought by Elisabetta Farnese, Queen of Spain; and by her bequeathed to the singer Farinelli, who inscribed upon it in letters of gold, 'Raffaello d'Urbino,' and esteemed it more highly than any other in his collection of keyed instruments. Burney played upon it in 1771. There were other pupils or followers of Cristofori; we hear of Geronimo of Florence, and Gherardi of Padua, but an end soon came to pianoforte making in Italy; possibly, as suggested by Puliti, from the difficulty felt by clavicembalists of acquiring the touch, and which made them decry the new instrument—or from the imperfection of the means for escapement. Be this as it may, the fruits of the invention were to be gathered and garnered elsewhere; but the invention itself remains with Italy.

The idea suggested by the vague character of the Estense 'piano e forte,' that there were perhaps attempts to construct a hammer action before Cristofori, we find strengthened by the known fact, that two men in two different countries outside of Italy, were endeavouring, at the very time of his success, to produce a similar invention to his. The names of Marius and Schroeter, the former a French harpsichord-maker, the latter a German musician, have been put forward to claim the credit of the absolute invention on the strength of certain experiments in that direction. Marius, in February 1716, submitted, perhaps a pianoforte, and certainly four models for actions of 'clavecins à maillets,' or hammer harpsichords, the description and engravings of which were published, nineteen years later, in No. 172, 173, and 174 of 'Machines et Inventions approuvées par L'Accadémie Royale des Sciences, Tome Troisième. Depuis 1713 jusqu'en 1719. A Paris mdccxxxv,' and are to be found in extenso in the works of Rimbault and Puliti. Both overstriking and understriking apparatus had occurred to Marius, and his drawings included the alteration of an upright harpsichord, and the addition of a register of hammers to an horizontal one—rude contrivances of which no subsequent use was or could be made. His object in introducing hammers was an economical one—to save the expense and trouble of constantly requilling the harpsichord. Schroeter must be dismissed less summarily, owing to the frequently repeated statement that he was the actual inventor of the pianoforte; reasserted perhaps for the last time, but with a fervid advocacy in which the bias of patriotism is conspicuous, by Dr. Oscar Paul in his 'Geschichte des Klaviers,' p. 82. But had Schroeter not been a man of good education and some literary power, his name would not have been remembered; it must be distinctly understood that he was a musician and not an instrument-maker; and he never made a pianoforte or had one made for him, or he would have told us so. He claimed to have devised two models of hammer-actions between 1717 and 1721, which he afterwards neglected, but years afterwards, in 1738, being vexed that his name was not connected with the rising success of the pianoforte, he addressed a letter to Mitzler, which was printed in the 'Neue eröffnete musikalische Bibliotek' (Leipzig, 1736–54, vol. iii. pp. 474–6). He repeated his claim, with a drawing of one of his actions (then first published), in 1763, in Marpurg's 'Kritische Briefe liber Tonkunst' (Berlin, 1764, vol. iii. p. 85), showing, although Gottfried Silbermann had been dead ten years, and Cristofori thirty-two, the animus to which we owe these naïve and interesting communications. The particulars of Schroeter's life must be relegated to a separate notice. [See Schroeter.] it will suffice here to state that in 1715, when Schroeter was only sixteen years old, being entrusted with good pupils in Dresden, he found that their study upon the expressive clavichord was thrown away when they came to show off before their friends upon so different an instrument as the inexpressive harpsichord. Shortly after this, there came to Dresden the great dulcimer virtuoso, Pantaleone Hebenstreit, whose performances astonished Schroeter, and at the same time convinced him that it was by hammers only that the harpsichord could be made expressive. At this time, like Marius, he could hardly have known that pianofortes had not only been invented, but had for some years been made in Italy, although the intercourse prevailing between that country and Dresden might have brought the knowledge to him. But the inferiority of Schroeter's action to Cristofori's at once exonerates him from plagiarism; and the same applies also to Marius, whose ideas were of even less value mechanically than Schroeter's.

Schroeter gives us no description of his overstriking 'Pantaleon': we may conclude that he suspected the difficulties, not to this day surmounted, of an action in which the hammers are placed above the strings. Of the understriking action, his 'Pianoforte,' he has given us full particulars and a drawing, here reproduced—

Fig. 3.

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a is the string; c is the key; e, a second lever; g, a jack to raise the hammer; o, the hammer itself, clothed at the tail, r, to serve for a damper. The play, or space, between the jack and the hammer-shank permitted, as in the early square-paino action of Zumpe (which may have been partly derived from Schroeter's idea), the rebound, or escapement, of the hammer.

For his second drawing, a later fancy of no practical value, it is sufficient to refer to Paul or Puliti.

But no sustained tone was possible, owing to the position of the damper, which resumed its place the moment the hammer fell. The rapid repetition of a note, after the old fashion of harps, mandolines, and dulcimers, would have been the only expedient to prolong it. Marius's defect was the opposite one; he had no dampers whatever. But Schroeter had the great merit of perceiving the future use of iron as a resisting power in pianofortes; he invented a widerstandscisen, or resisting iron, a bar of metal here marked t, which was placed transversely over the wrestplank, rested firmly upon the strings, and formed the straight bridge. We do not know to whose piano this was applied, and it can hardly have been a part of his original conception. It is more likely to have occurred to him from observation of the defects in pianofortes, as did his scheme of stringing by proceeding from one string to a note in the bass, to four strings to a note in the treble; graduated with two and three unisons of so many notes each, between.

The allusions in Schroeter's letter to an 'ingenious man at Dresden' ('ein anderer sinnreicher Mann'), point to Gottfried Silbermann, who, in the second half of last century, was generally considered to be the inventor of the pianoforte. As late as 1780 De la Borde (Essai sur la Musique ancienne et moderne) said that 'The Clavecin Pianoforte was invented about twenty years ago at Freyberg in Saxony by M. Silbermann. From Saxony the invention penetrated to London, whence we obtain nearly all those that are sold in Paris.' It has been hitherto accepted in Germany and elsewhere that Silbermann adopted Schroeter's idea, and made it practicable; employing in fact Schroeter's action, with some improvement. Welcker von Gontershausen, 'Der Clavierbau' (Frankfort, 1 870), says, p. 171, 'the Silbermanns always used the action invented by Schroeter.' It is right however to warn the inquirer who may meet with Welcker's books, that they are not, either in text or engravings, always to be depended on.

