Alfred J. (Alfred James) Hipkins.

A description and history of the pianoforte and of the older keyboard stringed instruments online

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he was inclined to accept it as the lost Echiquier ; it would seem
that the organ pipes were on one side and the spinet or clavi-
cymbalum on the other.

Of organised harpsichords there is no want of specimens.
To name two, there was a very grand compound instrument of this
kind shown by Mrs. Luard Selby, of the Mote, Ightham, Tunbridge.
Kent, in the South Kensington Exhibition of Musical Instruments
in 1872 ; § it bears the maker's inscription, " Lodowicos Threwes
(? Theewes) me fecit," || and is now in South Kensington Museum.

* An old German expedient. See Adlung's " Musica Mechanica Organoedi"
for the harpsichord, 11., 108 ; for the clavichord, II., 147.

t Vander Straeten, " La Musique aux Pays-Bas," Vol. VII,, 1885, p. 248.

I Vander Straeten, " La F6d6ration Artistique," No. 27.

§ " Catalogue of the Special Exhibition," Carl Engel (London, 1872), p. 38.

II Mr. Vander Straeten has recognised this maker in Louis Theeuwes or Teeus,
one of the ten harpsichord makers admitted, without masterpieces, in 1558, into
the famous Guild of St. Luke at Antwerp. Masterpieces were alterwardd
indispensable. See " Leon de Burbure," p. 21.


Another was shown in the Loan Collection at the Royal Albert
Hall, Kensington Gore, in 1885, with the maker's name, Crang,
and dated 1745. Shudi, the harpsichord maker, made such
compomid instruments occasionally in collaboration with the organ
builder, Snetzler. At the Handel Festival which took place in
Westminster Abbey in 1784, the harpsichord at which Joah Bates
sat was connected with the organ erected for the performance,
so that either instrument could be used at the discretion of
the player.

Merlin, in London about this time, made square pianos with
organ attachments. In the present century the piano has been
sometimes combined with the free reed harmonium, but not
with the organ.


As recently as 1893 a sostenente instrument, resembling a harpsi-
chord in form, was shown to the public in Madrid, inscribed " Fray
Raymundo Fruchador, inventor, 1625," that was a simple develop-
ment of the hurdy gurdy principle, produced by a mechanical
apparatus that brought the strings into contact with rotating wheels
turned by a handle at the end of the case. This instrument had
been used in the Cathedral of Toledo during Holy Week. It is
well known that the word " inventor " inscribed on old musical
instruments often occurs in the sense of maker, or implies only
an alteration or improvement. The question arises— was this in 1625
a novel instrument, or a copy or modification of one already'-
existing ? The latter is more likely, and as hurdy gurdy key-
board instruments were in use earher than that date it is just
possible that the two " Clabiorganos " that belonged to one of
the Chamberlains of Queen Isabella of Spain in 1500, already
referred to, were instruments of this kind, and not harpsichords or
spinets with organ attachments. Schroeter, a claimant for the
invention of the piano, in an autobiographical sketch, speaks of
a " Geigenwerk " (Fiddle organ) from Nuremberg which was
worked by treadles. This would be the " nurnbergisches Gamben-
werk " (Gamba organ) of Hans Haydn, organist to the Church of
St. Sebald, who is recorded to have made, about 1600, a catgut



strung liarpsicliord. In the Gambenwerk, the strings were under
the soundboard and were acted upon by resined parchment set
in motion by rollers governed by a wheel. We also meet with a
Lautenwerk (Lute organ), an instrument which is connected with
J. S. Bach, inasmuch as he designed one." As the pianoforte seems
to have been Avithout attraction for him, although in his later years
really well made, as the Potsdam grand pianos show, it may have
been that this was another attempt at a sostenente clavier. We only
know that it had gut strings instead of wire. If not a wheel
instrument, such things would require very strong plectra, which
would render the touch difficult.

