Talk:Bartolomeo Cristofori

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Changes of Sept. 18, 2005[edit]

  • I reverted a random deletion, which was either vandalism or a careless error.
  • Mentioned two earlier instruments by Cristofori; hope to have an article on the amazing oval spinet shortly.
  • Amplify inventory of instruments and locations
  • Design section: I changed the hammers, from felt-wrapped to rolled paper. I'm pretty sure this is correct, but please fix it if you know better.
  • More design: the internal bentside supporting the soundboard and the inverted wrestplank
  • Discussion of what Cristofori's instruments sounded like (i.e., like harpsichords)
  • Blurb from O'Brian comparing Cristofori to his contemporary Stradivarius. Seems fair to me...
  • Various external links, to the museums where the surviving instruments are kept, and to sound files.

This article needs a digital version of the one portrait of Cristofori; will try to scan one at some point.

Opus33 15:58, 18 September 2005 (UTC)

Some material from Tony Chinnery[edit]

Tony Chinnery is an experienced expert on Cristofori who has built a number of replica Cristofori instruments now installed in museums. I recently emailed Mr. Chinnery concerning another matter and he kindly offered comments concerning this article as it stood as of March 2006. His comments are as follows:

You say "First, a piano action must be arranged so that the hammer flies freely after being given impetus by the key". I think that gives the wrong impression. In Cristofori's design the hammer is lifted until it is very close to the string (1 or 2 mm) rather than being thrown from a distance as in mechanisms without escapement. It is this that gives the Cristofori action its refinement.
I think the intermediate lever was put in for reasons of geometry. After all a leverage of 1:8 can easily be obtained without one, as in Viennese pianos. But with backward facing hammers, the fulcrum of the hammer lever is only slightly behind the balance point of the keys, which is the wrong place to put the jack. The alternative would be to widen the wrestblock, which Cristofori did not want. The same would be true if the hammers were turned round, as in Viennese pianos: to get the striking point in the right place the wrestblock would have to be much widened, and the keys lengthened. The intermediate lever allows for a compact design, similar in dimensions to a harpsichord. However having backward facing hammers does have a consequence: the fulcrum of the hammers must be stable or the escapement point will change threatening the horrible effect when the hammer is blocked against the string. So the hammers are mounted on a rigid block which occupies a lot of space, and Cristofori had to invert the wrestblock to create the required space.
You say "The purpose of paper hammers is first to save weight". This is wrong because they were an addition to the hammers: in the Maffei drawing they are not there. I was struck when making them with Kerstin [Schwarz] at how bouncy they are (the paper is soaked in glue making a very tough composite material). So I think they were added, as you also say, to change the elasticity of the hammers.
I would take issue on string material. I think it has become clear that Cristofori used brasss strings whenever possible (I say whenever possible because in the 2' register in the 1726 harpsichord, there is a jump where the strings become too short for brass and Cristofori changes to iron). In fact an interesting discovery mentioned in our article on the 1690 spinet is that Cristofori used the same scaling and plucking points in his earliest dated instrument (the 1690 oval spinet) as in his last instruments: the Leipsig harpsichords. I have not studied the New York piano myself. Kerstin has, though, and it seems it has been very much altered, unlike the 1690 oval spinet and the Leipsig instruments, and cannot be used as evidence of Cristofori's intentions. It seems to me that cypress soundboards and brass strings go together: sweetness of sound rather than volume or brilliance. You do not seem to mention the interesting 1726 harpsichord except for a mention "Another harpsichord from the 18th century".

I've tried to improve the article on the basis of these comments, but future edits might be able to make further use of them.

Opus33 18:25, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

O'Brien on inverted pinblocks[edit]

According to musical instrument scholar Grant O'Brien, the inverted wrestplank is "still to be found in pianos dating from a period 150 years after [Cristofori's] death."

Hi, Harding wrote Johann Jacob Goll, Robert Wornum, Henri Herz, and Claude Montal used this arrangement (and gives the same reason), but this was the same period as downstriking pianos where this is only one of their advantages, since the soundboard, stringing and frame also are inverted. Mireut 19:51, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Hello Mireut,
I'm sorry, but I can't understand what you're saying. Who is Harding? And where can I read what (s)he said? Are the pianos portrayed in your links the same pianos that O'Brien is talking about? Please clarify.
Thanks, Opus33 20:35, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
"Another means of overcoming these supposed defects of the upstriking action consisted in placing the sound-board above the strings. In this way, though the hammers struck upwards in the usual way, they struck the strings towards the bridge on the sound-board instead of away from it and the sound-board itself was stronger, since there was no need to cut it through to allow for the hammers to pass through it to strike the strings." p.169, Harding, Rosamond. The Pianoforte, Its History Traced to the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Gresham Press, Old Woking, Surrey. 1978.
Hi, Opus33, The O'Brien quote is just from the introduction and isn't elaborated or cited, but these seem the most likely ones he means since they have inverted wrestplanks instead of more ordinary capo bars that are sometimes called inverted bridges. The advantage in these designs, like in uprights and downstrikers is a stronger continuous structure. It doesn't really add to the article if he means these or something more obscure. Mireut 13:35, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, Mireut. I'll try to find the Harding book. Opus33 19:19, 17 June 2006 (UTC)


Slight grammar problem?[edit]

Hello all, this is Charles in Yokohama. Just a quick comment: I think there may be something wrong with the following sentence: "It would hardly be surprising if Cristofori at age 33 had not already shown the inventiveness for which he later became famous." I believe either the "hardly" or the "not" should be removed. Together, they produce an unintended double negative implying that Cristofori was _not_ inventive.

