Then and Now: Piano

Early and Modern Pianos


A fortepiano dating from 1806 made by Broadwood of London. This is a wood framed instrument, meaning that it is limited in terms of the amount of string tension it can handle. The smaller gauge metal strings held under less tension of this instrument translate into a less powerful sound than its successor, the grand piano.


baby grand piano

This seven-foot long baby grand piano includes in its design a heavy cast iron frame for the strings. When compared to its predecessor, the fortepiano, this instrument can be played at a much higher volume level. It uses heavy gauge, wound bass strings and steel wire strings in double and triple courses for the upper register. These strings are held under considerable tension, thus releasing considerable energy when forcefully struck. 


The same passage of music played on a Classic Era fortepiano (first clip) and the modern piano (second clip) provide a comparison of the sound qualities of these two instruments.

Title: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 “Pathetique”; Alexei Lubimov, fortepiano. Label: Erato. Format: CD. Catalogue#: 4509-94356-2. Track: 3.

Title: Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 "Pathetique", mvt. 3; Emil Gilels, piano. Label: Deutsche Grammophon. Format: CD. Catalog#: 400 036-2. Track: 3.