Various Artists

Piano e Forte

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The pianos of the late 18th century have received much more attention from performers and recording artists than those created by the instrument's inventor, Bartolomeo Cristofori. This is partly because few of Cristofori's original instruments have survived, but more significantly because Cristofori's cimbalo di piano e forte was thought to have been something of a novelty; for the greater part of the 18th century, the narrative has gone, keyboard music was intended for a harpsichord or perhaps a clavichord. The present release, with keyboardist Edoardo Torbianelli playing a copy of a 1726 Cristofori instrument by maker Denzil Wright, aims to provide a musical context for the early piano. It's quite a revelation. There were, it turns out, sonatas written for the instrument by one Lodovico Giustini da Pistoia; one appears at the beginning of the program, and one movement from another sonata is added at the end. It's quite interesting to listen to this minor composer struggle with an entirely new medium, and it would have been helpful to include more of these works. The publication in which they appeared noted that the cimbalo di piano e forte also had a charming vernacular name, the "martelletti," or the hammers. But the main point that this group of top European historical-performance specialists want to make is not that Cristofori's piano had a literature of its own, but that it was common enough to have been potentially used in a variety of ensemble music. Accordingly, these include a variety of chamber music as well as vocal pieces. Beyond the sheer novelty of hearing a piano, and a clean, modern-sounding one at that, in vocal cantatas and trio sonatas, the interesting thing is that the piano has different effects in the various pieces. In the Suonata Quarta in C minor for violin and basso continuo by Francesco Maria Veracini (tracks 20-23), for example, the piano became an equal participant with the violin in the ebb and flow of the music. Moreover, Veracini's violin writing is thought to have been influenced by hearing a piano; hearing this sonata played this way puts Veracini in a whole new light. The piano adds punch to the recitatives and showpiece arias, especially the fast finales, in the vocal pieces. There are plenty more details, but the bottom line is that this is a Baroque historical-performance disc that's both well-researched and fresh. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Suonata 1 (G minor, for "cimbalo di piano e forte")
1 2:17 Amazon
2 1:48 Amazon
3 2:19 Amazon
4 1:29 Amazon
5 0:40 Amazon
6 2:52 Amazon
7 1:14 Amazon
8 1:25 Amazon
Sonata 7 (D minor, for traverso and basso continuo)
9 3:03 Amazon
10 1:43 Amazon
11 1:30 Amazon
12 1:41 Amazon
13 1:11 Amazon
14 1:17 Amazon
15 1:57 Amazon
16 0:54 Amazon
Sonata 4 (E minor, for traverso and basso continuo)
17 2:58 Amazon
18 2:56 Amazon
19 1:51 Amazon
Suonata quarta (C minor, for violin and basso continuo)
20 3:12 Amazon
21 2:28 Amazon
22 3:00 Amazon
23 2:29 Amazon
Serenata ad Irene (for soprano and basso continuo)
24 1:39 Amazon
25 1:09 Amazon
26 2:12 Amazon
27 1:26 Amazon
28 6:05 Amazon
29 1:54 Amazon
Sonata ottava (E minor, for violin and basso continuo)
30 2:23 Amazon
Riposo di Clori
31 2:21 Amazon
32 5:32 Amazon
33 1:49 Amazon
34 2:09 Amazon
35 2:10 Amazon
Suonata terza (F major, for "Cimbalo di piano e forte")
36 1:27 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick