The Music of the Piano Runs Through Two Centuries


ONE of the most treasured exhibits in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and one that attracts visitors from all over the world is a musical instrument of quaint design, a piano far different in appearance from those of the present day.

This particular instrument was made in Italy in 1720 by Cristofori, the earliest inventor of the pianoforte. His first was made in 1709 and but two of his instruments now exist, the other one being carefully preserved in Florence.

The invention of Cristofori gave to the world for the first time a musical instrument whose strings were vibrated by a row of hammers controlled by keys. In this lay the radical change from the harpsichord and similar instruments that then held sway. And through this invention was gradually developed the widest range of musical expression than any single instrument has as yet provided.

It was many years, however, before the possibilities of the new form of instrument became generally recognized and regarded as a successful rival of the harpsichord. During most of this time it remained a rudimentary affair that was not a pianoforte in the modern sense.

It was not in fact until after the piano began to be made in America near the historic date of 1776 that some of the greatest improvements in it were made: improvements that gave it a place of outstanding importance in the social and cultural life of the nation and that have placed it in one form or another in American homes everywhere.

Many of these instruments that after years of service have outworn their usefulness are still retained for the memories that cling to them. But the fact remains that in millions of our homes today the piano occupies the post of honor it so well deserves.

To what extent will the rising generation be encouraged to share in the rich heritage this instrument brings to it?

In these later years the phonograph and the radio, as well as the player piano, have been carrying the world’s best music into all classes of homes without requiring any previous study or musical training. They have already played and will continue to play a highly valuable part in the spread and enjoyment of good music.

These marvels of reproduction, however, do not take the place of such instruments as the piano, organ, violin and others allowing individual expression of the music that to greater or less extent is born in every soul.

There is a vast difference between merely listening to the music of others and participating one’s own self in its production. Hence the growing conviction that a little training in music each day in earlier years and in the use of some musical instrument should be the privilege of every child. New ways are being opened up to accomplish this.