Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Haiku Wednesday: Bartolomeo Cristofori


Bartolomeo Cristofori

Bartolomeo Cristofori

Cristofori fa
“il piano e il forte.”
Grazie mille.

[Cristofori makes
The pianoforte. (For this)
Thank you very much.]

Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) was a maker of a variety of keyboard instruments.  While in the employ of the Medici court, he initially created harpsichords and virginals.  But they weren’t very loud.  But then he hit upon an idea to make the instrument louder.  Hit upon the strings…with a hammer.

Not like this.



Cristofori developed a mechanism that allowed the performer to play both loud and soft.  His name for the instrument is believed to be arpicembalo (a harp-harpsichord).  But fortepiano>pianoforte>piano stuck.

Today nine of the instruments he built, including three pianos, survive.  Here is a picture of one of them.

By Shriram Rajagopalan, via Wikimedia Commons.

One of Cristofori’s pianos. Photo by Shriram Rajagopalan, via Wikimedia Commons.

The piano continued to undergo development, in particular by John Broadwood and Sons in England. Thomas Broadwood made a gift of his finest instrument to Beethoven.  The instrument later came to the hands of Franz Liszt.  Liszt also had a Érard piano (France), which featured an innovation that allowed him to play notes in more rapid succession.  Chopin played a piano produced by the Pleyel family in France (whom you may remember from Hector Berlioz’ ill-fated engagement).

Broadwood, Érard, Pleyel, Steinway, Bösendorfer, Fazioli…the list goes on and on. Beautiful pianos made all over the world, at every price point (check out the Fazioli special models!).

Mille grazie, Bartolomeo Cristofori!

Here is a sonata by Domenico Scarlatti played on one of Cristofori’s surviving pianos at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Image attributions:

Photo of a 1726 portrait of Bartolomeo Cristofori. The original was lost in the Second World War. Public domain.  Via Wikimedia Commons.

Member of Blue Man Group and piano.

Cristofori pianoforte, 1720.  Photo by Shriram Rajagopalan (Flickr: Met-32) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

2 thoughts on “Haiku Wednesday: Bartolomeo Cristofori

  1. Nice! All good info, of course. And great to have a sound sample. Are there sound samples available for Steins (what Mozart played, as I recall), early Broadwoods, Erards? That would be intresting- especially if well recorded in similar settings. Several of the Met’s collection, and the Smithsonian’s, are playable.




    • Thanks! The answer is yes, there are sound samples of these wonderful original pianos. I think there’s too much information for a comment, so look for a post on Friday featuring the best videos.


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