This month's playlist is a homage to Bartolomeo Cristofori's wonderful invention un cimbalo di cipresso di piano e forte, or as we now call it; the piano.

I have selected some of the most beautiful and evocative new piano pieces by current composers and interspersed them with works from throughout the ages by the composers who have inspired them.

It makes for a diverse array of pieces but I hope that you can hear the common threads and the evolutions of sound that tie them together.

There are several composers who are making their debuts on AYANE this month and I'm really looking forward to telling you more about them in my Piece + Quiet series over the coming weeks.

At one point this playlist was extremely long as there are so many incredible pieces to choose from. It was a really difficult job to whittle it down to size! I will definitely revisit this theme and turn it into a series.

(You can listen to the playlist here by clicking on the pieces if you are signed into Spotify on your device, alternatively you can click the white Spotify logo in the top right hand corner of the playlist and it will take you to the playlist or you can click the button below)


I compiled this playlist while I've been working on various projects and it is a really lovely one to listen to if you need to focus. I've chosen the pieces with the intention of creating a calm and peaceful atmosphere. As such it is also lovely to drop off to sleep with, I can report some of the best night's sleep I've had in a while since I started listening to this as my lullaby reel.

If you are interested in such things, I have put a very brief summary of the development of the piano below. Being the music nerd that I am and someone who is fascinated by how things work, it was really interesting for me to learn about how and why the piano has evolved the way it has and continues to do so.

A Brief History of the Piano;

Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655 - 1731) of Padua, Italy was an expert Harpsichord maker and was employed by Ferdinando de' Medici, the Grand Prince of Tuscany as the Keeper of Instruments. Cristofori's knowledge of keyboard mechanisms and actions helped him to develop the first pianoforte instruments. The exact date of the first piano is not known, but there is a record of a piano in the Medici family inventory of 1700. There are three Cristofori pianos that survive today, that date from the 1720s.

The big difference between Cristofori's design and previous keyboard instruments was that the key action allowed the hammer to strike the string and then rebound back to its rest position, which allowed the notes to resonate in a way that had not been possible previously. This gave keyboard players a powerful instrument that was capable of expressive control of sustain and dynamic nuance that responded to their touch, or the velocity with which the keys are pressed for the first time. Prior to this the Clavichord was the only instrument capable of doing such, but it was very quiet by comparison and had much less sustain.

Over the centauries the instrument has evolved into a hugely dynamic instrument, driven by two main factors;

1) The way music was played and consumed changed dramatically. Shifting away from the large houses and palaces of the elite to concerts in specially built concert halls played by virtuosos.

2) Composers pushing the limits of the instrument demanding greater tonal and dynamic range to express their feelings and tell their stories.

The early pianofortes were made with thin strings, wooden frames and 60 keys (the latter is because they evolved from a harpsichord which had 60 keys), and as such were far quieter and had less tonal range than modern instruments. As the demands on the instrument grew, piano makers created larger and larger instruments and moved to using metal wires and frames to enable them to increase the tension of the strings and with it the volume of the sound.

Pedals were also added to further manipulate the sound. The sustain pedal (right) allows a pianist to sustain notes that they have played even after their fingers are no longer pressing down the keys. The una corda pedal (left) means only one string is played, thereby shifting the tone and creating a softer sound. While the sostenuto pedal (middle) allows certain notes to be sustained, such as low bass pedal notes which is particularly useful in difficult passages where the player needs to move around the keyboard.

A modern grand piano has 88 keys, 3 pedals and a vast resonant body, which allows them to create an incredibly large range of dynamic sound. It is worth noting that modern pianos sound very different to the instruments that composers like Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven and Bach wrote their piano works for.

I often think how lucky we are to have the instruments and music technology we have now, the possibilities of what we can create with the sound palettes we have available are really only limited by our own creativity and imagination.

I hope that February treats you well, inspires you to create and you enjoy listening to this selection. Do let me know what you think of it in the comments below or on our various social media channels.

with love,