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celesta(sĭlĕ`stə), keyboard musical instrument patented in 1886 by Auguste Mustel of Paris. It consists of a set of steel bars fastened over wood resonators and struck by hammers operated from the keyboard. The compass is four octaves upward from middle C. Its tone is delicate and ethereal. Tchaikovsky, in his Nutcracker Suite, was one of the first composers to write for it.
a keyboard metallophone. The celesta was named for its unusually dulcet, bell-like, ethereal tone. The instrument, which resembles a small upright piano, has a piano action and a set of chromatically tuned steel plates or bars with a compass from middle C to C of the five-line octave; the plates or bars are placed in box-shaped resonators designed to intensify the fundamental of each tone. Many composers, including modern composers, have used the celesta in orchestral works to obtain special effects.