We must now revert to the fact of Koenig's translation of Maffei's account of Cristofori's invention, published at Hamburg in 1725, an invention recorded and attributed exclusively to its author in Walther's 'Musikalisches Lexicon' (Leipzig, 1732). It was thus early made public in Germany, and we think we shall now be able to show that Gottfried Silbermann followed Cristofori rather than Schroeter when he began to make pianofortes. He is said to have made two as early as 1726 (the year after Matheson's publication of Koenig's translation) and to have shown them to J. S. Bach, who condemned them for the weakness of their trebles and their heavy touch. This adverse judgment so much annoyed Silbermann that for some years he made, or at least showed, no more. Some time after this he seems to have made an instrument for the Prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, which Schroeter happened to see in 1753; but, before that, two had been made, admitted to be copies of it, by Lenker of Rudolstadt, and had met with great praise. We may therefore assume the success of the original. In connection with this it is not surprising that Frederick the Great (especially when we remember that he had C. P. E. Bach, who owned a most beautiful Silbermann clavichord, in his service) should have acquired and placed in the music-room in the Old Palace at Potsdam, a pianoforte by that maker [App. p.748 "concerning Frederick the Great's pianofortes see Silbermann, vol. iii. p. 494b. The examination of the one at the Neues Palais was made at the request of the writer, who had peculiar facilities for examining the pianofortes and harpsichords at Potsdam and Berlin accorded to him by H. I. H. the Crown Princess (since Empress) of Germany"]. He is indeed said to have had more,[5] but no musical anecdote is better known than the visit of J. S. Bach, and his eldest son, to Potsdam in 1747; his warm and almost unceremonious reception by the King, and the extempore performances which took place, in which we may be sure that the pianoforte would not be neglected. In 1773, our own Burney (Tour, ii. 145) published an account of his visit to the new palace at Potsdam. In His Majesty's concert-room there he saw a Silbermann pianoforte; in other rooms the Tschudi harpsichords of 1766. Thus the pianoforte had not yet prevailed over the harpsichord, these London instruments being of later date. But what is of supreme interest is that the same piano which Burney saw is still in Frederick's music-room (1880). True, the instrument bears no inscription or date, but since everything in the room remains as it was at the time of the King's death, there is no reason to doubt its genuineness; and it has the whole weight of local tradition in its favour. A recent examination, made through the kind permission of Count Seckendorff by Herr Bechstein, the well-known pianoforte-maker of Berlin, reveals the Cristofori action! There can be no doubt about it. Here is Herr Bechstein's drawing, and a comparison of it with that of Cristofori's action (Fig. 2) is at once convincing.

Fig. 4.

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It will be observed that Herr Bechstein, as frequently happens in drawing pianoforte actions, has omitted the damper, but that is of no consequence. A sketch of the external appearance of the instrument has been kindly supplied from the same source.

Fig. 5.

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The instrument is placed upon an elaborate stand having an extra leg at the angle side, thus reminding us of Mozart's grand piano, by Walter, at Salzburg. The case is of oak; the strings contain 1½ octave of brass wire, not overspun, in the bass; the keys are of nearly 5 octaves (F–E), and are covered with ebony for the natural notes, and with ivory for the upper, or sharp keys. Before leaving the only recorded instances of the great J. S. Bach's connexion with the pianoforte, we may remark that the special character of the instrument does not seem to have struck him; there can be no doubt of his having shared the opinion of his son Emanuel, who regarded the pianoforte as only 'fit for rondos,' and always expressed his preference for the clavichord. It was by the youngest brother and pupil of Emanuel, John Christian, known as the 'London Bach,' that a decided preference was first shown for the pianoforte over the clavichord and harpsichord.

The pianofortes to which we have hitherto alluded were all, like harpsichords, of the 'wing' or 'tail' shape (English Grand Piano; German Flügel; French Piano à queue; Ital. Piano a coda). The distinguished organ-builder, C. E. Friederici of Gera, is reputed to have been the first to make a pianoforte in the clavichord or oblong shape (English, Square Piano; German tafelförmiges Piano; French, Piano carré; Ital. Pianoforte a tavolino). Fischhof ('Versuch einer Geschichte des Clavierbaues,' Vienna, 1853, p. 16) gives the date of this invention as 1760, but this is possibly too late. Friederici named his square piano 'Fortbien,' perhaps a pun upon Forte Biano, in which form he may often have heard the Italian name pronounced by German lips. Of his Action we know nothing; there is no description of it forthcoming, and we turn to England and another German maker for the practical introduction of the square instrument.

Johannes Zumpe[6] is introduced by Burney, in Rees's Cyclopaedia (1819, article 'Harpsichord'), as a German who had long worked for the harpsichord-maker Shudi, and was the first to construct small pianos of the shape and size of the virginal. He goes on to say that there was such a demand for Zumpe's square pianos that there was scarcely a house in the kingdom where a keyed instrument had ever had admission but was supplied with one of them, and there was nearly as great a call for them in France as in England. Pohlmann, another German, fabricated for those whom Zumpe was unable to supply. There are instruments by both these makers still existing; the oldest Zumpe piano known is dated 1766, was formerly Sir George Smart's, and is now owned by Messrs. Broadwood. No number has been found in it; yet it can hardly be the first of Zumpe's make, since he would not have been so bold as to begin with dividing his black notes and thus have 18 keys in the octave, as he has in this case. Mr. Taphouse of Oxford has one with the usual chromatic scale of 13 in the octave, inscribed 'Johannes Zumpe, Londini, Fecit 1767, Princes Street, Hanover Square,' and with XVIIII stamped on the back of the nameboard. Allowing Zumpe to have been a year or two in business before he made this number, he would not have started before 1765.[7] The action which Zumpe invented or adopted was simple and facile, having reference to the published model of Schroeter in Marpurg 1764, in its artless escapement. It became the norm for nearly all square piano actions during forty years. The writer of the article 'Pianoforte' in the 4th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1810), claims the invention of Zumpe's action for the Rev. William Mason, composer, poet, and writer on church music, and the intimate friend of the poet Gray. Born in 1725, Mason died in 1795, and was therefore, inventor or not, a witness to the introduction of the pianoforte into England, and to its development to a certain grade of perfection—that namely of pure wooden construction. The Encyclopædia writer betrays so dense an ignorance of the early history of the pianoforte that we are compelled to put him aside as an authority; although in this case he may have got his information on the point direct from Mason. Apart from such conjecture we have only sure evidence that Mason was one of Zumpe's early patrons.[8]

Zumpe's, or Mason's, action drawn from the instrument of 1766, is shown in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6.

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In the key c is fixed the jack g, a wire with a leather stud on the top, known by the workmen as the 'old man's head.' This raises the hammer o; the damper, r, is lifted by a whalebone jack, v, called the 'mopstick,' placed near the end of the key, and is brought back to its place by the whalebone spring, u; a third piece of whalebone, x, projecting from the end of the key, works in a groove, and serves exactly as in the clavichord, to keep the key steady, there being no front keypin. The two balance-rail keypins shown in the drawing belong to two keys, the natural and sharp, and indicate the different balancing desiderated in all keyboards by the different lengths of the natural and sharp keys. The dampers were divided into treble and bass sections, raised bodily by two drawstops when not required, there being as yet no pedal.

Square pianos were occasionally fitted with drawers for music, and were sometimes made to look like tables: the writer has seen a table piano, in style of furniture about 1780, but which bore on a label the name and date, Zumpe 1760. This cannot be accepted as authentic, but the action is of so much interest that it must be described, as publication may be the means of ultimately identifying its origin. The instrument belongs to Mr. Herbert Bowman, and the diagram is from a careful drawing by Mr. Robert Maitland.

Fig. 7.

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Here the pad, d, upon the key, is regulated in height by a screw, and when raised lifts the jack g, which is attached by a leather hinge to the hammer a. The damper is conjectural; but Mr. Maitland has probably indicated it correctly. The special feature is the fact of the vicarious space for an escapement being below the jack instead of above it, as in Zumpe's 'old man's head.'

