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The piano as an expression of the soul: a journey between cinema and reality

Informazioni tesi

Traduttore: Francesco Schepisi
  Tipo: Traduzione
  Anno: 2003-04
  Università: Università degli Studi di Catania
  Facoltà: Lingue e Letterature Straniere
  Corso: Lingue e Letterature Straniere
  Relatore: Emanuela Ersilia Abbadessa
  Lingua: Inglese
  Num. pagine: 87

Questo documento è una traduzione dall'originale:

"Il Pianoforte come espressione dell'anima: viaggio tra cinema e realtà"

I Introduce Myself
The piano tells about it…
This is the first portrait that had been made about…,well I don’t remember the date exactly, but I suppose it was between 1698 and 1700.
I am the piano and I would like to tell you my story.
I was born around the end of the 17th century by Mr Bartolomeo Cristoforil’s imagination, one of the most important instruments-maker of those times.
I received by him, as a sort of baptism, the name of Gravicembalo col forte e piano as my main characteristic was the application of a system of mallets to my famous grandfather: the harpsichord.

1 Bartolomeo Cristofori (born in Padova 1655 – died in Firenze 1732) was an italian harpsichord and stringed instruments maker. Around 1690 he went to Firenze at the court of Ferdinando de Medici. Around 1700 he invented the piano, substituting in the harpsichord the mechanism of “mallets” to the old mechanism of the so called “hammer but”(for more information check the voice “Cristofori Bartolomeo” in “Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti [DEUMM], directed by Alberto Basso. LeBiografie, vol. II, Torino, UTET, 1985, 362 p ).

2 The harpsichord is an instrument with strings (made for being stung), a body and a keyboard.
The most famous and used shape of the harpsichord is a long box, a sort of wing; a keyboard is on the shortest side.
The strings are stung by plectrums put on the little bars (called “little jumps”) which are put perpendicularly on the final part of the ivories.
Common models have got only one keyboard, but at the beginning of the 18th century models with two keyboard spread.
More series of strings can correspond to the keyboard, with the relative chain of the so called “little jumps”; they make up the so called Registers. During the 16th and 17th centuries Italy was the main exporting country of harpsichords and Flanders was the main production centre (see the voice Clavicembalo in DEUMM, Il Lessico, vol. I, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 583).
Probably nobody knows that I descend exactly from another instrument, the clavichord (3) that had never became famous as the harpsichord, although it was sure that it was the favourite instrument of Johann Sebastian Bach (4).
But going on with my tale, there is still a very long way to arrive to my actual shape.
Coming back to Cristofori, the news of my birth had been spread by Scipione Maffei (5), with an article appeared on the “Newspaper of Italian Literates “, where he lauded me and completed my description with the illustration of a very clear scheme of the mechanics invented by Cristofori.

Although it was very easy , it still container the essential parts of the actual mechanics: articulated little mallets, independents from the keys, with a simple escapement and single dampers for each string.
Using this kind of mechanics it was possible to graduate the loudness of the sound, using more or less strength on the mallet by pressing the key.

3 The clavichord is a keyboard instrument with strings which are stroken; its shape is generally rectangular and its dimensions are variable.
Each key is made up of only one stick oscillating on a gudgeon and with a metal tablet at the end of it. This metal tablet is called tangent; this tangent, inside the body if the instrument, generally strikes the relative string from the bottom.
As these are the main characteristics, the intensity and the duration of the sound are adjustable directly by the touch of the finger on the key. This allows a slurred and a singable which are impossible on a harpsichord and a particular effect on the vibrato.
The clavichord dates back to the 14th century; then, little by little, it was replaced by the harpsichord and by other keyboard instruments, but thanks to its low cost and to its modest dimensions, it had been always used as a domestic instrument.
(see the voice “Clavicordo “in DEUMM, Il Lessico, vol. I, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 601).

4 Joahnn Sebastian Bach (born in Eisenach 1685 – died in Lipsia 1750), son of a violinist, received his first musical education by his father and, after his death (1695), by his elder son. He had twenty sons who became famous at the most eminent Courts of Europe as instrumentalists and composers.
During the last years of his long life, Bach became nearly totally blind. His musical production regards all the musical genres , but during his life he had been appreciated more as organist than composer. This is why the most of his music had been written for local or personal purpose.
The musical production had no limits; the holy songs and the passions had been written in order to fulfil his obligations.
On the other side, concerts had been written for many reasons, also for his son’s studies. They are influenced by Vivaldi and, with regards to some aspects, also by Corelli.
The famous concert held in Brandeburgo belong to this field. They are eight concerts for harpsichord, two concerts for violin and a concert for two violins.
The production for solo instrument is also wide. When we speak about Bach, it is always said that his genius was a posthumous fame after centuries of oblivion. This was not true. Maybe proposing to the public some of his masterpieces allowed to his fame to come out, since some periods. Anyway he had never been ignored (see the voice Bach Joahnn Sebastian in DEUMM. Le Biografie, vol. I, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 208).

5 Maffei Scipione, educated and playwright (born in Verona 1675 – died 1755). He was one of the first literary journalist. He was also interested in politics, theology, philosophy, history and archaeology (Verona illustrata, 1732). He also took part in the revival of the Italian tragic theatre with Merope (1714) (see the voice Scipione Maffei in Nuovissima enciclopedia generale, vol. XII, Novara, De Agostini, 1988, p. 181).
The mallet fell back even if the key remained pressed down. Otherwise, as a matter of fact, it would have obstructed the normal vibration of the string. The problem had been solved by the application of an escapement, at first simple but later modified in 1720.

They gave me the para-hammer ( a sort of brake that had the function to slow down the repercussion of the mallet after having stricken the string). The system of dampers had been also improved.

