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The Piano Matters

History’s greatest composers wrote for their pianos, and a new Slate article by Jan Swafford argues that only an old piano can play Beethoven‘s Moonlight Sonata as Beethoven intended it. In fact, “music from the 18th and 19th centuries doesn’t just sound different now than on the original instruments; some of it can’t even be played as written on modern pianos.” Today, musical recordings drive the classical piano scene, encouraging the dominance of Steinways and the “standardization of pianos,” Swafford writes. “In the days of Beethoven and Schubert, it was a matter of one man or woman (such as the legendary Nannette Streicher) with hammers, saws, planes, and chisels, and there were myriad visions of what a piano could be.”[%comments]