In 1759, John Christian Bach arrived in London. According to Burney, who is however careless about chronological sequence, the first pianoforte seen in England was made in Rome by Father Wood, an English monk. It remained unique for several years until copied by an instrument-maker named Plenius. 'After Bach's arrival,' says Burney (Rees's Cyclopaedia, 1819, article 'Harpsichord'), all the harpsichord makers in this country tried their mechanical powers on pianofortes, but the first attempts were always on the large size.' From a previous sentence we learn that Backers, a harpsichord-maker of the secondrank, constructed several pianofortes, 'but the tone, with all the delicacy of Schroeter's touch, lost the spirit of the harpsichord and gained nothing in sweetness.' Now Schroeter the pianist (not he who has been already mentioned), came to London in 1772.[9]

The late James Shudi Broadwood, writing in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1812, attributes the invention of the grand piano in 1772 to a Dutchman, Americus Baccers (accurately Backers[10]); and again, in his 'MS. Notes and Observations' (written 1838; printed for private circulation 1862) he repeats this statement about Backers, but with a later date—about 1776. This probably alludes to the pianoforte of which the nameboard is referred to in footnote 2[10], at that time still existing. The earlier date is nearer the mark, but the 'invention' must be interpreted as meaning a new action, an improvement on that of Cristofori (which may have been transmitted through Silbermann), or rather on Cristofori's first idea, by the contrivance of the regulating button and screw which rendered his direct action certain, and was ultimately known as the 'English action' as Backers's was always called abroad. Mr. Henry Fowler Broadwood, the present head of the firm of John Broadwood & Sons, in a footnote to his father's statement in the 'MS. notes,' communicates the family tradition that his grandfather, John Broadwood, with his apprentice, Robert Stodart, assisted Backers to bring this action to perfection—a word which he may use unreservedly, as more than a hundred years have passed by and the direct 'English action' has not yet been superseded. It has met all the demands of the far-advanced technique of the present day: Chopin preferred it to any other, whether made by Pleyel in Paris or Broadwood in London, and some of the most eminent living pianists might be quoted as practical witnesses to its efficacy. The earliest diagram of it is that attached to Robert Stodart's patent of 1777, for a combined pianoforte and harpsichord, in which we first encounter the designation 'grand' applied to a pianoforte. We give it here, with a diagram of Messrs. Broadwood's grand action of the present time—the dampers omitted in both cases.

Fig. 8. (1777.)

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Fig. 9. (1880.)

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The differences in the two cases are in the proportions and form of the parts: the principle is the same in both, the only addition in the present action—and that not essential—being a strip of felt beneath the butt of the hammer, to assist the promptness of the checking. The differences of both from that of Cristofori are evident and important. The second lever or underhammer is done away with, and the jack, g, now acts directly in a notch of the butt, n. The regulating button and screw controlling toe escapement are at gg. Simplicity and security are combined.

The earliest public notice of a pianoforte in England is in the year 1767, when a Covent Garden playbill[11] chronicles its first appearance in an orchestra, under date of May 16, as an accompanying instrument. After Act I of the Beggar's Opera the bill announces that 'Miss Brickler will sing a favourite song from Judith, accompanied by Mr. Dibdin, on a new instrument call'd Piano Forte.' As a solo instrument it appears to have been used for the first time in London on June 2, 1768, at the Thatched House, by John Christian Bach.[12] In 1770, Mr. Burney, nephew of Dr. Burney, was appointed 'to the pianoforte' at Drury Lane. We do not know what pianos they were, or of whose make. They may have been by Backers, but to have had his new action we should have to put back Mr. Broadwood's earliest date.

During the period ending with 1770, the first division to be observed in the history of the pianoforte, there had been no composition devoted to and proper to the instrument; and there could have been little or no real pianoforte playing. The new instrument was too unimportant as compared with the harpsichord, and in its then condition presented to the touch differences too essential, and difficulties too obstinate, to permit of the perception of those remarkable attributes upon which the highest style in writing and treatment was ultimately to be based. The earliest piece which we have met with naming the pianoforte, and that only generally, is 'Duetto fur zwey Claviere, zwey Fortepiano oder zwey Flügel,' by Müthel, Riga, 1771.[13] There is an undated work by John Christian Bach naming the instrument, which may possibly be equally early in date. The first real pianoforte music was published in London in 1773. This was the famous op. 2 of Muzio Clementi (3 Sonatas), composed three years before, when he was only eighteen years old. In these pieces the young composer divined the technique and instrumental treatment to which the pianoforte was responsive, and there founded the true school of pianoforte-playing.

We have dwelt thus long upon London, not merely because this is an English Dictionary, but because at this epoch London held the first place in harpsichord and pianoforte making. In the decade 1765–75 there can be no doubt about the importance given to the square piano by Zumpe, and the final start given to the grand piano by Backers; soon to be the means of success to Broadwood and to Stodart, who had helped him in his invention. The great harpsichord makers, Jacob Kirkman and Burkhard Shudi.[14] had at this time brought their noble instruments to the highest point of development and excellence; and the harpsichord was now endowed with a storehouse of noble compositions, from which the pianoforte, having as yet none of its own, had for a time to borrow. We can understand how little these eminent makers, having realised fortune and done their work in life, would care for the new instrument and its improvement. It would be to them as aggravating as the Sonatas and Symphonies of Beethoven doubtless were to the aged Haydn. But with J. C. Bach, Schroeter, and Clementi on the one side, and Backers, Stodart, and Broadwood on the other, the triumph of the Piano was but a question of a few years. In the most conservative institution of the country, the King's band, the harpsichord was replaced by the pianoforte in 1795. It would appear that Backers on his deathbed desired to commit the care of his invention to his friend. John Broadwood; but Broadwood devoted his attention to the improvement, or rather the reconstruction of the Square piano, which he made public in 1780,[15] and patented in 1783, allowing Stodart to go on with the grand piano with which he soon made considerable reputation. Excepting as to the action, Zumpe's instrument had been merely a clavichord with a second bridge. Broadwood boldly transferred the wrestplank with its tuning-pins to the back of the case, and straightened the keys, which had hitherto been twisted hither and thither to accommodate an imperfect scale. Besides these radical improvements he substituted a brass damper, acting under the string, for the 'mopstick-damper' which had acted above it; and for Zumpe's treble and bass 'hand-stops,' which did away with either half of the dampers when not required, he patented (in 1783) two pedals, the one to raise the dampers altogether, the other to produce a pianissimo or sordine, by dropping a piece of cloth upon the strings near the curved bridge on the belly. This was the earliest adaptation of pedals to a pianoforte. Last of all in this patent he included a double soundboard and soundpost, which he imagined to be the 'most essential part' of his improvements (see Patent no. 1379); but neither in his hands nor those of others has this notion of resonance box and cavity, in analogy to the violin and the guitar, been brought to practical value. Having accomplished this, and being stimulated by Stodart's success, and advised by Clementi, who then played on Broadwood's instruments, as to the deficiencies of the Grand piano, Broadwood began to consider seriously the charge confided to him by Backers, and resolved to improve the Grand instrument. The difficulty in this case being the equalisation of the tension or drawing-power of the strings, he sought the advice of scientific men, and guided by Dr. Gray of the British Museum, and Cavallo, who calculated the tension by a monochord (publishing the result in 1788), Broadwood divided the bridge upon the soundboard, that is, made a separate bridge for the bass strings, an improvement which in the absence of a patent was at once adopted by all makers. As Stodart continued to use the undivided bridge (like a harpsichord) as late as 1788,[16] Broadwood's improvement can hardly have been introduced before that time.

