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a Firenze (°1722)


"CRISTOFORI, Bartolommeo Di Francesco — written Cristofali by Maffei — a harpsichordmaker of Padua, and subsequently of Florence, and the inventor of the pianoforte. Other claims to this discovery have great interest and will be noticed elsewhere (see Pianoforte and SchroTer), but the priority and importance of Cristofori's invention have been so searchingly investigated and clearly proved by the late Cavaliere Leto Puliti (Cenni Storicl della vita del serenissimo Ferdinando del Medici, etc Estratto dagli Atti dell' Accademla del R. Istituto Musicale di Firenze 1874) that the Italian origin of the instrument, which its name would indicate, can be no longer disputed.

Cristofori was born in 1651 (Fetis and Pietrucci in their respective memoirs erroneously Btate 1683). It may be surmised that he was the best harpsichord-maker in Florence, inasmuch as Prince Ferdinand, son of the Grand Duke Cosmo III, a skilled harpsichord player, who visited Padua in 1687, induced him then or very soon after to transfer himself from that city to Florence. We have evidence that in 1693 Cristofori wrote from Florence to engage a singer—the only time he appears in the Prince's voluminous correspondence.

In 1709 Maffei visited Florence to seek the patronage of Prince Ferdinand for his 'Giornale dei Letterati d' Italia' and in vol. v. of that work, published in 1711, Maffei states that Cristofori had made four 'gravicembali col piano e forte,' three distinctly specified as of the large or usual harpsichord form, the fourth differing in construction, and most likely in the clavichord or spinet form: there was among the Prince's musical instruments a 'cimbalo in forma quadra,' an Italian spinet which when altered to a pianoforte would be termed a square.

In 1719, in his 'Rime e Prose,' published at Venice, Maffei reproduced his description of Cristofori's invention without reference to the previous publication. As these pianofortes were in existence in 1711, it is Jubc possible that Handel may have tried them, since he was called to Florence in 1708 by Prince Ferdinand to compose the music for a melodrama, remained there a year and brought out his first opera 'Rodrigo.'

The Prince died in 1713, and Cristofori continuing in the service of the Grand Duke, in 1716 received the charge of the eighty-four musical instruments left by the Prince. Of these nearly half were harpsichords and spinets—seven bearing the name of Cristofori himself. It is curious however that not one of them is described as 'col piano e forte' and also interesting that in the receipt to thiB inventory we have Cristofori's own handwriting as authority for the spelling now adopted of his name.

The search for Cristofori's workshop proving unsuccessful, Puliti infers that the Prince had
given him a room in the Uffizi, probably near the old theatre, in the vicinity of the foundry and workshops of the cabinet-makers. He imagines the Prince suggesting the idea of the pianoforte and taking great interest in the gradual embodiment of the idea thug carried out und r his own eyes.

Maffei gives an engraving of Cristofori's action or hammer mechanism of 1711. It Bhows the key with intermediate lever, and the hopper, the thrust of which against a notch in the butt of the hammer jerks the latter upwards to the string. The instant return of the hopper to its perpendicular position is secured by a spring; thus the escapement or controlled rebound of the hammer is without doubt the invention of Cristofori.

The fall of the intermediate lever governs an under-damper, but there is no check to graduate the fall of the hammer in relation to the force exercised to raise it. For this however we have only to wait a very few years. There is in the possession of the Signora Ernesta Mocenni Martelli in Florence a grand pianoforte made by Cristofori in 1720, the namepiece 'Bartholomaeus de Christoforis Patavinus Inventor faciebat Florentias Mdccxx.' being the guarantee for its origin and age.

Puliti had two exact drawings made of the action, one with the key at rest and the other when pressed down, and has described each detail with the greatest care. The hammer is heavier than that represented in 1711, the intermediate lever is differently poised and the damper raised by the key when in movement now acts above instead of under the Btrings. Finally there is the check completing the machine.

What doubts have not found their solution by the discovery of this interesting instrument, which was exhibited at the Cristofori Festival at Florence in May 1876? The story of it begins about sixty years since when Signor Fabio Mocenni, the father of the present owner, obtained it of a pianoforte-tuner at Siena in exchange for wine. Its anterior history is not known, but Puliti offers suggestive information in the fact of Violante Beatrice di Baviera—the widow of Cristofori's master and protector Prince Ferdinand—having lived at Siena at different times, particularly when her nephew was studying at the Sienese University in 1721.

But if it were only a harpsichord turned by the addition of hammers to a pianoforte 1 The careful examination of Puliti is the authority that all its parts were constructed at one time, and the word 'Inventor' appended to Cristofori's name would not have been applied to a simple harpsichord or spinet. It is a bichord instrument, compass from l) to F, exceeding four octaves.

Cristofori died in 1731 at the advanced age of eighty. His reputation had already extended into Germany, for Mattheson had published the translation by Konig of Maffei's article in the 2nd volume of his *Critica Musica' (Hamburg 1722-25), and Walther, in his 'Musikalisches Lexicon' (Leipsic 1732), article 'Pianoforte,' trL atiug of the invention, attributes it exclusively to Cristofori.

I On May 7, 1876, a stone was placed ill the cloisters of Santa Croce at Florence bearing the following inscription —

A Bartolomeo Cristofori
Cembalaro da Padova

in Firenze nel MDCCXI

Il Clavicembalo Col Piano E Forte
il Comitativo Fiorentino
Coadiuvanti Italiani e Stranieri
pose questa Memoria.

[A.J.H.]" A Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1879, p. 417-418


"Cristofori (nommé aussi, a tort, Cristofali ou Cristofani), Bartolommeo, latinisé en Bartholomaeus de Christophoris, inventeur du piano à marteaux ou, comme il l'appelait déjà, pianoforte, né à Padoue le 4 mai 1655, m. à Florence le 17 mars 1781; fut facteur de pianos d'abord dans sa ville natale, puis à Florence (1690) et remplit en même temps à partir de 1716 les fonctions de conservateur de la collection d'instruments de Ferdinand de Médicis.

Son invention fut annoncée et decrite dans le Giornale dei litterati d'Italia (1711) par le marquis Scipione Maffei ; cette même description, traduite en allemand par Konig, parut en 1725 dans la Critica musica de Matlheson et fut reproduce en 1767 dans la Musica mechanica organoedi d'Adlung. C'est ainsi sans doute que Gottfried Silbermann apprit à connaitre le système de C. et le perfectionna.

La mécanique employee par C. etait, à part quelques ingénieux perfectionnements plus récents, la meme que celle des Silbermann, Streicher, Broadwood, etc, la mécanique dite anglaise (cf. Piano). La ville de Florence organisa en 1876 une grande fête en l'honneur de C. et fit placer une plaque commemorative dans la chapelle du couvent de Santa-Croce." Riemann Humbert Dictionnaire de musique 1899, p. 174 (Archive.org)

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Fabbricanti di pianoforti 1700 - 1849

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