The clavicytherium described by Virdung in 151 l,f in the
specimen seen by him and averred by him to be newly invented, was
a gut-strung spinet, turned up vertically, with metal hooks or
plectra, but not sosteiiente. A. facile touch might not have been
then a desideratum, although it certainly was when the Enghsh
Virginal books came to be written and published, towards the
end of the sixteenth and in the early years of the seventeenth

Roger Plenius,]: a harpsichord maker in London, patented in
17-1:1 a new instrument intended for a sostenente harpsichord. He
called it " Lyrichord," and from his specification and a drawing in
a magazine published in 1755, we gather that it was a wheel
clavier on the principle of the hurdy gurdy ; the strings of wire
and gut being set vibrating by rotating wheels, the keys, when
pressed down, causing the contact. No doubt the stringing was
heavier than in the ordinary harpsichord, as in this patent there is
the first employment of steel arches between the wrest-plank
and belly rail to keep them from pulling together ; in the second
patent, dated 1745, there occurs what is technically known as
** bushing " the keys (lining the mortises of the keys to prevent
rattling) ; and lastly, a " Welch Harp " stop, a variety of the bulf
or sourdine stop in harpsichords, which he worked by a pedal. Tho
tuning of the Lyrichord was effected by balanced weights and
springs ; the bass strings were silver covered, and there was a swell

* See a footnote of Agricola's in Adlung's " Musica Mechanica Organoedi,"
II., 139.

t Virdung, B.

t Plenius-, Patents Nos. 581 and 613.


obtained by raising with another pedal part of the cover of tlie
instrument, a contrivance, as I have said, often met with m
Kirkman's harpsichords. Plenius was the first to make a pianoforte
in England.

The " Celestina"* of Adam Walker, patented in London in 1772,
was also a sostenente instrument. What we know of it is chiefly
gathered from Mason's correspondence with Mary Granville (Mason
was an intimate friend of the poet Gray). Under date of January
11, 1775, she describes it as a short harpsichord in form, only two
feet long, played with the right hand while the left controlled a
kind of vioiin bow. Mason played upon it with great expression,
and the invention has been attributed to him, but probably with no
more reason than that of the English square piano. He may have
been the patron whose means and liberality made these inventions

John Isaac Hawkins, the inventor of the modern upright piano,
contrived the " Claviol," which was in form like a cabinet piano,
and is said to have had a ring-bow mechanism. He introduced
it at Philadelphia, U.S.A., in 1802, and brought it to London
in 1813.

Isaac Mottf had more success with a " Sostenente pianoforte,"
which he patented in 1817. He sustained the tone by means of
rollers acting upon silk threads, set in movement by a pedal, and he
claimed the power to increase or diminish the tone.

A French invention with a pianoforte keyboard is the " Piano
Quatuor," a piano violin capable of rapid articulation, brought out
by Baudet in Paris in 1865. Here are vertical wire strings ; a stiff
piece of catgut projects about an inch from a nodal point in each ;
a roller rotates near them with great rapidity, but only touches the
catgut ties as the keys are put down.

The last to be named is the Organo-Piano of Signor Caldera, the
patent for which in the United Kingdom is held by Messrs. Metzler
and Co., London. The principle is original as a piece of
mechanism, the apparently sustained effect being produced by
reiterated blows from small hammers placed above the ordinary
hammers, suspended from a bar which is kept in motion by a fly-
wheel and pedal controlled by the performer. A crescendo is

* Adam Walker, Patent No. 1,020.
t Mott, Patent No. 4,098.


obtained by a knee movement wliich raises the bar and brings
the httle hammers nearer to the strings. The sustained tone of
music wire has a peculiar charm, but after all that may be said iu
lavour of the sostenente in keyboard stringed instruments, with
sustained sounds they are pianoforte or harpsichord no longer.
The character is changed ; a new treatment is demanded and
different order ol composition. The ideal character of evanescent
tone associated with these instruments, and especially the pianoforte,
is not there.


part 3.



