28 July 2015

History Of Music: Fortepiano

This post is the next part in my History Of Music series. In this series I will write about things related to music's history (surprise, surprise), including bands, traditions, instruments, genres, etc. I purprosely try to keep these posts short, so that they will not get boring or too long to be interesting to read for random music fans. "A nice batch of interesting information on a short, compact package", that is my motto with this series. Darn, I really should make a proper disclaimer paragraph for this series...

Earlier this month I started a new blog series about music related travel tips and reviews. In the first post of that series, I talked about a music museum in Turku, Finland. In that post I wrote about some things I saw in the museum, and how they inspired me to find out more about the subjects and eventually to write blog posts about them. Now would be the time for the first History Of Music post inspired by my visit to the museum in question.

Photo from Wikipedia

This is a fortepiano. Do you know what fortepiano actually is? When I saw one in the museum, I thought it looked like a piano, but the name was confusing: The other name for fortepiano in Finnish is "vasaraklaveeri", which comes from the German name for the instrument, "hammerklavier". Hammer means hammer and klavier is German for piano. Nobody in Finland calls a piano "klaveeri", so you can imagine my confusion. I suppose it was to make the fortepiano to sound fancier and more interesting. Well, if that was the case, then it obviously worked for me since it made me want to find out what the heck the thing is.

So, what the heck the thing is? Fortepiano is an early version of piano. What a surprise. Fortepiano was made by an Italian musical instrument maker called Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco. Bartolomeo Cristofori is actually thought to be the inventor of piano, so us piano fans should now bow him our thanks and respects. (Hey, there is a great blog post subject hidden in here!) It is not exactly known when he invented the piano, but there are evidence of piano's existence from early 1700s.

Before fortepiano and the actual piano, there were many predecessors, in example the harpsichord. Harpsichord was the most used keyboard instrument until Fortepiano took over; Fortepiano had more varying sound ranges and it was overall better than harpsichord and likes. There are different kinds of fortepianos, but the main principle is the same.

Fortepiano eventually evolved into the piano that we more commonly know. So, now you might ask, is it really that different from modern piano? Let's take a look at this video by some guy named Matt Bengtson, who here explains more about the fortepiano's structure and history, and also plays examples with his fortepiano. If you are interested on what he is saying, you can hear the music samples from around 5:30 onward.


Even to my untrained ears that sounds different from the piano I am use to. Or what do you think?

Fortepiano has a huge role in the history of music, since it was the main keyboard instrument during the classical era. That is when the most famous ones of composers lived: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven... All of these huge names composed their music for fortepiano. So if you want to hear what ie. some of Mozart's compositions sounded like to the composer himself, you should hear it being played on a fortepiano instead of piano. The modern version of the piano came to be only around the early 1900s. I think that shows the importance of the fortepiano.

I think that is all about the fortepiano for now, since I do not want to go into the technical stuffs and such now. Plus short and compact. We will meet the fortepiano again in some future parts of this series, since it has inspired me to look into also other piano-like instruments and the history of the piano itself (I am a huge piano fan and the rumour has it that I have tried to learn play it myself too). One thought that crossed my mind during to writing of this post: Why do they not teach us this kind of interesting stuff in the school music classes, instead of choir singing the same songs over and over and over again?

More about fortepiano ie. on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortepiano

I tried keeping this post shorter than normally, because I felt like this could be a subject that is not as interesting to common music blog readers? Please, do correct me if I am wrong, since at least I find subjects like this highly interesting!

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