Thanks, Charles, I've fixed it now. Opus33 19:19, 17 June 2006 (UTC)

How Old Was Cristifori?[edit]

CRISTIFORI WAS 76 YEARS OLD. HE WAS BORN ON MAY 4 1655. HE DIED ON JANUARY 27 1732. 97.117.146.158 (talk) 02:45, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

The correct death date is 1732. In fact, the little plaque set inside S.Luca's Church in Padua on his 30th death anniversary, has got a little mistake about his death date: January 27 1731 instead of 1732. This mistake due to the Florentine calendar, that consider the year beginning on st.Mary's Annunciation, March 25. Gott34 —Preceding undated comment added 14:03, 18 March 2011 (UTC).


I didn't know about your message on the talk page until I'd reverted your edit. You may be right, but we'd need to find a reliable source about the calendar mixup and we'd need to make the article consistent throughout. Also, please sign your messages with four tildes ("~~~~"). Graham87 14:13, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
For what it's worth, the table at New Year# Adoption of 1 January says that Tuscany started using 1 January as new year's day in 1721, but I don't have any more reliable sources to hand. Graham87 14:19, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

In Medicean archive in Florence there are documents concerning the official calendar in use in that period. Actually documents concernig Bartolomeo Cristofori's death date have to be update whenever possible. Historian are doing it nowdays.Gott34 (talk) 15:06, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

Can you point me to a reliable source that says these things, like a paper in a peer-reviewed journal article? Graham87 04:32, 19 March 2011 (UTC)

The invention by Bartolomeo Cristofori immortalized by the city of Florence[edit]

This may sound too mysterious, but is true and could be easily verified. On March 18, 2006, a pianist and teacher from New Jersey, USA, named Lenny Bord, while visiting Italy as a tourist, walked into the basement of the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence. There, among many other marble blocks and plaques with various names on them placed on the walls and on the floor of the basement, he found a strange one that had a curious design on it. It looked like a hand holding something like a smoking pipe, and above it a staff with musical notes. Although it looked like a tombstone of a musician, it turned out to be a memorial plaque installed by the city of Florence to commemorate the invention of the piano. Surprisingly, the existence of the plaque is hardly known by anyone today and is never mentioned in any articles about Cristofori. The hand on the plaque, as it turned out, is holding not a smoking pipe but the piano hammer invented by Cristofori. The inscription on the plaque says (I apologize for possible minor Italian grammar mistakes and mistranslations, but the content of the inscription does not leave any doubts):

A BARTOLOMEO CRISTOFORI CEMBALARO DA PADOVA CHE IN FIRENZE NELL ANNO MDCCXI INVENTO IL CLAVICEMBALO COL FORTE E PIANO IL COMITETO FIORENTINO COOPERANTI ITALIANI E STRANIERI POSE QUESTA MEMORIA MDCCCLXXVI


("To Bartolomeo Cristofori, a master from Padua, who in Florence, in the year of 1711, invented the Clavicembalo With Forte and Piano, the Florence's Committee of Cooperation of Italians and Foregners installed this memorial in the year of 1876")

The photograph of the plaque is here: http://cid-e143c18755f745f2.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Pictures/Bartolomeo%7C_Cristofori%7C_Plaque.jpg Photo by L. Bord, 2006. Submitted by: --KeyBord88 (talk) 17:34, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

Hello and thanks, this might make a good illustration (most pertinently: of the rediscovery of Cristofori's status as piano inventor during the late 19th century, discussed in the article). But the wiki-gnomes are absolutely fanatical about removing non-authorized images from this encyclopedia. One needs to get the owner of the image to offer permission on a totally open-ended basis (using one of the public licenses listed on the image upload page). I can explain further if you're new here. Opus33 (talk) 17:50, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

Hello, No problem. I am the owner of the image and thought it could support the information I provided. As for my discovery, I have to say that we still have to be careful: the plaque was installed 165 years after the presumed date of the invention. So, the "1711" on the plaque still could be questionable. Thank you! --KeyBord88 (talk) 19:15, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

Concerns with the drawing of the The Cristofori piano action[edit]

A reader does not believe that the action in the drawing is possible. I have invited the reader to explain further here.--S Philbrick(Talk) 03:20, 17 January 2014 (UTC)


