The piano reigns supreme as the ultimate solo instrument. It has 88 keys as well as the ability to play complete orchestrations. It’s pretty obvious that the piano is the king of solo repertoire – it’s not even close!
Solo Music for Other Instruments:
Let’s consider for a moment some other instruments such as the clarinet, trumpet or flute. Solo music written for other instruments most often contain piano accompaniments! Often times the piano part is just as intrinsic as the solo part. They are truly duos even though they are classified as solo compositions. The violin has an immense amount of solo repertoire written for it and indeed some of it is truly solo music without piano parts, from Bach Partitas to Paganini Caprices.
The Piano Has More Solo Music Written for it Than All Other Instruments Combined!
Keyboard music started with the harpsichord and fortepiano. The harpsichord and clavichord are where it all truly began as they predate the fortepiano. Music composed by Mozart, Haydn and their contemporaries were originally composed for fortepiano and has been adapted to the modern piano. The first examples of fortepianos were a primitive yet efficient design yet were sophisticated for their time. This is the roots of true piano music.
J.S. Bach and the Clavichord:
However, pianists have taken all the wealth of music written before the piano was invented and co-opted it for the piano. For example, Bach never wrote anything specifically for the piano. All of his music was composed for the keyboard or “clavier” from the German. His preferred instrument was the clavichord which had a delicate and expressive sound. The most popular keyboard instrument for performance was the harpsichord because of its robust tone.
Early Repertoire on the Modern Piano:
Playing repertoire from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries on the modern piano as we know it today can be a completely different musical experience in comparison to the instruments the pieces were originally written for. The modern piano is designed to handle all of the repertoire both simple to complex with ease. Even the literature of the harpsichord works well on the modern piano even allowing for dynamic expression, something the harpsichord lacked since it plucked the strings rather than hitting them with hammers as in the modern piano. So, dynamics with touch were not possible with the harpsichord. However, levers or stops could be engaged on more sophisticated harpsichords to engage different strings and felt strips to change the tone globally.
From Fortepiano to the Modern Piano:
It’s interesting how the piano developed through Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and beyond. The limits of expression were expanded throughout the ages as the piano evolved with music. For example, the music written by Chopin couldn’t have possibly been conceived on a Mozart era fortepiano. As the piano evolved, composers did as well. This was because the advancement of the instrument allowed for more range of freedom and performance due to the availability of more sophisticated musical technology. So, the wealth of piano music contains music through the ages that evolved as the instruments the music was composed for developed.
This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com Your Online Piano Store! 949-244-3729 info@LivingPianos.com