Segments in this Video

History of the Piano (04:02)


The invention of the piano in 1700 is one of Western music's most spectacular discoveries. Predecessors to the piano include the zither and the clavicytherium (c. 1480), the oldest stringed and keyboarded instrument in the world.

History of Stringed Instruments (04:22)

Some of the earliest stringed instruments were not plucked, but hit as in the cimbalom, Hackbrett, and hammered dulcimer—that evolved into the clavichord, popular in the Baroque period. Later, stringed plucking instruments, such as the harpsichord, became dominant.

Medici Family and Musical Invention (03:38)

The piano arrives in music history when there is a growing demand for a keyboard instrument that could produce a more authoritative sound than the harpsichord. A mechanical genius, Bartolomeo Cristofori conceived and brought the piano into being in Florence, Italy, in or before 1700.

Bartolomeo Cristofori's Piano Forte (03:02)

One of Cristofori's piano prototypes, built around 1700 and housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a testament to "one of music's biggest bangs," an instrument that offered a dynamic contrast of loud and soft. Cristofori has earned the title of "the Leonardo of the piano."

Popularity of the Piano in London (04:31)

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg (1744-1818), consort of George III brings her intense interest in music to London and attracts a host of German musicians and instrument builders. John Christian Bach popularizes the piano and its delicate and beautiful sounds, and Johannes Zumpe began building pianos.

Mozart, Stein, and the Piano (04:04)

In 1777, Amadeus Mozart, a young virtuoso, meets with piano maker Johannes Stein in Augsburg, where his original piano remains today. Stein's pianos and Mozart's genius transformed the piano's repertoire, creating a "tidal wave" of composition for Stein's magnificent instrument.

Piano and the History of Song (04:04)

The piano is the dominant musical instrument in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as it is the ideal accompaniment to the human voice. The first great "poet of song" is Franz Schubert, who wrote more than 600 songs in his troubled life. A male singer performs one of Schubert's love songs.

Beethoven and the Piano (03:46)

In the 19th century, Beethoven's compositions stretch the piano's capabilities to the limit, turning it into a "performance powerhouse." A pianist "test drives" a Beethoven composition. The piano is "the" instrument for composition in the 19th century up to the present day.

Gustav Mahler (03:17)

Mahler (1860-1911) composes his orchestral works first on the piano before filling them out for full orchestration. A pianist plays a particular piano composition to the accompaniment of the fully orchestrated piece.

Piano Music for the Common People (02:32)

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the piano reigns supreme among instruments and is "part of the furniture" in most middle-class homes. The piano makes music accessible to people in ways that Bach and Mozart could not have imagined.

Debussy's Piano and Modernism (03:11)

Claude Debussy (1862-1918), pianist and brilliant writer for piano, ushers in the age of Modernism with his radical approach to harmony. At the Paris Expo of 1888, Debussy is inspired by the gamelan, a kind of musical ensemble from Indonesia, and incorporates the sounds in his compositions piano.

Syncopation, Ragtime, and Scott Joplin (05:08)

The influence of Western syncopation is apparent in Debussy's compositions because he incorporates elements of jazz and ragtime in his works. Joplin's compositions are the beginnings of jazz in America and demonstrate the easy leap the piano makes from classical to popular music.

Acoustic Piano vs. Electric Keyboard (01:41)

Despite the lure of electronic games and other entertainment media, the piano remains a formidable force in our musical lives because it has power and beauty above all other instruments.

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The Piano: King of Instruments

Part of the Series : Howard Goodall's Big Bangs: Turning Points in Music History
DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



No other instrument has been as important to the history of Western music as the piano. Since its invention in Florence three hundred years ago, the piano has become many things to many people—a bridge between the worlds of classical and popular music and the ultimate composer’s companion. This program traces the ancestry of the instrument and the history of those composers who championed its use. From the concert hall to nightclubs and living rooms, the piano has become the instrument of choice throughout the Western world. (51 minutes)

Length: 51 minutes

Item#: BVL10880

ISBN: 978-0-7365-6296-6

Copyright date: ©1999

Closed Captioned

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Recommended by MC Journal: The Journal of Academic Media Librarianship.

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