The Piano: A Song that Lives On...
The Piano: A Song that Lives On…
By: Carly Hill, Latique.com Staff Writer
My grandfather is sitting at the piano playing his signature honky-tonk version of “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” while my one-year-old does deep knee squats – her go-to dance move, and swinging her Barney doll from side to side. When my grandfather dies, the piano will carry his memory. Pianos are much more than pieces of wood with ivory keys. The songs that come out of them are carried from generation to generation. Someday, my one-year-old might play “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” on that same piano.
The first instrument that paved the way for the piano was the harp. You see mention of the harp as early as the book of Genesis in the Bible. The next step was when keys were added to stringed instruments making what we know to be the harpsichord, which was the most popular instrument in the 17th century. The first piano, as we know it, was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori. His job profile was “Keeper of the Instruments” for the Grand Prince of Tuscany, Ferdinando de’ Medici. His pianos had hammers that would strike the strings by falling by momentum, moved by parts that linked the hammers to the keys. The hammers were caught by hammer checks so they wouldn’t bounce on the strings after the initial strike. The piano surpassed the harpsichord because its mechanics allowed the musician to control the length of the note as well as the volume. By the end of the 18th century, the harpsichord was old news. At first, musicians would play songs written for the harpsichord on the piano, but it wasn’t long before they started writing music specifically for the piano.
Cabinetmakers built gorgeous cases for these new, popular instruments. One of the most famous French cabinet makers of the 19th century was Francois Linke (1855-1946). The piano pictured here is a rare French Gaveau piano with his signature. Linke started his own workshop in Paris and became known worldwide as a master of high quality furniture by 1900. Linke’s international success gave him quite a fortune which allowed him to establish a large showroom in Vendome, as well as having other international exhibits. He received numerous awards, and was able to furnish the palaces of Kings. In 1906, Linke was given the highest distinction in France – the Croix de la Legion d’honneur. If you’re interested in owning this beautiful and historic instrument, click here.
An antique piano has reverberated with countless melodies and been a comfort to an assortment of skilled fingers. It’s a gift to the senses. Just the look of it, the feel of the keys, the romantic hum of harmonies, and the smell of the rich wood, is the promise of more music.