An Italian harpsichord marker, Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori was born on May 4, 1665, in the Republic of Venice. Cristofori earned fame, but not fortune, as the inventor of the piano, which was originally referred to as “ravicembalo col piano e forte,” which means a harpsichord that plays soft and loud. It was the inability to vary the volume of the harpsichord that led Cristofori to invent the piano, a feature he made possible by replacing the harpsichord’s plucking mechanism with hammers and strings that could be struck with different levels of force.
Cristofori had previous success as an instrument builder. In 1702, he was credited with creating a three-keyboard harpsichord, which is displayed today at the University of Michigan. His invention of the piano came in 1709, and by 1711, he had created four versions of the instrument. Thereafter, Cristofori continued to make improvements, perfecting the piano until he had combined the elements of the piano that we use today. However, the wooden frame housing the early piano versions was not strong enough to tolerate high string tension; therefore, its tone was limited.
Bartolomeo Cristofori died at the age of 75 on January 27, 1731. While his version of the piano did not enjoy widespread recognition in Italy during his lifetime, especially in Italy, records reveal that Germany had adopted and recognized his invention.
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