Meantime the Zumpe square action was not to remain unimproved. Broadwood had already in 1780 transformed the instrument, and in 1786 the action met with improvement from John Geib, a workman (probably a German), said to have been in the employ of Longman and Broderip, the predecessors of Clementi and Collard in Cheapside. He took out a patent (London. No. 1571) for a new hopper and underhammer; both modifications of Cristofori's. He regulated his hopper in two ways, by piercing the blade with the 'set-off' or regulating screw already invented by Backers, and by turning this screw down upon the key. Both expedients are still in use. Tradition says that Longman and Broderip first used a modification of this patent, known by workmen as the 'grasshopper,' with whom for a long while it was unpopular from its supposed susceptibility to atmospheric changes, and consequent need of constant attention.

Mozart, with all his genius and charm of cantilena, on the importance of which he dwelt by precept no less than by example, was yet not a pianoforte-player in the sense that Clementi was; his technique, as we know from Beethoven (through Czerny's report), was that of the harpsichord, to which in his early days he had been accustomed. The late Herr Saust, who heard Mozart play, told the writer that Mozart had no remarkable execution on the instrument, and that, for instance, he would not have compared, as a virtuoso, with Dussek. And he must have met, at first, with very imperfect instruments, such as those by Spaeth, an organ builder of Ratisbon, mentioned in his letters. Being at Augsburg in October 1777, he was introduced to the pianos of Stein, also an organ-builder and a good musician. Stein's newly contrived pianoforte escapement appears to have charmed Mozart. In a letter to his father he refers to the evenness of its touch,[17] saying that the action 'never blocks, and never fails to sound—as is sometimes the case with other pianos. On the other hand, it never sounds too long, and the machine pressed by the knee [to act as a forte pedal] is prompt to raise the dampers, or, on discontinuing the pressure ever so little, is as prompt to let them down upon the strings again.'[18] Herr C. F. Pohl of Vienna, the accomplished bibliographer of Mozart and Haydn, has kindly made enquiries in Vienna as to the existence of any piano by Stein. There is not one, and Herr Streicher, the pianoforte-maker, Stein's descendant, can give no information. In the Library of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, of which Herr Pohl is the accurate and obliging cusdian, there is a small pamphlet entitled 'Kurze Bemerkungen über das Spielen, Stimmen und Erhalten des Fortepiano, welcher von den Geschwister Stein in Wien verfertiget werden' (the 'Geschwister Stein' rectified in ink to 'welche von Nanette Streicher geborne Stein'), Vienna, 1801, from which a small engraving of Stein's escapement is here reproduced (Fig. 10).

It will be observed that this escapement differs from Cristofori's and the English action in the fact that the axis of the hammer changes its position with the rising of the key, the hopper (auslöser) g becoming a fixture at the back of the key. From this difference a radical change of touch took place; and an extreme lightness became the characteristic of the Viennese action as developed by Andreas Streicher, Stein's son-in-law, who, in 1794, improved and finally established the great renown of the Viennese pianofortes.[19] The following illustration of Streicher's Viennese action is from the 'Atlas zum Lehrbuch des Pianofortebaues' by Blüthner and Gretschel, Leipzig, and shows the damping as well as the escapement.

Fig. 10.

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Fig. 11.

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r is the damper. It must not be overlooked that Stein, who had not himself invented the knee pedal, did, in 1789, invent a shifting foot pedal, by means of which the keyboard moved, and the three unisons were reduced to a single string—spinettchen, little spinet, as he named this 'una corda.'[20]


Returning to Mozart, his Concert Grand in the Mozarteum at Salzburg, shown in Fig. 12, is a small 5-octave instrument, with black natural keys and white sharps, made by Anton Walter, who became in the end Mozart's favourite maker, as Schanz was Haydn's. According to Schönfeld (Jahrbuch der Tonkunst von Wien und Prag, 1796) the pianos of Schanz were weaker and sweeter than those of Walter; the touch also easier, and the keyfall still less. But both Walter and Schanz were mere copyists of Stein. They made square pianos also in the 'English' form, most likely imitations of the English instruments, which at that time had a very wide market.

Fig. 12.

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Paris was supplied chiefly with English pianos until Sebastien Erard made, in 1777, the first French one, a Square, copied, according to Fétis, from one of English make. [See Erard.] For some years he appears to have continued on these lines; indeed it was not till after he had been driven to London, by the French Revolution, and had gone back again—according to the same authority, in 1796—that he accomplished the making of a grand piano. Erard appears to have been early bent upon constructing a grand action for himself, but while the perfecting of the Double Action harp remained his chief problem, the century went out with the English and Viennese actions pre-eminent; the radical differences of which, and the effect of those differences on pianoforte playing, Hummel, in his Pianoforte School, from his point of view, subsequently explained. Extension of compass had now set in, and will be found recorded in detail in the article Keyboard.

We have referred to the difficulty which presented itself to Cristofori at the outset of the Pianoforte, owing to the necessity of stringing with thicker wire than before, to resist the blow of the hammers, and of strengthening the case to bear the greater tension of the thicker strings, which forced him to shift the hitchpins from the soundboard to a separate strong rail. The gap between the wrestplank and the soundboard, through which the hammers of the grand piano rose to strike the strings, was the first to be strengthened by metal, as a material at once stronger than wood and very economical of space. This was effected by steel arches, a contrivance that has remained in universal employment, but of the author of which there is no record. There are three in Stodart's Grand of 1788 previously referred to; no doubt earlier examples exist, and to know their date is desirable. Schroeter had suggested a transverse bar across the instrument; but it is not known if the experiment was made at that time. The first real use of metal longitudinal bracing was suggested in 1799 by Joseph Smith (Patent 2345, London); it was to be under the soundboard and to replace the wooden braces, and thus provide space for the introduction of a mechanically played tambourine! But for the patent office we might not have known of Joseph Smith's invention, as nothing came of it. The first to use iron or steel in the form of bracing or tension bars placed above the strings—a method now universally adopted—was James Shudi Broadwood, who, in 1804, having carried the compass of the grand piano up to F,
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \ottava #1 f'''' }
found that the wrestplank was so much weakened by this extension that the treble sank in pitch more rapidly than the rest of the instrument. Accordingly in 1808, in three grand pianos, he applied steel tension-bars above the strings to remedy the inequality. This experiment is recorded in Messrs. Broadwood's work-books of that date, and the experiment was repeated in 1818, the metal bars being then four in number in place of three. In Messrs. Broadwood's International Exhibition book, 1862, p. 29, we learn that the mode of fixing these bars was at first defective, the wood giving way to the thrust of the bars. It is certain that they did not use tension bars at this time constantly, for the grand piano which was presented to Beethoven by James and Thomas Broadwood in 1817 [see vol. i. p. 194] had no tension bars, and moreover only went up to C
{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \ottava #1 c'''' }
. (Six octaves C–C.)

