PLEDGE NOW
A History Of The Piano

Jacki Lyden in for Tom Ashbrook

How 88 black-and-white keys changed our history. The untold story of the piano.

Piano player Rolando Luna, of the Cuban band Buena Vista Social Club, practices prior to a concert with Omara Portuondo at the Plaza de Toros Mexico in Mexico City, late Tuesday Nov. 8, 2011. (AP)

Piano player Rolando Luna, of the Cuban band Buena Vista Social Club, practices prior to a concert with Omara Portuondo at the Plaza de Toros Mexico in Mexico City, late Tuesday Nov. 8, 2011. (AP)

It has entertained kings, been pounded out in bawdy halls, enchanted the Medici’s and paupers.  The piano forte was created in Italy in the late 17th century, but what has been created with it is its greatest legacy.

Mozart, in his red coat may have made famous the piano concerto, but Liszt was called a modern Orpheus who played storms, prayers, and songs of triumph.  A new book takes us from earlier centuries to the lightening speed of an Oscar Peterson or Ben Folds.

This hour On Point: a Natural History of the Piano. Here’s Stravinsky:

-Jacki Lyden

Guests

Stuart Isacoff, founding editor of the magazine Piano Today and Executive Editor of Sheet Music Magazine. He’s the author of A Natural History of the Piano: The Instrument, the Music, the Musicians—from Mozart to Modern Jazz and Everything in Between. You can read and excerpt here.

From The Reading List

Seattle Times “Isacoff’s very inclusive approach is lightened by the style of the book, which will appeal even to those with short attention spans. This “Natural History” is a series of vignettes: historical notes on structural developments of the keyboard, punctuated with often humorous commentary on pianos and concerts by famous practitioners of the instrument.”

Wall Street Journal “It had actually been around since 1700, when Bartolomeo Cristofori, a technician in the employ of Ferdinando de Medici, produced his first working model. But no one before Mozart had brought it to the pinnacle of high art. The composer and instrument turned out to be a perfect match. ”

NPR “The art of the piano is a study in evolution — of both an instrument and of human talent. Among us there have been a rare few whose gifts included the physical dexterity, the innate musicality and the creativity to make the instrument sound brilliant.”

Playlist

“Basin Street Blues” by Oscar Peterson

Fugue in F-Sharp Minor by J. S. Bach; played by Glenn Gould

Concerto # 20 in D minor for Piano and Orchestra, Movement # 1 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; played by Murray Perahia

Sonata #3 in F, Movement # 1, “Siciliana” by Lodovico Giustini; played by Andrea Coen

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
May 22, 2015
Crashed cars with airbags deployed are shown to visitors as part of the display of Toyota Motor Corp.'s safety performance standards at the automaker's exhibition hall in Toyota, central Japan. (Shuji Kajiyama/AP)

ISIS rolls on. A TPP vote. Biggest recall ever – airbags. And Letterman’s last bow. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

May 22, 2015
The Barden Bellas, the all-female a cappella group at the center of Pitch Perfect 2. (Richard Cartwright/Universal Pictures via AP)

Pitch Perfect 2 is the number one movie in the country, and it’s over the top on a capella.

RECENT
SHOWS
May 22, 2015
The Barden Bellas, the all-female a cappella group at the center of Pitch Perfect 2. (Richard Cartwright/Universal Pictures via AP)

Pitch Perfect 2 is the number one movie in the country, and it’s over the top on a capella.

 
May 22, 2015
Crashed cars with airbags deployed are shown to visitors as part of the display of Toyota Motor Corp.'s safety performance standards at the automaker's exhibition hall in Toyota, central Japan. (Shuji Kajiyama/AP)

ISIS rolls on. A TPP vote. Biggest recall ever – airbags. And Letterman’s last bow. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
A Former Bike Gang Member Explains "The Life"
Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Larry called in from Lawrenceburg, KY and told us he was once a member of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, a mid-Atlantic biker gang. He didn’t sugar coat the facts as he explained the draw of the brotherhood and what makes the outlaw motorcycle corner the underworld go round.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: May 15, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015

We cancel a few hours and suddenly all of you get convinced of a global radio conspiracy! Plus, dragon zoos.

More »
1 Comment
 
Caller: ‘It Doesn’t Always Turn Out Okay’
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One caller shares her own story of an extremely premature birth. Her daughter, born at 22 1/2 weeks in 2012, was taken off life support after seven days.

More »
Comment