Befoke tue Tnteoduction of Ibon in its Construction,


Phe lii'st compositions published, so far as I InioW; for Llie
i^ianoforte are contained in a volume tiius entitled: — " Sonate,
Da Cimbalo di piano e forte detto volgarm'^nte di Martellatti.
Dedicato a Sua Altezza Reale. II serenissimo D. Antonio Infante
Di Portogallo E Composito Da D. Lodovico Giustini di Pistoia.
Opera Prima Firenze MDCCXXXII." That is, Cimbalo or
Cembalo, with Piano and Forte, commonly called Cimbalo, with
little hammers ; Cimbalo being originally the Psaltery, or, with
na,mmers, the Dulcimer ; it was later employed, but usually as
Cembalo, for the Harpsichord.

The invention of the Paduan harpsichord maker, Bartolommeo
Cristofori, in Florence, in 1709 or thereabouts, had thus already
become so well known as to have Sonatas composed for the
instrument, and published as early as 1732, the year after Cristofori

The uncertainty which hung over, or was supposed to effect the
claim of Cristofori for the invention of the pianoforte, has, in the
last few years, been dispelled by the late Cavahere Puhti, and finally
by proof I have been able to bring forward that Frederick the Great's
Silbermann pianos at Potsdam are copies which still exist of the
Cristofori pianos. There is no other claim either English, French,
or German that is now to be seriously considered.-"

* The claim for tlie German, Schrceter, has been warmly advocated by
Dr. Oscar Paul, " Geschichte des Claviers " (Leipzig, 1868), pp. 85-104, and
Answered in Sir George Grove's " Dictionary of Music and Musicians," London,


As a matter of fact, the " Gravecembalo col piano e forte," as
the inventor called it (Clavicembalo or Harpsichord, with soft and
loud, which early became Forte-Piano, and Pianoforte), was first
produced by Bartolommeo Cristofori, in Florence, in 1708 or 1709.
In the year 1711 Seipione Maffei (in the '* Giornale dei Letterati
d "Italia ") wrote a full description of the invention and gave a
diagram of the action. ■'^' There are two grand pianos by Cristofori,
still existing, dated respectively 1720 and 1726. The first belonged
to the Signora Ernesta Mocenni Martelli, of Florence, and has
been described and figured by the Cavaliere Puliti ; it has (1895)
been acquired by Mrs. J. Crosby Brown, of New York, for presenta-
tion to the Metropolitan Museum of that city. It is of four and a
half octaves, C — f ^, and is in a simple, panelled outer case, like the
usual Italian harpsichord. It bears upon the board which serves
as the hammer beam the following inscription : ' ' Bartholomgeus de
Christophoris Patavinus, Inventor, faciebat Florenti^, MDCCXX.";
and also : " Restaurato I'anno 1875, Cesare Ponsicchi, Firenze."t
The second, belonging to the Commendatore Alessandro Kraus, also
of Florence,! I had the opportunity to examine and play upon,
when it was at the Trocadero, in the Paris Exhibition of 1878 ;
a complete and agreeable instrument with facile touch when
I tried it. The compass of it is four octaves, C — c^. The
engraving which precedes this section represents this now
historic instrument. It is in an outer case, red, with Chinese
figures and landscapes in gold, a decoration it has not been possible
to show in the engraving. The inner side of the top or cover is
light blue. It is inscribed " Bartholomsus de Christophoris •
Patavinus, faciebat Florentiae, MDCCXXVI.," leaving out the word
" Inventor."

1881 — "Pianoforte" (A. J. H.). Yov the Frenchman, Marius, see Ehnbault's
" History of the Pianoforte " (London, 1860), pp. 102-108. No result followed
his invention, and it is doubtful whether he made a pianoforte. It is certain
Schroeter did not.

* " Nuova Invenzione d'un Gravecembalo col piano e forte : Aggiunte alcune
considerazione sopra gli strumenti musicali." Puliti, " Cenni Storici, Atti Dell'
Academia del E. Institute di Firenze, 1874," Allegato C, pp. 85-93. Eimbault,
'' The Pianoforte," p. 95.

t Puliti. pp. 119-126.

+ A. Kraus figlio, " Catalogue des Instruments de Musique du Mus6e Kraus "
(Florence, 1878), p. 16, and Trocadero, Historical Exhibition. Paris, 1878,
No. 1 H



The actions of both these instruments are alike, except that the
first has had new hammers of modern shape put to it ; they are
improved upon the diagram given by Maffei— especially by the
invention and introduction of the check (paramartello). The
diaoram here o-iven is from a model I had made of this action ; it is
evident from it, as well as from the earlier sketch of Maffei, that
Cristofori had satisfactorily solved the problem of escapement. It
also shows that he had provided for repetition, so far as could be
without a double escapement.

a is the key ; b the hopper (linguetta mobile — moveable tongue,
Cristofori called it), c the notch for the hopper beneath an under-
hammer or escapement lever, lettered A-. This lever, covered with
leather upon the end, is to raise the hammer-butt d. The hammer-



head is e. The spring i, regulating the play of the hopper or
distance between it and the" string, is regulated by. a small hopper
check, h. The hammer check is ./, the damper g. The damper stop
is J. It will be observed that the shallowness of Cristofori's case
and the thickness of his wrest-plank constrained him to pierce the
key with his hopper, the spring of which is underneath.

It wo aid seem that Cristofori tried to keep to the shallow measure
of an Italian harpsichord, and. therefore inverted his wrest-plank,
which had necessarily to be much stronger than in thehbirpsichord,
attaching his strings beneath. The pins pierced the wrest-plank so
that the tuning was done harp fashion. The spacing of the two


unisons of a harpsichord, unUke the pianoforte, brings into proximity
two strings a semitone apart. Cristofori did not see his way to the
more practical spacing by pairs of unisons ; he scaled his pianoforte
strings at equal distances, and then dropped a wedge-shaped damper
l)etween those that were tuned together. As with the wrest-plank,
the thicker strings necessary to withstand the impact of a hammer
compelled him to run a strip of oak upon the belly round the inside
of the case, whereby to hold the hitch-pins, to which the farther
ends of the strings were attached, in order to bear the increased
!- train. He cut away little openings at the front edge of the belly
to replace the customary sound-holes. It is in the retention of
sound-holes and also in a more extended keyboard that the grand
pianos of Silbermann atTotsdam, of 1746-7, differ from those by
Cristofori at Florence. All other peculiarities are retained so far as
the inside is concerned. The external case work is, however, changed,
being, as in modern pianos, part of the structure. Cristofori had
enclosed his in the Italian false case.

The invention, notwithstanding its importance, soon died out in
Italy. A pupil of Cristofori, Giovanni Ferrini," made a pianoforte
in 1730 for the Queen of Spain, Elisabetta Farnese, which was left
by her to the famous singer, Farinelli, who prized it so highly that
he had inscribed upon it in letters of gold '* Kaffaello d'Urbino," and
gave it the first place in his instrumental collection. At that time
such collections were formed by eminent personages and much cared
for. To Ferrini was left by Cristofori the completion of the instru-
ments he had in hand at the time of his death.

