From the Library — Piano-issimo

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by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 22 May, 2010

It’s a classical weekend here on Radio Riel, and today we explore the marvellous world of classical piano music, including all your favourite piano concertos — Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Gershwin and many more; along with solo piano works by the likes of Faure, Poulenc, Chopin, Debussy and Ravel… and some unusual pieces from lesser-known composers like Louis Moreau Gottschalk, born in New Orleans in 1829 and well-known in his time as a piano virtuoso as well as a wonderfully accessible Romantic composer.

There are also some slightly unusual instruments on the programme today, such as a “proto-piano”, the Fortepiano.

Pianoforte”, the piano’s full name, means “Soft-Loud”, and refers to the instrument’s impressive dynamic range, from the very softest notes to thundering chords. One reason that’s possible is because the piano is actually a percussion instrument, with hammers hitting the strings when you press the keys. Its predecessors, like the harpsichord, plucked the strings and thus offered much less in the way of dynamics. The Fortepiano was an earlier attempt at the piano, but it lacked the sustain and fullness of the pianoforte. Indeed, the piano as we know it today was deliberately made more powerful and full-sounding — including adding multiple strings per note, a metal frame and a sustain pedal, during the 19th century so that it could hold its own against a full orchestra without the benefit of amplification.

Other unusual instruments in today’s programme include the Pianola and the Reproducing Piano. The Pianola was an attachment to a regular piano, with hammers that pressed on the keys in response to instructions from a punched paper roll. The tempo and dynamics were supplied by the operator, who pedalled more or less furiously to get the desired effect. The Reproducing Piano takes that one stage further, with the pianoroll mechanism built-in and with a recording capability too, which could capture a player’s dynamics.

It’s a veritable feast of classical and neo-classical piano music today on Radio Riel, and we do hope you enjoy it.

And don’t forget to join us at 11am and 7pm SLT (19:00 and 0:300 UK time) for the 9th installment of our two thrilling ZBS serials: The Fourth Tower of Inverness and, at the half-hour, Ruby the Galactic Detective, brought to you courtesy of our friends at You can tune in at home, or join us in the Clarendon Conservatory in New Babbage (

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin and produced by Radio Riel in conjunction with the Alexandrian Free Library Consortium of Second Life. You can listen to the programme now at in-world, or simply click here.

For more information on the Alexandrian Free Library, current exhibits and the work of Consortium members in general, please visit the Alexandrian Free Library website, or one of their branches in-world.

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