Some years later another instrument maker tried to refine me with the hope of producing me.
He was the German Christoph Gottlieb Schröter6.
But his demands, unfortunately, had no answers.

The support and the luck that Cristofori and Schröter had never had, smiled on another German,
Gottfried Silbermann (7).
Silbermann in the first half of the 18th century was one of the most appreciated German harpsichord-maker. He had known me thanks to Scipione Maffei’s article and the first model of mechanics invented by him was a fusion of elements coming from the drawings of Cristofori and Schröter.
At first Joahnn Sebastian Bach didn’t like me. He noticed the sound shortage in the acute register and the heaviness of the mechanics.
During the following years Silbermann improved the mechanics and the sonority and so also Bach, the Maestro, appreciated me.
But I didn’t receive the so hoped success.
The harpsichord, as a matter of fact, went on catching the attention of composers for his sonorous qualities that met the crystalline character of baroque compositions.

6 Christoph Gottlieb Schröter (Hohnstein, Sassonia, 1699 – Nordhausen 1782) organist, composer and instrument maker. He claimed the invention of the piano. His huge production had been completely lost (see the voice Schröter Christoph Gottlieb in DEUMM. Le Biografie, vol. VII, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 60).

7 Gottfried Silbermann (born in 1683 – died in 1753) invented new technical constructions and realized the most famous organs of the eighteenth century, refining the harpsichord and the forte- piano of Cristofori (see the voice Silbermann Gottfried in DEUMM. Le Biografie, vol. VII, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 286).
In the middle of the 18th century the general tendency about choices was tied and this demanded compositions where the intensity of sounds should be adjustable and graduated : it was time for the Piano (Yes I was!). In this phase of transition towards a new expressive world, simpler and immediate, two of sons’ Bach, Joahnn Christian 8 , whose performances represented the chivalrous style, but most of all, Carl Philipp Emanuel9. He represented the effort for the formal and expressive renewal in many performances, Fantasies, rondeaus, typical pieces, concerts; he used a systematic method for the fundaments and the principles of the performances of his times (see Versuch über die wahre Art das Klavier zu spielen- 1753 and 1762 -).
But it is now time to tell you when I was lucky for working with the most famous composers.
Franz Joseph Haydn10 was considered the father of classic style. We were not in a close relationship, as he was an orchestral genius, but in his piano production there were not behaviours of instrumental virtuosity. Although I have to say that when one of his 52 Sonata is performed I always feel a kind of pleasure, especially in the last, where it is possible to notice a heavier assimilation of writing for the piano.

8 Joahnn Christian Bach (Lipsia 1735 – London 1782) he was the younger son of Bach. His instrumental production includes 60 symphonies and ouvertures , concerts for piano, chamber music, sonatas, and other performances for piano.
He was the first solo piano. At those times this instrument was not very common. He introduced the clarinets in the orchestra. His music influenced Mozart (see Bach Joahnn Christian voce in DEUMM. Le Biografie, vol. I, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 204).

9 Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (Weimar 1714 – Amburgo 1788), he was the second son of Joahnn
Sebastian Bach and he is considered the beginner of modern music. He didn’t refused, at all, the polyphony typical of his father’s music. He affirmed the gallant style, purifying it from any sentimental mannerism: he intensified the double-themes sonata in a poetic and expressive way. He collaborated for its ripening as a classic form. His opera influenced Haydn and, at the beginning, Beethoven (see Bach Carl Philipp Emanuel voce in DEUMM. Le Biografie, vol. I, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 199).

10 Franz Joseph Haydn (Rohrau 1732 – Vienna 1809) Austrian composer. He represents all the efforts, aspirations and the progresses realized in the previous century by generations of European musicians who worked and developed the instrumental music. He was considered the “father of symphony” , of the “sonata”, of the “ quartet” as he realized the formal and resounding equilibrium. The modern musical civilization derives from Haydn. In his opera it is possible to understand the origin of those characters that made the history of symphonic instrumentality as far as tonal area is concerned (see the voice Haydn Franz Joseph in DEUMM. Le Biografie, vol. I, Torino, UTET).

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10 I Introduce Myself The piano tells about itself… This is the first portrait that had been made about…,well I don’t remember the date exactly, but I suppose it was between 1698 and 1700. I am the piano and I would like to tell you my story. I was born around the end of the 17 th century by Mr Bartolomeo Cristoforil’s imagination, one of the most important instruments-maker of those times. I received by him, as a sort of baptism, the name of Gravicembalo col forte e piano as my main characteristic was the application of a system of mallets to my famous grandfather: the harpsichord2. 1 Bartolomeo Cristofori (born in Padova 1655 – died in Firenze 1732) was an italian harpsichord and stringed instruments maker. Around 1690 he went to Firenze at the court of Ferdinando de Medici. Around 1700 he invented the piano, substituting in the harpsichord the mechanism of “mallets” to the old mechanism of the so called “hammer but”(for more information check the voice “Cristofori Bartolomeo” in “Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti [DEUMM], directed by Alberto Basso. LeBiografie, vol. II, Torino, UTET, 1985, 362 p ). 2 The harpsichord is an instrument with strings (made for being stung), a body and a keyboard. The most famous and used shape of the harpsichord is a long box, a sort of wing; a keyboard is on the shortest side. The strings are stung by plectrums put on the little bars (called “little jumps”) which are put perpendicularly on the final part of the ivories. Common models have got only one keyboard, but at the beginning of the 18 th century models with two keyboard spread. More series of strings can correspond to the keyboard, with the relative chain of the so called “little jumps”; they make up the so called Registers. During the 16 th and 17 th centuries Italy was the main exporting country of harpsichords and Flanders was the main production centre (see the voice Clavicembalo in DEUMM, Il Lessico, vol. I, Torino, UTET, 1985, p. 583).

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