P I A N O   3 0 0
Celebrating Three Centuries of People and Pianos


The Exhibition: Across Europe and Beyond

Square Piano, 1770
Maker: Zumpe and Buntebart, London

SI photo by Hugh Talman


By the late 1700s, the piano had spread throughout Europe and reached the American colonies. No longer the exclusive property of the nobility, pianos still carried an air of privilege and prestige. Wealthy amateurs, mostly young ladies, learned to play on the new "square" piano or on a more expensive grand piano. Composers found it profitable to write sonatas, dances, and songs that were pleasant and easy enough for amateurs.

Professional pianists first appeared on stage in supporting roles, accompanying singers. In the 1760s, however, pianists began playing solos in public concerts, sharing the bill with other performers. Two rival styles of performance emerged, reflecting two rival styles of piano-building -- one based in Austria and southern Germany, the other centered in London. Leading composers began to write specifically for the piano, often composing with specific players and instruments in mind. A long history of public performance had begun.

Grand Piano, 1794
Maker: John Broadwood & Son, London

SI photograph by Robert C. Lautman

In the Beginning

Across Europe and Beyond

Pianos In the Home

Romantic Superstars


Americans Take the Lead

Pianos for Everyone

New Communities, New Voices

Circling the Globe


[Introduction] [Performances, Tours and More] [Exhibition] [Timeline]
[Credits] [Donors and Collaborators ] [Play Some Music!] [Piano Resources]

Piano 300
American History
National Museum of American History