Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco (4 May 1655 – 27 January 1713) was an Italian maker of musical instruments, generally regarded as the inventor of the fortepiano.
Available source materials on Cristofori's life include his birth and death records, two wills, the bills he submitted to his employers, of single interview carried out by Scipione Maffei. From the latter, both Maffei's notes and the published journal article are preserved. Cristofori was born in Padua in the Republic of Venice.
The quiet nature of the piano's birth around 1700, therefore, comes as something of a surprise. The first true piano was invented almost entirely by one man—Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655–1731) of Padua, who had been appointed in 1688 to the Florentine court of Grand Prince Ferdinando de' Medici to care for its harpsichords and eventually for its entire collection of musical instruments. A 1700 inventory of Medici instruments mentions an "arpicimbalo," i.e., an instrument resembling a harpsichord, "newly invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori" with hammers and dampers, two keyboards, and a range of four octaves, C–c'''. The poet and journalist Scipione Maffei, in his enthusiastic 1711 description, named Cristofori's instrument a "gravicembalo col piano, e forte" ("harpsichord with soft and loud"), the first time it was called by its eventual name, pianoforte. A contemporary inscription by a Florentine court musician, Federigo Meccoli, notes that the "arpi cimbalo del piano e' forte" was first made by Cristofori in 1700, giving us a precise birthdate for the piano.
Three pianos by Cristofori survive, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (1720, 89.4.1219); at the Museo Strumenti Musicali in Rome (1722); and at the Musikinstrumenten-Museum of Leipzig University (1726). The Metropolitan's Cristofori, the oldest surviving piano, is in a plain wing-shaped case, outwardly resembling a harpsichord. It has a single keyboard and no special stops, in much the same style as Italian harpsichords of the day. (The keyboards of the two other surviving pianos by Cristofori can be shifted slightly so that only one of the two strings of each pitch will be struck, i.e., una corda, thereby quieting the entire instrument.) ">
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