Sebastien Erard's patent in 1808 (No. 3170) records an ingenious step towards a successful repetition action, viz. the 'double escapement'; and an improvement which afterwards proved to be of great importance, viz. the upward bearing of the bridge next the tuning-pins by substituting for the pinned wooden bridge, metal studs or agraffes drilled with holes for the passage of the strings, and separately fixed for each note. The same patent includes what is now known as the 'celeste' piano pedal, in which the hammer strikes a piece of leather (now always felt) interposed between it and the strings.

About this time, in the very first years of the present century, an entirely new form of pianoforte was invented, the Upright, with the strings descending below the keyboard. There had been upright harpsichords and upright grands (the latter patented by John Landreth in 1787), but these were merely horizontal instruments turned up on end, with the necessary modification of the action to adapt it to the position. In 1800 Isaac Hawkins patented (No. 2446) [App. p.748 "add that Isaac Hawkins took out the London patent for his son John Isaac Hawkins the inventor, who was at that time living in Philadelphia, U.S.A."] a perpendicular pianoforte from 3 to 4 feet in height, descending to within a few inches of the floor, to give the instrument a 'more convenient and elegant shape than any heretofore made.' His patent includes two other important ideas; the use of coiled strings for the bass, and a sostinente, obtained by reiteration of hammers set in motion by a roller. In 1802 Thomas Loud (patent No. 2591) gave a diagonal shape to this upright piano by sloping the strings in an angular direction, portability being the 'leading intention and feature.' James Broadwood claims to have given a sketch for a Cabinet piano (Some Notes, etc., p. 9) in 1804 to William Southwell, who in 1807 patented (No. 3029) a damper action to the instrument there called by that name. From this tall instrument the lower upright or Cottage piano followed almost immediately. Robert Wornum 'the younger' patented (No. 3419) one diagonally strung in 1811, and in 1813 made a vertical one, naming it 'Harmonic.' William Frederick Collard, who about 1800 had with Muzio Clementi taken up the business of Longman & Broderip, in 1811 essayed an oblique pianoforte (Patent No. 3481) by turning a square one 'upwards on its side.' Nearly all improvements in the pianoforte have been of slow and patient elaboration, the introduction of metal in framing, and Erard's special action being prominent examples. Wornum's excellent cottage action was no exception to this general experience, for he did not complete it till 1828 (Patent No. 5678). Camille Pleyel recognised its value, and through his introduction it became generally used in France, so that at last it was known in England as the 'French' action. But Wornum's merit as the inventor of this 'crank' action needs now no vindication, and Southwell's 'sticker' action, long the favourite in England, is giving way and will probably be in time entirely superseded by it. In France and Germany Wornum's principle universally prevails.

We may now look back a hundred years, in the first half of which the pianoforte had really no independent existence as a keyed instrument; but between 1770 and 1820 we find the grand piano complete so far as its construction in wood permitted, and a constellation of remarkable players that included Clementi and Dussek, Cramer and Field, Hummel and Ries. Weber in Germany had initiated the Romantic school in pianoforte music; Kalkbrenner in Paris was forwarding technical discipline; and above all, Beethoven, whose early eminence as a pianist has been to a large extent overshadowed by his sublime genius as a composer, was in the latter years of this epoch engaged in completing that series of masterpieces for the pianoforte that have not only enabled it to rival the orchestra in the wealth of its possessions, but have by their own immortality ensured it an existence as a musical instrument which no change of fashion can affect. The further development of technique, essential to the interpretation of Beethoven, attained its highest perfection between 1820 and 1850, and was based upon conditions rendered possible by the introduction of iron as an essential constituent in the framing of grand pianos, and in a certain degree of that of the other kinds also. Gradation of power was the great desideratum of the player; and the possibilities of this were intimately connected with the freedom of the wrist, which had previously been disallowed, and with the discovery, made almost instinctively, that to give elasticity to the fingers, they should be raised in order to descend and not be drawn inwards as was the case with the old Bach touch. This change of practice involved a blow by the hammer which the indifferent Berlin wire of that time could not stand. Thicker wire produced greater strain on the framing which the wooden cases were not strong enough to resist. The use also of two metals in the stringing, brass and iron, led to unequal changes in the tuning, and another problem, 'compensation,' received even more attention than 'resistance' had done. To solve this a young Scotch tuner, named Allen, employed at Stodart's, set himself; Fig. 13.
and with the fervour proverbial in the youth of his country, he soon succeeded in producing a complete and satisfactory upper framing of hollow tubes in combination with plates of iron and brass, bound together by stout wooden crossbars, the whole intended to bear the pull of the strings, and to meet, by give-and-take, the variations in the length of the wires, due to alteration of temperature. The patent (No. 4431) was taken out by William Allen and James Thorn (who supplied the necessary technical knowledge of pianoforte making); it is dated Jan. 15, 1820, and the exclusive right to use it was acquired by Messrs. Stodart to the great advantage of their business. The accompanying diagram of a Stodart pianoforte with Allen's framing, shows the aim and completeness of this remarkable invention, from the inventor's point of view.

But tension soon asserted itself as more important than compensation, and a rigid counterpoise to it by means of metal still presented itself as the problem for solution to James Broadwood, who had, years before, initiated the idea; and we learn from Mr. Henry Fowler Broadwood ('Times,' May 10, 1851) that Samuel Herve, a workman em ployed by his father, in vented in 1821 the fixed stringplate, in that year first applied to a Square piano of Broadwood's. From 1822 to 1827 James Broadwood tried various combinations of the stringplate and tension bars, and in the latter year permanently adopted a system of solid metal bracing (Patent No. 5485). The tension bars not having been patented had been adopted by other makers, and in 1825 Pierre Erard had in his turn patented a means of fixing the tension bars to the wooden braces beneath the soundboard by bolts passing through holes cut in the soundboard (Patent No. 5065) [App. p.748 "add that Pierre Erard had patented a system of fixed iron bars in Paris in 1822. He could not do so in London, being barred by Stodart's (Thorn & Allen's) patent. Stodart refrained from opposing the Broadwoods when James Shudi Broadwood took out his patent for stringplate and bars in 1827. The writer had this particular information from Mr. Joseph Ries who died in 1882". There is no mention of a stringplate in this patent, but a proposition is made to strengthen the case by plating it with sheet iron, which however came to nothing.

