Music Theory

History of piano playing : Domenico Scarlatti Johann Sebastian Bach and Handel

A short history of piano playing.

  • Mozart, Bach and Clementi
  • Beethoven, Schubert, Lists and Thalberg
  • Chopin, Schumann and Mendelsshon
  • Great pianists of the end of the XIX century
  • Great piano players (1850-1900)
  • Other great pianists (1850-1900)

The following sketch is designed simply to give the student an outline of the history of piano-playing. “While the piano-technique, the art of piano making, and the art of musical composition developed separately, they also affect each other in their onward course.

johann sebastian bach
JS Bach

The earliest players of distinction were

  • Johann Sebastian Bach, 1685-1750, and
  • Domenico Scarlatti, 1683-1757. To these might properly be added the name of
  • George Frederic Handel, 1685-1759. who, though mainly famous as organist, was also m superior player upon the harpsichord.

Domenico Scarlatti and John Sebastian Bach

The student must bear in mind the fact, that the instruments then in use were very limited in their capacity. Lack of space forbids us giving a description of them, suffice it to say that they were simply the precursors of the present square and grand piano. Bach was the greatest clavichord player of his time. His touch was clear and exact, his fingers formed almost a straight line and their motion was scarcely perceptible. He insisted upon the use and equal training of all the fingers.

He was m most remarkable improvisator and his powers of working out themes in the contrapuntal style, were simply astonishing. His many compositions are still object of admiration, and no pianist would consider his education complete without having thoroughly studied them.

Domenico Scarlatti

Scarlatti was the greatest player of his country. His style was graceful and fluent. While upon the whole his works are simple, they, nevertheless, present here and there difficulties, which give even experienced players plenty of work to do. Though his Sonatas are not very extensively known, they are still played.