The merit of having taken the invention up and introducing it in
Germany is due to Gottfried Silbermann, the great organ Iniilder
and clavichord maker of Dresden. Silbermann was the friend
of the Dresden Court poet Konig, who published at Hamburg,
in 1725, a translation of Maffei's article in the Giomale upon
Cristofori's invention.! According to J. S. Bach's pupil, Johann
Friedrich Agricola,| Silbermann made two pianofortes upon an.
existing model, the origin of which in his lifetime he would, never
confess, and submitted them to Bach, who, to his great vexation,

* Cesare Ponsicchi, " II Pianoforte sua origine e sviluppo " (Florence, 1876),

\. 37.

t Oscar Paul, " Geschichte cles Claviers " (Leipzig, 1868), pp. 105-113.
\ Adlung, " Musica Mechanica Organoedi " (Berlin, 1768), Zweiter Band, pp.
Wj-\11, footnote by Agricola.






















disapproved of them on account of their weak trebles and heav}-
touch. We now know, from my examination of the instruments at
Potsdam, that he was following Cristofori, and probably had not
understood his model or had not attained the skill required to
reproduce it. Being annoyed at his failure, he made, or at
least showed, no more pianos for some years. i Then Agricola
mentions a piano made for the Countess of Eudolstadt, and that he
submitted another to Bach which met with the great composer's
approval. Here follows the often quoted anecdote of Frederick the
Great, who, meeting with and approving of pianos made by
Silberma,nn, ordered them for his Eoyal Palaces. Accounts differ:
some say all that Silbermann had made.'^' According to Forkel the
pianofortes of the Freyberg Silbermann pleased the king so much
that he set about buying them all, fifteen in number. Mooser,f
Silbermann's biographer, says they were in Forkel's time unusable,
in different corners of the Eoyal Palaces. If there were so many
as Forkel enumerates, then we must credit Silbermann with an
iron determination to persevere in making, for some years previous
to Frederick's visit, instruments that would not sell. The king's
discernment of the merit of these pianos is not less noteworthy.
Three are remaining at the present day, one in each of the Potsdam
Palaces associated with Frederick : the Stadtschloss, Sans Souci, and
the Neues Palais, in the respective music-rooms, undisturbed as left
by him. The instrument in the Neues Palais was described by
Burney;! I have seen, tried, and examined all three in 1881 ; a
trial rendered possible by privileges graciously accorded to me by
the Empress Frederick, 'then Crown Princess of Prussia. The
meeting of old Bach with Frederick the Great brought about by his
son, Carl Philipp Emmanuel, took place on April 7, 1747, § when
one at least of these pianos was played upon by Bach — probably
the one in the Town Palace here engraved. It wou]d seem that

* Forkel, J. N., '-Ueber J4 S. Bach's Leben, Kunst und Kunst^rke."
Leipzig, 1802.

f Mooser, " Gottfried Silbermann*der Orgelbauer " (Langensalza, 1857) ; also.
"Die Zweite Sacular f eier des Geburtstages," von Gottfried Silbermann, in thvi
" Zeitschrift fiir Instrumentenbau," by A. J. Hipkins, 1883, No. 11., Band 3,
pp. 119-122.

X Burney, Charles, Mus. D., " The present state of music in Germany, ihi
Netherlands, and United Provinces" (London, 1773), Vol. II., p. 144.

§ "Dictionary of Music and Musicians," Art. "Bach" (London, 1879), p. 115.


old Bach never really adopted the pianoforte. It was then a novelty
in Germany, and even Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, who lived
until it was generally accepted everywhere, had little to say
for it in his celebrated Essay on the true way to play key-
board instruments.* It is not too much to insist that all J.
S. Bach's works composed for the clavichord and harpsichord,
no less than those composed for the organ, have to be virtually sub-
mitted to transcription, at least in the rendering, when transferred
to the pianoforte, and this fact was early recognised, as is shown in
Czerny's edition of the Forty-eight Preludes and Fugues. I regard
Czerny as a pioneer of the latest school of pianoforte playing which
has superseded Clementi and Cramer and the technical side of
Beethoven, and had its foundation in the clavichord technique. y
Trial of the above-mentioned Czerny edition upon the harpsichord
will at once demonstrate the essential difference there is between it
and the pianoforte.

