Winding up our discussion on the history of the keyboard, today let’s take a look at musical examples of both the pianoforte and its more developed counterpart of the 19th century.
The piano is often times used as both a solo instrument and as an accompaniment to another melody instrument (violin, flute, etc.) Around the time the pianoforte was first created, chamber music was also quite popular in the home. Expected to be accomplished on the piano, many young girls would lead in-home musical ensembles on the instrument while the young boys (who practiced less and therefore were not as good) would accompany the piano on string instruments.
One example of a composer who wrote for the early pianoforte is J.C. Bach, the youngest son of the infamous Johann Sebastian. He received his early training from his brother, Carl Philip Emmanuel following their father’s death. During his lifetime he composed 70 sonatas for keyboard instruments of various sorts, including the pianoforte. Did you know that he was the first person in England to play a concert on the new pianoforte in 1768? One example of his keyboard works is the Keyboard Sonata Op. 17.
During the 19th century, one prominent composer for the piano was Frederic Chopin. Listen to his Mazurka Op. 6, No. 3 and compare its style and sound to that of the pianoforte. A Mazurka is a Polish dance in triple meter with the accent placed on either the second or third beat. Composers wrote them either as purely an art form or sometimes for actual use. Chopin’s Mazurkas are inspired by Polish folk music. This particular example sounds like a rustic dance with a drone bass and was composed for use.
Now that we’ve walked through several types of keyboard instruments over the past several weeks, what do you think? Do you have a favorite?