Changing Piano Design #1



 Ferruccio Busoni: 97 Keys

Any piano student can tell you that their instrument has a total of 88 keys, but that isn’t always the case. While working on transcriptions of Bach organ works for the piano, composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni found that the standard keyboard was unsatisfactory.

In order to mimic the sound of the largest organ pipes, Busoni worked with Ludwig Bösendorfer of the eponymous piano factory to create an instrument with an extended the piano’s lower register. The result was the Model 290 Imperial, a 97-keyed piano that encompasses eight full octaves.

The first prototype was built in 1909.  Its extraordinary sound inspired major composers, including Bartók, Debussy and Ravel. Several music pieces composed require an Imperial to ensure that they are played true to the original.

Garrick Ohlsson once called it the “Rolls Royce of pianos.”

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