The Seven Years' War (1755-62) put an end to Saxon pianoforte
making ; the country was devastated and the workmen scattered,
some finding their way to England, where a fresh start in pianoforte
making was made. An old tradition in the workshops has kept
these men in remembrance as the " twelve apostles." Hitherto the
grand piano, horizontal or upright, had only been made. An
upright grand by Christian Ernst Friederici, of Gera, in Saxony,
dated 1745, was exhibited in the Eoyal Albert Hall in 1885 J by the
Brussels Conservatoire, with an interesting example of a simple
mechanism resembling that of a Nuremberg clock. § A similar
instrument by the same maker, called by him " Pyramide," has
more recently been acquired by Herr Paul de Wit, of Leipzig, for
his museum in that city. A suggestion for an upright grand piano

* C. P. E. Bach, "Versuch iiber die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen."
Berlin, 1753. See Dannreuther, E., "Musical Ornamentation," Part II., p. 3,
Novello & Co., London, 1895.

t Consult " A Selection of Studies," by J. B. Cramer, with comments by
L. van Beethoven, preface, &c.,by J. S. Shedlock (remarks by Anton Schindler),
Augener, London, 1893, a publication which throws a strong light upon this fact.

+ " Guide to the Loan Collection, Inventions Exhibition," A. J. Hi])kius
(London, 1885, p. 30. ^

§ A drawing of a Pyramide, also dated 1745, from an old engraving, has been
published by Herr de Wit in the " Zeitschrift fiir Instrumentenbau ' (Leipzig),
Jahrg. 15, 1 March, 1895. Like Silbermann, Friederici was also an organ
builder. *^


liad some years before been made by tbe French harpsichord maker
and inventor, Marius.* To this same Friederici is accredited in
Germany the invention of the square piano, about 1758. He is said
to have named it Fort Bien, a pun upon Forte Piano. f No squars
piano by him is forthcoming, but the suggestion came naturally
from the clavichord — perhaps from altering a clavichord into a piano,
of which frequent examples are to be met with, but showing a very
poor and unsatisfactory result. Johann Zumpe, who had been,
according to Burney, in Shudi's workshop, | had the great merit of
introducing the English square piano between 1760-65. It was of
pleasing form and placed upon a stand, ij The action, almost rudi-
mentary but efficient, contained what was called the " old man's
head," a metal pin with a leather knob on the top to raise the
hammer, and the "mopstick" damper raised by a simple jack, which
accounts for the name. The dampers {Sordini), collectively divided
into two halves, bass and treble, were taken off by hand-stops
placed within the case of the instrument ; another stop brought
a long strip of leather, called a " sourdine " {Sordino), into
contact with the strings to produce a pizzicato. The direction
for the dampers being raised thus became " senza sordini,"
and the resumption of their use " con sordini." To use the
sourdine or muting stop was '* con sordino," to remove it "senza
sordino-, "-f^

The compass was five octaves from F to f ^ ; in-Mes'grsTH&road-
wood's specimen, which formerly belonged to Sir G'feorge Smart,
G to f^ This instrument, dated 1766, was obviously experimental,

* !

* Eimbault, "History of the Pianoforte," 1860, p. 106. The drawing and
description is taken from " Machines et Inventions approuv^es par I'Acad^mie
Royale d^s Sciences," Tome Troisieme (Paris, 1735). It is claimed for Marius
that he submitted the instruments described in this publication to this learned
Society as early as the month of February, 1716. As practical inventions their
value is very small compared with that of Cristofori.

t In the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Mozarteum at Salzburg, under date
of Dec. 19, 1791, we find among the slender possessions of Mozart atthe time
of his death a " Forte-Biano (sic) mit Pedal."

I Burney, in " The Cyclopaedia or Universal Dictionary of Art, Sciences, and
Literature," by Abraham Eees, Vol. XVII., •' Harpsichord" (London, 1819).

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Online LibraryAlfred J. (Alfred James) HipkinsA description and history of the pianoforte and of the older keyboard stringed instruments → online text (page 10 of 13)