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Bartolomeo Cristofori became famous as the inventor of the piano. He was born on May 4th, 1655 in Padua. There are hardly any sources that give reliable information about Cristofori’s family, early life, or education. This part of his life remains hidden in mystery. It is also not known when and how Cristofori developed his love for music and his interest in inventions.
Cristofori’s name first appeared in some reports from 1680 concerning the famous violin maker Nicolo Amati. According to these documents, Cristofori used to be Amati’s apprentice. However, it should be noted that at that time Amati’s assistant was only 13, while the age of Cristofori was 25. This inevitably raises doubts about the credibility of the source. So, officially, Cristofori’s name was first mentioned regarding his connection with Prince Ferdinando de Medici. Cristofori was employed by Medici because of Medici’s love for music. Cristofori’s main responsibilities included repair and maintenance of the various instruments the prince possessed. Besides, Cristofori was supposed to invent new instruments as well. The fact that Cristofori’s salary exceeded the salary of his predecessor could be accepted as evidence for his established by that time reputation. Another proof of Cristofori’s notable skills could be that Florence had many professionals who could perform Cristofori’s duties but the prince chose exactly him. These peculiar facts could be accepted as proof for Cristofori’s talent. His new position required him to leave his home Padua and move to Florence.
Among the few undisputed facts of Cristofori’s private affairs were his two wills. The first of them showed a close relationship with one of his disciples, Giovanni Ferrini. According to this first will, Ferrini was supposed to inherit all Cristofori’s tools. However, Cristofori’s second will left Ferrini with the sum of “5 scudi”. The wills prove Cristofori’s generosity, and his desire to find a continuer of his deed.
The year of the invention of the piano, just like most aspects of Cristofori’s life, is not known exactly. What is known for sure is that by 1711, there were at least three invented instruments of such a kind, based off of the clavichord and harpsichord design but with a dynamical feature of the felt hammer. Cristofori gradually improved the instrument but not all of Cristofori’s projects were successful. About twenty of the pianofortes he made were never used, and they did not bring their inventor either success or recognition.
The death of Cristofori’s benefactor, Prince Ferdinando, did not put an end to Cristofori’s career. In 1716, Cristofori received a new recognition for his devotion and skills. He was appointed a curator “of all musical instruments in the Florentine Royal Collection.” This shows that Cristofori’s merits were highly acknowledged by his contemporaries.
Despite the few facts that are known about Cristofori’s life, it remains an undisputed fact that his whole existence was devoted to music. Music, as well as the musical instruments that produce this melody for the soul, were an inseparable part of his life. Bartolomeo died in 1731 in Florence. He was at the age of 77, and although most of his life remains hidden and people hardly have any reliable information about his personal affairs, he has put his indelible mark on the development of music.