The William Allen who had invented Stodart's compensating framing did not rest satisfied with his first success, but invented, and in 1831 patented (No. 6140), a cast-iron frame to combine stringplate, tension bars, and wrestplank in one casting. Wooden bars were let into the wrestplank to receive the ordinary tuning-pins, which would not conveniently work in metal. This important invention did not find the acceptance which it deserved, and the compound metal and wood framing continued to be preferred in Europe under the idea that it was beneficial to the tone. But Allen's proposal of one casting had been anticipated in America by Alpheus Babcock of Boston, U.S., who in 1825 patented a cast-iron frame for a Square piano. The object of this frame, like that of Allen's first patent, was compensation. It failed, but Babcock's single casting laid the foundation of a system of construction which has been largely and successfully developed in America. Besides Allen and Babcock, who in those days of imperfect communication are hardly likely to have known of each other's attempts, Conrad Meyer[21] of Philadelphia claims to have invented the metal frame in a single casting in 1832. Whether Meyer was aware of the previous efforts of Allen and Babcock or not, he has the merit of having made a good Square piano on this plan of construction in 1833. The frame of it is represented below. Fig. 14.
This instrument, which the writer saw and tried at Paris in 1878, was exhibited when first made at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, and was sold; but Messrs. Meyer bought it back in 1867 and exhibited it in the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, and again, as mentioned, in the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1878. Jonas Chickering of Boston in 1837 improved the single casting by including in it the pinbridge, and damper socket-rail, a construction which he patented in 1840. Chickering subsequently devised a complete frame for grand pianos in one casting, and exhibited two so made at the Great Exhibition of 1851. On the same occasion Lichtenthal of St. Petersburg exhibited two grand pianos 'overstrung,' that is, with the longest bass spun-strings[22] stretched obliquely over the longest unspun ones, a method that is now very well known and extensively adopted but the advantages of which have hitherto been impaired by inequality in the scale, invention of overstringing has more than one claimant, amongst others the ingenious {{sc|[[A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Pape, Jean-Henry|Henry Pape}}. We have found no earlier date for it than 1835, when Theobald Boehm, well known in connection with the flute, contrived an overstrung square, and an overstrung cottage piano, and had them made in London by Gerock of Cornhill. In the next year, 1836, John Godwin patented (No. 7021) strung square and cottage pianos. Whether he acquired Boehm's invention or not, we do not know.

Great use of iron was made by Dr. Steward (still living at Handsworth near Birmingham) in a novel upright pianoforte which he called the Euphonicon, and brought out in London in 1844. His patent (No. 9023), which is dated July 1841, includes a complete metal framing, and separate soundboards, three in number. The instruments were of elegant appearance, and the long strings, in harplike form, were exposed to view.[23] Though unsuccessful, the Euphonicon should not be forgotten. There is one in South Kensington Museum in the musical instrument collection.

To return to America. In 1853 Jonas Chickering combined the overstringing with a metal frame in one casting, in a square piano which he did not live to see completed, but which was finished by his sons. This combination was taken up by Messrs. Steinway & Sons of New York, and further improved in 1859 by the addition of an 'agraffe' (or metal stud) bridge; they then, by dividing the overstringing into two crossings, produced a double overstrung scale. In the same year this firm patented in America a grand piano with fan-shaped overstrung scale in one casting, a diagram of which will show the arrangement of ironwork and bridges (Fig. 15). This system of Messrs. Steinway's has been adopted by some of the foremost makers in Germany, which it may be mentioned is the native country of the firm. [See Steinway.]

Fig. 15. Fig. 16.
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Mr. Henry Fowler Broadwood's special concert-grand iron framing, with diagonal tension-bar and transverse suspension-bar, was invented by him in 1847, and has been used by his firm ever since. Mr. Broadwood objects to single castings, preferring a combination of cast and wrought iron, wedged up at the points of abutment, into a thoroughly solid structure. His plan gets rid of some of the tension bars, which he believes to be more or less inimical to carrying and equality of tone. The difference between this and his father's or Erard's scale is great; and it only approaches the American which it preceded in grand pianos in the fact that the framing is independent of the wooden structure of the instrument. A comparison of the diagram (Fig. 16) with Steinway's (Fig. 15) makes this difference obvious (the diagonal bar is lettered u, the suspension-bar t). The tension-bars are flanged to preserve them from twisting under the high tension adopted, the wire for the treble notes being now thicker than that for the bass formerly was. Allen's metal wrestplank remained for more than twenty years in abeyance, although single plates of metal, allowing room for the pin-holes in the wooden block, had been used from time to time.[24] The late H. Wölfel of Paris brought out about 1854 a metal wrestplank with mechanical screwpins, an idea for tuning often tried, but always unsuccessfully. Wölfel's next idea was to use boxwood plugs in the pinholes, so that the pins should not touch the metal. The difficulty was at last met by Mr. H. F. Broadwood. In his invention the tuning- pin screws accurately into the thick metal wrestpin-piece.and through it into the wooden wrestplank or pinblock, the great length of the pin and clinging of the wood producing sufficient friction to counteract the pull of the string. The wrestpin-piece was introduced by the firm in the grand pianos exhibited in 1862, and years have proved the efficiency of the invention. This is the successful completion of the iron framing identified with the third of Mr. Broadwood's name, in direct descent an improver of the pianoforte.

Returning to the action, we have seen the steps first taken by Sebastien Erard towards the attainment of double escapement, whereby power is regained over the hammer before the key returns to its equilibrium. He had grown old before the full accomplishment of his idea, and his famous 'Repetition action' was patented in London in 1821 (Patent No. 4631) by Pierre Erard, his nephew. The action is shown in this diagram, which we will describe as far as possible in uutechnioal language.

Fig. 17.

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c is the key; d is a pilot, centred at dd to give the blow, by means of a carrier, e, holding the hopper, g, which delivers the blow to the hammer, o, by the thrust of the hopper, which escapes by forward movement after contact with a projection from the hammer covered with leather, answering to the notch of the English action. This escapement is controlled at x; a double spring, ii, pushes up a hinged lever, ee, the rise of which is checked at pp, and causes the second or double escapement; a little stirrup at the shoulder of the hammer, known as the 'repetition,' pressing down ee at the point, and by this depression permitting g to go back into its place, and be ready for a second blow, before the key has been materially raised. The check, p, is in this action not behind the hammer, but before it, fixed into the carrier, a, which also, as the key is put down, brings down the under damper.

Although at once adopted by Hummel and other pianists of note, including Liszt, then a boy, Erard's action was slow to obtain recognition. It did not gain a satisfactory position until Thalberg, after 1830, had identified his admirable playing with its specialities. In 1835 Pierre Erard obtained an extension of his patent on the ground of the loss sustained in working it. Then 'repetition' became the pianoforte-maker's dominant idea in this country and elsewhere, each according to his knowledge and ability contriving a repetition action to call his own, though generally a modification of an existing one. Names that have come prominently forward in connection with these experiments, are Blüthner in Germany, Pleyel and Kriegelstein in Paris, Southwell the younger, Ramsay and Kind (under Broadwood's patronage at different times) Collard, Hopkinson, and Brinsmead in London. Other repetition actions are the simplified copies of Erard's used by Herz in Paris and by Steinway in New York, the latter lately adopted by Bechstein of Berlin, in place of Kriegelstein's.

