In 1709, the Florentine instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori realized a significant objective, a harpsichord with hammers. The Italian gave his instrument the shape of a large harpsichord and called it harpsichord with soft and loud. So began the era of the piano. Even though by 1720 he had improved the instrument, it appears that in his own time the invention did not attract much attention. However, despite the activity in piano construction, there had to be a gestation period of some 20 years before any consistent piano literature emerged. From around 1750, the year of J.S. Bach’s death, the sound of music changed a great deal from the Baroque period to the Classical period with the music of Mozart, Haydn and early Beethoven. These composers focused more on the structure (architecture) of the piece and were interested in phrasing, articulation and dynamics to express contrasts and emotions. They wrote all the details in the music, so that performers had very clear instructions on how to play, contrary to earlier times when musicians often were free to add ornaments and decide for themselves how to play the music.
Muzio Clementi born in Rome in 1752, was one of the first composers to write music just for the piano. He wrote over 60 piano sonatas, smaller sonatas called sonatinas and other works. A very interesting man, he traveled a great deal, and by 1810 was permanently established in London, having relinquished the concert stage in order to devote all his attention to making pianos.
Join me on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at noon, at the Carnegie Hall Auditorium for a half hour of insights and music by Italian composer Muzio Clementi and others, the third of the fall series entitled “Favorite Italian Composers.