© By Opus33 (English Wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- This gallery demonstrates the technical development of the grand piano in England during the first half of the nineteenth century and contrasts it with the daintier, Viennese style of instrument. A sequence of English square pianos traces the history of the instrument through half a century of changes responding to the demands of composers and players. The instruments, which have been selected to illustrate the creative relationships between players, composers and instrument makers, are all kept in playing condition and are used for demonstrations and research. The piano incorporates features of the harpsichord, clavichord and hammer dulcimer to form a keyboard instrument which gives the player full control over dynamic levels by touch alone. During the late 18th and 19th centuries, players, composers and piano makers inspired one another in the development of musical styles which exploited the instrument’s capacity for expressive playing and dramatic contrasts between loud and soft. The piano emerged as a significant factor in the evolution of programme music, song, instrumental solos and chamber music, as well as being an important medium for virtuoso performances. As well as the Academy’s own instruments, the exhibition features pianos generously placed on loan by Kenneth and Mary Mobbs, Oswald de Sybel, Andrew Hunter-Johnston, the Beare family, and the Stodart grand piano bequeathed to us by Frank Brown. The Academy also has a collection of keyboard instruments which are on long-term loan to the Cobbe Collection, Hatchlands (National Trust).