Beyond the broad summary of inventions in instrument and action which we have sketched, it is impracticable in our space to go farther into detail; it would moreover be a task of great difficulty, owing to the multiplicity of facts needing to be sifted, and the fact that a writer on this subject must always be influenced by education in taste and use. We may however be permitted to refer to the services of James Stewart (particularly in connection with Messrs. Collard's pianos) and to Henry Pape of Paris, who has tried more ingenious experiments in pianofortes than any other maker, although the majority of them are of doubtful utility. It is to him that we owe the use of felt for hammers (much improved, however, by Mr. H. F. Broadwood, who first substituted sheep's wool for Pape's rabbit's hair). William Stodart invented a continuous bridge for upward bearing in 1822; and the 'harmonic bar' in the treble, as a bar of alternating pressure has been called, from the peculiar timbre obtained by its use,[25] was the invention of Pierre Erard about 1838, according to Dr. Paul. The main object of this bar was to consolidate the wrestplank in the treble, a screw tapped into the plank and drawing it upwards alternating with a screw tapped in the bar pressing it downwards. In 1843 Mr. A. Bord of Paris invented a different bar independent of the wrestplank, which served as a bridge of upward bearing and abolished the treble wrestplank bridge. From its simplicity and cheapness this has found favour, with some modifications, in Germany (where it is known as the Capo tasto, or d'astro, bar) and elsewhere.[26] There has been a recent revival of Mr. W. F. Collard's idea, patented in 1821, of utilising the back draught of the wires, between the belly bridge and the hitch pins, for sympathetic vibration, by means of what he called (Patent No. 4542) a 'bridge of reverberation.' This reappears, in idea, in Messrs. Steinway's 'Duplex Scale'; but Herr Blüthner of Leipzig has gone further in employing independent sympathetic strings of half length in his 'Aliquot' piano. By this he adds the octave harmonic throughout three octaves, and thus produces something of the shifting soft pedal timbre: the forte or damper pedal in the ordinary pianoforte is however an incomparably more efficient floodgate to these sympathetic, or more properly, Æolian reinforcements.

The last inventions we have to mention concern the pedals, and are due to M. Montal, a blind Parisian pianoforte maker, who, in 1862, exhibited in London (1) a 'Pédale d'expression,' diminishing the range of the hammers instead of shifting them, an expedient now employed by American and German makers, and (2) a 'Pédale de prolongement,' a third pedal, by using which a note or notes may be prolonged after the fingers have quitted the keys.[27] This pedal has been of late years re-introduced in Paris, Stuttgart and New York. Reference to Pedals will show the radical change that took place between 1830 and 1850 in 'instrumenting' the pianoforte, giving it what we may call colour of tone, divined by Beethoven, and perfected by Chopin and Liszt. By these parallel advances in technique and instrument, the masterpieces composed for the pianoforte by Beethoven have since 1850 found their fullest exposition.

It cannot be too emphatically urged that pianoforte makers, to truly excel, must ever be individual in their productions. They should be guided by care of proportions in every detail, and in equality of tension as far as the scale will admit; and by a fine discrimination of the proper striking place or point of attack upon the strings. The highly complex nature of the instrument offers inexhaustible facilities for choice in modification of these conditions, which, combined with tradition in working, an important factor, may be taken as the distinctive note of personality in a maker. But we must not forget that there is also a national taste in choice of tone which has an unmistakable influence.

A table of dates will be found a useful conclusion to this article.

1598 Piano e Forte. Name of a keyed instrument at Modena.
1709 Cristofori had made four pianofortes in Florence.
1716 Marius submitted models of pianofortes to the Academy in Paris.
1721 Schroeter submitted two models of pianoforte actions to the Court at Dresden.
1726 Gottfried Silbermann, of Freiberg, showed two pianofortes to John Sebastian Bach.
1731 Cristofori died.
1738 Schroeter wrote to Mitzler, claiming to have invented the pianoforte.
1747 J. S. Bach played on a Silbermann pianoforte before Frederick the Great.
1753 Gottfried Silbennann died.
1768–60 Friederici, of Gera, made the first square pianoforte.
1759 John Christian Bach came to London.
1764 Schroeter published in Marpurg's work his claim to have invented the pianoforte.
1766 Date of oldest Zumpe square piano known.
1767 A 'new Instrument called Piano Forte' announced at Covent Garden.
1768 J. C. Bach played a solo on the pianoforte in London.
1770 Muzio Clementi composed pianoforte music.
1772 The pianist J. S. Schroeter (not the organist) came to London.
1772 Backers about this time invented the English Direct Action.
1773 Burney praised Backers' pianofortes.
1777 Mozart played on Stein's pianofortes at Augsburg.
1777 Stodart adopted the name 'grand' pianoforte.
1777 Seb. Erard made the first square piano in France.
1780 John Broadwood re-constructed the square piano.
1782 Mozart and Clementi played upon the pianoforte before the Emperor at Vienna.
1783 John Broadwood patented loud and soft pedals.
1786 Gelb patented the square 'grasshopper' action.
1787 John Landreth patented the 'upright' grand piano.
1787 Walton patented a soft pedal with shifting hammers.
1788 John Broadwood about this time made a new scale grand piano, dividing the curved bridge.
1789 Stein, of Augsburg, invented a soft pedal with shifting action.
1790 John Broadwood made the first piano with five and a half octaves.
1794 William Southwell invented the 'Irish' damper.
1794 Andreas Streicher perfected the Viennese grand action.
1794 John Broadwood made the first piano with six octaves.
1796 Seb. Erard made his first grand piano in Paris.
1800 Clementi, in partnership with Collard, began about this time to make pianos.
1800 Isaac Hawkins patented an upright pianoforte.
1802 Thomas Loud patented a diagonal upright pianoforte.
1807 William Southwell patented the cabinet pianoforte.
1808 James Broadwood first applied tension bars to a grand piano.
1808 Seb. Erard patented the upward bearing and the 'celeste' pedal.
1811 Robert Wornum made the first cottage pianoforte.
1820 William Allen invented and brought out at Stodart's a compensating grand piano with metal tubes and plates.
1821 Seb. Erard patented his double escapement action.
1821 S. Herve invented the fixed stringplate (brought out at Broadwoods').
1822 James Broadwood adapted tension bars to the stringplate.
1824 Liszt came out in Paris on an Erard grand piano. Seven octaves, C–C.
1825 P. Erard patented bolts to tension bars.
1825 Alphaeus Babcock patented in America a cast iron frame square piano.
1826 B. Wornum patented the crank action. Improved 1828.
1827 James Broadwood patented tension bars and stringplate combined in a grand piano.
1827 James Stewart patented stringing without 'eyes' to the strings (in Messrs. Collards' pianos).
1831 W. Allen patented in London a complete cast-iron frame piano.
1833 Conrad Meyer patented in America a cast-iron frame square piano.
1835 Boehm had over-strung pianos made in London.
1838 P. Erard introduced the 'Harmonic bar.'
1840 Jonas Chickering patented in America a cast-iron frame with damper socket (square piano).
1843 A. Bord of Paris invented the 'Capo tasto' bar.
1847 H. F. Broadwood invented his 'Iron' grand pianoforte.
1851 Jonas Chickerlng exhibited in London grand pianos with frames in one casting.
1851 Lichtenthal, of St. Petersburg, exhibited in London overstrung grand pianos.
1853 Chickering & Son combined cast frame and over-stringing in a square piano.
1854 H. Wölfel, of Paris, invented an iron wrestplank with mechanical screwpins.
1859 Steinway & Sons patented in America a cast frame overstrung grand piano, and double overstrung square piano.
1862 Montal, of Paris, exhibited in London a third pedal for prolonging sounds after the fingers have quitted the keys.
1862 H. F. Broadwood patented the metal plnplece or wrestplank with screw tuning-pins (not mechanical).

