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In principle, the word "fortepiano" can designate any piano dating from the invention of the instrument by Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1700 up to the early 19th century.

Most typically, however, it is used to refer to the late-18th to early-19th century instruments for which Haydn, Mozart, and the younger Beethoven wrote their piano music.

The tone of the fortepiano is quite different from that of the modern piano, however, being softer with less sustain.

Sforzando accents tend to stand out more than on the modern piano, as they differ from softer notes in timbre as well as volume, and decay rapidly.

For a time, the piano was the instrument of royalty, with Cristofori-built or -styled instruments played in the courts of Portugal and Spain.

Several were owned by Queen Maria Barbara of Spain, who was the pupil of the composer Domenico Scarlatti.

Merely attaching the Cristofori action to a harpsichord would have produced a very weak tone.

It has a much lighter case construction than the modern piano and, except for later examples of the early nineteenth century (already evolving towards the modern piano), it has no metal frame or bracing.

Cristofori is perhaps best admired today for his ingenious piano action, which in some ways was more subtle and effective than that of many later instruments.

However, other innovations were also needed to make the piano possible.

The article included a diagram of the action, the core of Cristofori's invention.

This article was republished 1719 in a volume of Maffei's work, and then in a German translation (1725) in Johann Mattheson's Critica Musica.

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