When I saw that the drawing shown on the Wiki page for Bartolomeo Cristofori was taken from the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica I did a double-take. If you look at the drawing carefully, you will notice that the large round counterweight-like object at the opposite end of the hammer mechanism from which the hammer shank extends accurately depicts the Cristofori design but for the presence of 2 pivots. The real pivot point is the small circle in the middle of that round counterweight object. This is how the Leipzig 1726 Cristofori action appears. However, there is also included a pivot point made of leather which is depicted as fixed in place by a screw. Anyone with any sense can see that you can't have a working mechanism that is predicated on a pivot action and have two pivot points doing the same thing...two fixed points renders the action rigid. Furthermore, if the leather is there to act as a stop to prevent the hammer from falling too far on the return, then the leather would also act to prevent the extremely light hammers from rising effectively. So either way, this action drawing from the Encyclopaedia Britannica is incompetent and should be removed and a new correct one made to replace it.

Leather pivots appear in the Silbermann (Strassburg) piano owned by Alan Curtis in Venice...there is no small circle/no counterweight rather a splay with the leather hinge running off that end of the hammer mechanism. As it turns out, Gottlieb Silbermann actually got it right because the single most egregious failure in the Cristofori action design is how he pivots the hammers. Cristofori used leather bushings or rings embedded in a recessed hole in the large round end to quiet the action "click" the happens when the whippen lifts the hammer mechanism. Alas, these leather bushings are incompetent and fail soon after they are installed when the whippens throw the hammers upwards. The second design flaw in Cristofori's action was that he "gang" axled all the hammers together using two axles, one for the bass hammers and one for the treble hammers, which requires the technician to pull out the gang axle from all the hammers until the clicking hammer can be removed...an invitation to enlarging the holes prematurely just from removing the axle and replacing it every time a new bushing had to be inserted into a hammer that clicks...a piano technician's nightmare!! Anyone who has heard the recording of the Cristofori piano in the Leipzig collection on the disk of the sounds of their many instruments can easily hear the horrid sound of clicking on practically every single note...making the music sound ridiculous and silly. Clearly, this is not what Cristofori had in mind. Silberman in the Curtis piano solved that problem merely by getting rid of the gang axle and pivoted the hammers on the end of the "butt assembly (that large round counterweight used by Cristofori). That Silbermann piano plays without clicking. Had Cristofori invented the wooden flange his action would have been almost perfect. Had he invented a simpler easier means for raising/regulating the whippen with the "escapement jack" his action would have been without flaw. His actions were incomprehensible to almost every following piano maker, who invariably tried to improve on them, which resulted in hundreds of action designs all aiming at solving these two problems...few if any succeeded in solving the problems without creating other problems in their wake. On the other hand, Stein's action and its few real subsequent improvements resulted in some of the greatest music ever composed for the keyboard. When that action design became too heavy, the inspiration for the literature for that action dried up.

The Gottfried Silberman piano action in Berlin is a virtual jot and tittle copy of the 1726 Leipzig Cristofori action and suffers from exactly the same problem of clicking pivots. Bach was right to criticize Silberman's pianos because they are not as easy to play nor as good sounding in the treble as the Cristofori original...an acoustical flaw that was caused by the northern German harpsichord making practice of placing massive bridges on extremely thin soundboards. Thin soundboards amplify the impact noise of the hammer hitting the strings irrespective of how large the bridge is or how thick the strings are. Johann Stein the inventor of the Wooden Flange and inventor of the Viennese fortepiano action used the Cristofori action design in his 2 vis-a-vis piano/harpsichord double ended instruments made in 1777 and 1783. In those actions he made the counterweight with a hammer beak covered with leather, and dispensed with the whippen altogether, using instead tiny little escapement levers like what he used on his own actions. Stein used the Cristofori action in those actions because of needing to operate the piano from the third manual at the harpsichord end of the instrument and because his own action design would have been unreliable in striking the strings squarely when pulled on from underneath the key with a wire "tracker"...a problem the Cristofori action solved rather well.

Keith R Hill (talk) 07:42, 17 January 2014 (UTC)

Thank you; this is very informative. Re. the problem of fixing this Wikipedia article, we somehow need to obtain a diagram that is both accurate and copyright-free. Are you a draftsman and able to supply? Or are there any other sources you can think of? Regards, Opus33 (talk) 16:24, 17 January 2014 (UTC)
Keith has supplied an image, but it is a pdf. Corresponding to see if we can get a PNG format.--S Philbrick(Talk) 13:57, 22 January 2014 (UTC)
An image is now available. There are some minor details to button up the permission, but I anticipate that will be handled shortly.
File:Pianoforte Cristofori Escapement Action.jpg--S Philbrick(Talk) 01:20, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
I now see that my last note suggested there was more to be done, so that may explain why the image wasn't replaced. I do not have the technical expertise to know whether the new image is preferable, so I've been bold and replaced, if other feel that is incorrect, feel free to revert and discuss.--S Philbrick(Talk) 02:03, 10 March 2014 (UTC)