[ A. J. H. ]


  1. 'Cossi io mi ritrovo l'orghano di carta, et l'instrumento Pian e Forte con l'orghano di sotto …'
  2. 'L'altezza vostra sappia che mi ritrovo del' suo che lo recuperrato da questi Pretti l'horggano di carta, l'istrumento Piane e Forte con l'horggano disotto, un altro istrumento di dua registri et il Piane e Fortte, quello che adoprava il Ser. Sig. Duca Alfonso buona memoria.…'
  3. This large number, as it seems to us, was not then remarkable for a prince to have: a hundred years later Prince Ferdinand dei Medici owned at least 40. See Appendix C. p. 101. to Puliti's 'Cenni Storici della vita del Serme Ferdinando dei Medici' (Florence 1874).
  4. This has been adopted in Florence on the memorial stone. [See Cristofori, vol. 1. p. 417.]
  5. We quote from Forkel: 'The King … urged Bach (then known as the Old Bach) to try his Silbermann Fortepianos then standing in various rooms of the palace.' A footnote adds:—'The pianofortes of the Freyberg Silbermann pleased the King so much, that he made up his mind to buy them all. He got fifteen of them together. They must now (1802) be all standing about, of no use, in different corners of the palace.' Recent search has failed to discover these instruments. Fifteen was a large number for Silbermann to have made and had by him, and it must be remembered that Forkel wrote at secondhand, and long after the event, although we have the statement of an eye-witness, W. Friedemann. Bach's eldest son. Gerber's Lexicon, published 1792, art. 'Silbermann.' states that the King of Prussia had one pianoforte made for him, before Bach's visit, and this pleasing him he ordered others for Berlin. Hooser's 'Silbermann der Orgelbauer' (Strassburg 1857) affirms that they were six in number, and that one more was acquired after Silbermann's death. Burney saw only one at Potsdam, and that not five-and-twenty years after Bach's visit.
  6. It has been suggested that Zumpe may have been an altered name from Zumpt, to suit English habits of pronunciation, as the contemporary Shudi was corrupted from Tschudi, Kirkman from Kirchmann, etc.
  7. Mr. Williamson of Guildford had, in 1879, a square piano by Zumpe & Buntebart, dated 1769. In 1776 the firm was Zumpe & Mayer—the instruments remaining the same, almost clavichords with hammer actions, and nearly five octaves compass, G–F.
  8. Mason appears to have first possessed a pianoforte in 1755. Writing from Hanover to the poet Gray he says:—'Oh, Mr. Gray! I bought at Hamburg such a pianoforte and so cheap! It is a harpsichord too of two unisons, and the jacks serve as mutes when pianoforte stop is played, by the cleverest mechanism imaginable,—won't you buy my Kirkman?' (meaning his harpsichord by that maker). Gray, writing to Mason in May 1767, after the death of Mrs. Mason, says:—'You will tell me what to do with your Zumpe which has amused me much here. If you would have it sent down I had better commit it to its maker, who will tune it and pack it up. Dr. Long has bought the fellow to it. The base is not quite of a piece with the treble, and the higher notes are somewhat dry and sticky. The rest discourses very eloquent music.' Mason had married in the autumn of 1765. It is possible that he bought his Zumpe then, or if not, in the course of the ensuing year, 1765. (The Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason. London 1853, pp. 33 and 381.)
  9. Johann Samuel Schroeter (1750–88), the first pianist recorded as having had a 'touch,' came to London In the year above stated, and played at the Thatched House on the Forte Piano (Haydn in London, by C. F. Pohl, Vienna 1867, p. 347). His wife was an intimate friend of Haydn's.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Burney, in 1773, praised Backers' pianofortes. We have seen a nameboard inscribed 'Americus Backers, Inventor et Fecit, Jermyn Street, London. 1776.'
  11. In Messrs. Broadwood's possession.
  12. Pohl's 'Haydn in London.
  13. Emmanuel Bach posslbly wrote 'pianoforte' upon his title-pages before this. Gray, writing to Mason in 1763, says: 'Send for six lessons for the pianoforte or harpsichord of Carlo Bach, not the Opera Bach, but his brother.' Correspondence, p. 314.
  14. Shudi had his name properly written, Tschudi, on the Potsdam harpsichords.
  15. Messrs. Broadwood have a Square Piano of John Broadwood's dated with that year.
  16. This Grand Piano by Stodart was made for the Prince of Wales, who gave it to Mr. Weltjé, in whose house at Hammersmith and family it remained in 1880, a really powerful instrument. The earliest known date of a Broadwood Grand is 1781. No. 40 was made in 1786. But Abraham Kirkman was in the running with a Grand in 1780.
  17. Much more like the harpsichord in fluency than the English escapement, which Mozart did not know then, if ever.
  18. Letter, Oct. 17, 1777.
  19. Stein's son seems to have founded the Vienna business, as shown in the following extracts from a 'Musikalische Monatschrift,' edited by F. X. Glöggl (Linz, Oct. 1803, p. 99). 'The clavier instruments which have been made by Andreas Stein at Vienna are to be properly understood as Forti Piano, meaning such as respond to every possible degree of strength or softness of tone when played with more or less pressure, or rather stroke of the fingers on the keys'; and 'the action in all parts is as simple as possible and at the same time extraordinarily durable. It is original throughout, that is, entirely the invention of the deceased organ-builder and instrument-maker Stein of Augsburg (father of the present maker), who, with the rarest love of art, has devoted the greatest part of his active life to its completion.' This communication, from Herr C. F. Pohl, is an historical proof of the pedigree of the Viennese action.
  20. Walton, a London maker, had shifted the hammers, leaving the keyboard stationary, two years earlier, viz. 1787. (Patent No. 1607.)
  21. A native of Marburg, Hesse Cassel, who emigrated to Baltimore in 1819, and in 1823 set up in business as a pianoforte-maker in Philadelphia. Mr. Meyer and his sons were still carrying on the business in 1879.
  22. 'Spun, or overspun. strings' are surrounded with an external coil of fine wire, to add to their weight and power of tone.
  23. In the harp shape Or. Steward had been anticipated by Munsard of Lausanne. We have seen a piano so made by him in 1819.
  24. An independent iron wrestplate, attached to the wooden wrestplank, was proposed by J. C. Schwleso, a harp-maker in London, who took out a patent (No. 6069) for it in 1831. Schwieso's tuning-pin pierced the wrestplate, and was tapped at the upper end; the immobility of the pin, to which the string was attached at the lower end (as in a harp, or Cristofori's first pianos) being ensured by friction collars and washers. We do not know if this wrestplate answered, or was ever tried in a pianoforte. Schwieso adapted it for use in harps, violins, and guitars.
  25. In the original application of this invention a third screw pressed upon the bridge.
  26. The Capo Tasto bar recalls Schroeter's 'Widerstandseisen,' but was not taken from it.
  27. From the Report of M. Fétis on the Paris Exhibition ot 1855, it appears that the first idea of this pedal had occurred to Xavier Boisselot of Marsellles, who had shown in the 'Exposition Nationale, 1844, a piano 'à sons soutenus à volonté.'