Musical Instruments Museum of Florence
The origins of the Musical Instruments Museum of Florence
The Musical Instruments Museum of Florence, inside Accademia Gallery, is a real jewel to explore with your eyes and especially with your ears. The museum was inaugurated in 2001 with entrance included in the Galleria dell’Accademia ticket. It displays about fifty musical instruments from private collections of grand dukes of Tuscany, the Medici, and Lorena, being a hidden gem for opera, theater, and classical music lovers. The instruments were collected from the late XVII century to the early XIX century. They were then given to the Cherubini Conservatory in Florence, which then loaned them to the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1996. The collection shows the importance of the role music played in the Medici Court, celebrating the invention of the piano, which was created for the Medici by Bartolomeo Cristofori. A multimedia area in the Galleria dell’Accademia makes it possible to listen to the sonority of many of the instruments on display and watch a video that retraces the birth and the growth of theater in Florence.
The Stradivari Tenor Viola
In the midst of ancient harpsichords, wind instruments, and percussion, you will find a unique piece by the master Antonio Stradivari. The viola on exhibit at the Musical Instruments Museum of Florence is a one-of-a-kind by Stradivari and is perfectly conserved in its original condition. It was built in spruce and maple for the exceptional Medici Quintet, a group of two violins, two violas, and a cello. Elegance and outstanding sophistication are found in its exquisite mother of pearl, ivory and ebony inlay, and in the details of the Medici crest that make it unique. The collection also includes a Stradivari violin and cello.
The invention of the piano
In 1688 Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1732) was called into the Florentine court by Grand Prince Ferdinando as a musical instrument maker. He dedicated his work to experimenting with new materials for his instruments and creating innovative sounds, making an elegant spinet and a precious harpsichord in an ebony case. The most amazing discovery is finding the “piano”, or pianoforte in Italian, documented for the very first time in history. This was the invention of a keyboard instrument where the chords aren’t plucked; they’re hit by little hammers that produce softer and less “silvery” sounds than the harpsichord.
The Museum of Musical Instruments of Florence exhibits two large-scale paintings by Anton Domenico Gabbiani in the musical instrument section. They portray the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici surrounded by his court musicians. The elegantly dressed young musicians proudly show off their violas, cellos, a lirone, or lira da gamba, and a cello with a precious silver tailpiece used to increase its sonority. You can recognize Pietro Salvetti, cappella master and chamber assistant, and Francesco Veracini, a composer among some of the best musicians of the era. The room dedicated to Bartolomeo Cristofori displays two XVII century still lifes that combine elegantly set tables and detailed depictions of musical instruments of the era.