I share the office with the subject librarian for permorming arts. (Music, theatre, film, that kind of thing). He is a knowledgeable man. And his specialty happens to be old music. I don’t mean motown or even 50’s rock ‘n’ roll, but centuries old classical music.

That is why he could answer a question from a fellow reference librarian on what kind of instrument a fortepiano was. I did have an idea about what it was as I tell myself that I play the piano. But here is what he told us and taught us as a result.

The fortepiano is an instrument invented in the 18th century as a development of the harpsichord, which was an instrument with a keyboard as well but could only be played at one volume. The fortepiano could be played loudly and quietly and was therefore called the fortepiano (loud/quit in Italian). As the instrument was developed further the forte part of its name dropped which is why we now call pianos by that name.

Lesson learned. Next!


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