This Week in Piano History: Happy World Piano Day!

THIS WEEK IN PIANO HISTORY, we are celebrating World Piano Day and the accomplishments of all pianists!

The piano was invented over three hundred years ago by Bartolomeo Cristofori, an Italian builder. His ingenious design from 1700 used hammers inside the action of a harpsichord to create a wider dynamic range. Cristofori’s instrument ignited the interest of keyboard makers throughout Europe including Gottfried Silbermann who created a similar model that eventually got the approval of Johann Sebastian Bach. Although today’s piano is quite different from its prototype, the legacy of Cristofori’s invention is undeniable.

In celebration of the many pianists who have brought inspiration and joy to the world since the inception of the instrument, today we are highlighting several pianists who have been featured in Piano Magazine over the years. We hope you enjoy reading about these excellent musicians and hearing their thoughtful music making.

Martha Agerich on Respect and Love for the Music

According to many pianists of today, Martha Argerich is frequently cited as the greatest living pianist. Originally from Argentina, Argerich began studying piano at an early age with Vincenzo Scaramuzza and later Friedrich Gulda, Stefan Askenase, and Maria Curcio. She rose to prominence in her adolescent years after capturing the top prizes at both the Chopin and the Busoni International Piano Competitions at the age of 16. Known especially for her performances of Chopin, Ravel, Liszt, and Prokofiev, Argerich has toured around the world and has performed with every major orchestra.

In 2015, Argerich sat down with Leonne Lewis for an interview with Piano Magazine in which she recounted her experiences with her teacher Friedrich Gulda, her thoughts on piano teaching, the importance of exploring different styles, and more. You can read it here.

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Gabriela Montero on Improvisation and Advocacy

Hailing from Venezuela, Gabriela Montero, described by Argerich as “a wonderful pianist and improviser,” is known for her creative performances mixing both classical repertoire and her improvised reactions. After winning the third prize in the Chopin International Piano Competition in 1995, her performing career took off. Besides her work as an artist, Montero is committed to ensuring human rights around the world and was named an Honorary Consul by Amnesty International in 2015. In an interview with Piano Magazine, Montero described her experience with improvisation as a personal practice until she was encouraged to share it with the world by Martha Argerich.

In the interview, she states that improvisation “has become more and more a tool of storytelling, and reporting what’s going on in the world, and issues that I want to speak about. It has always been there. It’s the first thing I do when I sit down at the piano to say hello.” You can read more about Montero’s thoughts about her musical upbringing and her exciting concert schedule in the interview, accessible here.

Spencer Myer on Unique Practice Methods

Spencer Myer, is an active recitalist and performer around the world. Myer, who studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, The Juilliard School, and Stony Brook University, launched his career after winning the 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship from the American Pianist Association and the 2008 New Orleans International Piano Competition. He was recently appointed Associate Professor of Music (Piano) at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music In 2019, Myer presented a workshop on practicing at the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy (now NCKP: The Piano Conference).

In an interview with Barbara Fast, Myer told Piano Magazine (formerly Clavier Companion) that his interest in unique practice methods began while preparing for international piano competitions. One of his unique practice methods to secure memory involves occasionally lifting one’s hands from the piano keyboard while playing and “mentally continuing to play.” Myer’s practice methods and tips for developing pianists are discussed fully in this article.

Sean Chen on The Role of Piano Teachers

Another winner of the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship from the American Pianists Association, Sean Chen, was catapulted onto the world’s stage after his third prize win at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. A graduate of The Juilliard School and Yale University, Chen is a Steinway Artist. In addition to his performance career, Chen is also passionate about computers, math, and science.

Chen describes his musical upbringing along with his decision to enroll in Juilliard over Harvard and more in this interview with Piano Magazine (formerly Clavier Companion).


O’Brien, Michael. “Cristofori, Bartolomeo.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 31 Oct. 2022.

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