Beethoven, Cristofori & The Piano’s First Century


Leon Botstein conductor
Shai Wosner piano

Part of TŌN’s Sight & Sound series

In the hit series Sight & Sound, conductor and music historian Leon Botstein explores the parallels between orchestral music and the visual arts. A discussion is accompanied by on-screen artworks and musical excerpts performed by The Orchestra Now, followed by a full performance and audience Q&A.

At the dawn of the 18th century, Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori created the world’s first successful hammer-action keyboard instrument, which would come to be known as the piano. A century later it was clear that the piano would become the defining instrument of Western musical culture. Beethoven, a virtuoso pianist, composed extensively for the instrument. His Emperor Piano Concerto reveals Beethoven’s obsession with the musical possibilities emerging from the rapidly evolving technology of piano construction.

Cristofori’s Grand Piano is on view at The Met Fifth Avenue in the Musical Instruments collection.


>Read the concert program

Discussion, on-screen artworks, and musical excerpts
Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now

20 min

Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor
Shai Wosner piano
39 min

Q&A with the audience

Sample the Music

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor

Image: Bartolomeo Cristofori (Padua 1655–1731 Florence). Grand Piano, 1720. Cypress, boxwood, paint, leather, fir, Height (Total): 34 1/16 (86.5 cm), Width (Parallel to keyboard): 37 5/8 (95.6 cm), Depth (Case length, perpendicular to keyboard): 90 in. (228.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889 (89.4.1219a–c)

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