How does the oldest piano in the world sound?

Bartolomeo Cristofori, the inventor of the piano, created the instrument around the turn of the 18th century. The first hard evidence of a piano in existence comes from an inventory of goods from 1700, in which it is referred to as a harp harpsichord.

Unfortunately, this first instrument was lost. The oldest piano now in existence is another model by Cristofori from the year 1720. In the video above, you can hear how it sounds, as Dongsok Shin plays Sonata No. 6 by Lodovico Giustini. Giustini (1685-1743) is believed to be the first composer to write a piece of music for the piano: 12 sonatas published in Florence in 1732.

Photo of 1726 portrait of Bartolomeo Cristofori

Cristofori was working for the Grand Prince of Tuscany when he developed the piano. Composers of the time were aware of it, with J.S. Bach overcoming initial doubts about the instrument’s design to praise an improved version produced by Gottfried Silbermann in the 1740s. However, it was only with the compositions of Haydn and Mozart that the piano found a firm place in music.

The piano is now kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It looks like the harpsichords of the time and possesses just 54, rather than 88, keys. Two other Cristofori pianos survive today, one at a museum in Rome and another at Leipzig University.

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