The A-Z of the piano

We celebrate the world's most popular instrument with a look at 26 of its greatest features

is for Records and Rolls: the earliest piano recordings

The first recordings by a significant pianist were done by the 12-year-old Josef Hofmann who made some non-commercial cylinders for Edison in 1888 (now lost). A year later, Brahms made a famous cylinder recording featuring his (just discernible) Hungarian Dance No. 1 on the piano. Cylinders from Moscow have survived featuring the playing of Sergei Taneyev (1891), Anton Arensky (1892/4), the great Paul Pabst (1895) and Anna Essipova (1898) as well as four of Hofmann’s (1895/6).

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On disc, Cécile Chaminade recorded a number of her works in 1901 for the G(ramophone) &T(ypewriter) label, followed by Grieg in 1903, but Saint-Saëns was the earliest-born pianist to make an acoustic record (G&T, 1904). However, the earliest-born pianist to make a recording of any kind was Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) who made piano rolls of his own works in 1905. The first piano concerto to be recorded was Grieg’s in 1910 (Wilhelm Backhaus for HMV).

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