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Piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori, Florence, 1726 (Musikinstrumenten-Museum, University of Leipzig)

Piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori, Florence, 1726 (Musikinstrumenten-Museum, University of Leipzig)

Musikinstrumenten-Museum oter Universitat Leipzig

Action of a piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori, 1726 (shown in fig.2)

Action of a piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori, 1726 (shown in fig.2)

Prellmechanik action without escapement mechanism from an anonymous south German square piano, c1770 (Royal College of Music, London); to allow space for the hammer, the rear of the key is narrower than the front; the dampers are beneath the strings and d

Prellmechanik action without escapement mechanism from an anonymous south German square piano, c1770 (Royal College of Music, London); to allow space for the hammer, the rear of the key is narrower than the front; the dampers are beneath the strings and disengage when the hinged end rises with the key; the knee lever lowers the damper-support rod to disengage all the dampers simultaneously

Zumpe-style single action from a 1775 square piano inscribed as by Jacob and Abraham Kirkman

Zumpe-style single action from a 1775 square piano inscribed as by Jacob and Abraham Kirkman

Geib-type double action from a piano of c1800 by Broderip & Wilkinson

Geib-type double action from a piano of c1800 by Broderip & Wilkinson

English grand piano action from a Broadwood piano of 1799 (Royal College of Music, London)

English grand piano action from a Broadwood piano of 1799 (Royal College of Music, London)

Typical mid-19th-century south German square piano accompanying a violin and flute; painting, ‘Family Concert in Basle’ (1849), by Sebastian Gutzwiller in the Kunstmuseum, Basle

Typical mid-19th-century south German square piano accompanying a violin and flute; painting, ‘Family Concert in Basle’ (1849), by Sebastian Gutzwiller in the Kunstmuseum, Basle

Oeffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, Germany, Kunstmuseum

Anglo-German action from a piano of c1845 by Johann Streicher of Vienna (private collection)

Anglo-German action from a piano of c1845 by Johann Streicher of Vienna (private collection)

Comparison between six piano hammers and strings (all sounding the note f′), showing the gradual increase in mass of both as the instrument developed: a) South German Heilmann, c1785–c1790; b) English (Broadwood), c1806; c) Viennese (Graf), 1826; d) Engli

Comparison between six piano hammers and strings (all sounding the note f′), showing the gradual increase in mass of both as the instrument developed: a) South German Heilmann, c1785–c1790; b) English (Broadwood), c1806; c) Viennese (Graf), 1826; d) English (Broadwood), c1823; e) French (Erard), c1825; f) American (Steinway), c1970

Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Rück Collection), Nuremburg

Prellmechanik (Viennese action) from a piano of 1826 by Conrad Graf (private collection)

Prellmechanik (Viennese action) from a piano of 1826 by Conrad Graf (private collection)

Erard repetition action after the English patent drawing of 1821; the intermediate lever, pivoted to its flange, simultaneously lifts the hopper and pulls down the damper; the action is shown with the key depressed, the hammer having fallen back to its ch

Erard repetition action after the English patent drawing of 1821; the intermediate lever, pivoted to its flange, simultaneously lifts the hopper and pulls down the damper; the action is shown with the key depressed, the hammer having fallen back to its check

Iron bracing scheme patented by James Shudi Broadwood in 1827

Iron bracing scheme patented by James Shudi Broadwood in 1827

Wornum’s tape-check action for upright pianos, patented in 1842; the tape assists the return of the hammer to check

Wornum’s tape-check action for upright pianos, patented in 1842; the tape assists the return of the hammer to check

Sticker action typical of English cabinet pianos, c1810–60

Sticker action typical of English cabinet pianos, c1810–60

Cottage piano by Clementi & Co., London, c1825 (private collection)

Cottage piano by Clementi & Co., London, c1825 (private collection)

Finchcock's Musical Museum

Plan views of grand pianos by Steinway, New York: a) straight-strung, 1857 (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC); b) overstrung ‘model D’, developed c1900

Plan views of grand pianos by Steinway, New York: a) straight-strung, 1857 (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC); b) overstrung ‘model D’, developed c1900

Courtesy: Steinway & Sons

Detail from Henry Steinway’s patent for an overstrung piano, dated 20 December 1859

Detail from Henry Steinway’s patent for an overstrung piano, dated 20 December 1859

Courtesy: Steinway & Sons

Baby grand piano (the ‘Elfin’) by Broadwood, London, manufactured in 1924–30 (private collection)

Baby grand piano (the ‘Elfin’) by Broadwood, London, manufactured in 1924–30 (private collection)

John Broadwood & Sons, Ltd, London

Grand piano (‘model 290, Imperial’) by Bösendorfer, Vienna, first manufactured c1900 (Musikverein, Vienna)

Grand piano (‘model 290, Imperial’) by Bösendorfer, Vienna, first manufactured c1900 (Musikverein, Vienna)

Mr L Chmel

Action of a modern grand piano: on pressing the key the movement is transmitted via the pilot to the intermediate lever; the jack then acts on the roller of the hammer which rises towards the string. The moment the backward projection of the jack contacts

Action of a modern grand piano: on pressing the key the movement is transmitted via the pilot to the intermediate lever; the jack then acts on the roller of the hammer which rises towards the string. The moment the backward projection of the jack contacts the set-off button the jack moves back permitting the hammer to escape and to continue in free flight to strike the string and then begin its descent; it is then caught and retained by the check and repetition lever as long as the key remains depressed. If the key is partly released the hammer is freed from the check, and the roller is acted on directly by the repetition lever; it is thus possible to strike the key again by depressing the key a second time (the jack will re-engage with the roller only when the key has been fully released so that a full hammer stroke may be made)

Action of a modern upright piano: the movement of the key is transmitted directly to the jack which in rising pushes the hammer forward towards the string until the backward projection of the jack reaches the set-off screw, thus allowing the jack to escap

Action of a modern upright piano: the movement of the key is transmitted directly to the jack which in rising pushes the hammer forward towards the string until the backward projection of the jack reaches the set-off screw, thus allowing the jack to escape and the hammer to fall back from the string to be caught by the check; the return of the hammer is assisted by the tape which is so adjusted to jerk the hammer away from the string at the moment of impact

Liszt playing a grand piano by Ludwig Bösendorfer before Franz Josef in Budapest: painting (1872) by an unknown artist (private collection)

Liszt playing a grand piano by Ludwig Bösendorfer before Franz Josef in Budapest: painting (1872) by an unknown artist (private collection)

L.Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik AG, Vienna / Mansell / Time Pix / Katz

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