What were the first piano recordings?

Did you know the first piano recordings took place in the late 19th century? And featured a 12 year-old who went on to be one of the greatest pianists ever?

Piano Keyboard
Published: September 8, 2022 at 9:00 am
Get your £10 Amazon Gift Card when you subscribe to BBC Music Magazine today!

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). Hoofmann went on to become one of the best pianists of all time

Advertisement

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).

Advertisement

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).

Sponsored content