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Jane Austen Piano Favourites

Jane Austen Piano Favourites

Ref: CDG1234

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'The Piano Forte often talks of you; - in various keys, tunes & expressions I allow - but be it Lesson or Country dance, Sonata or Waltz, You are really its constant theme.' (From a letter by Jane Austen to Caroline Austen, 1817.)
A further selection from Jane Austen's music library plus other popular piano pieces of the day played on a variety of fine pianos of the period.

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'The Piano Forte often talks of you; - in various keys, tunes & expressions I allow - but be it Lesson or Country dance, Sonata or Waltz, You are really its constant theme.'
From a letter by Jane Austen to Caroline Austen, half sister to Anna, January 23rd 1817

Niccolo Piccini
1 Overture La Buona Figliuola

Joseph Haydn Sonata in
D major Hob.XVI/4
2 (Moderato)
3 Menuet

Sonata in C major Hob. XVI/1
4 Allegro
5 Adagio
6 Menuet

Ignaz Pleyel from Fourteen Favourite
Sonatinas, Sonatina 1 in C major
7 Menuetto
8 Allegro

Sonatina 2 in D major
9 Allegretto e variazione
10 Allegro

Sonatina 3 in F major
11 Moderato e due variazione
Sonatina 4 in A major
12 Andante ma non troppo

Ernst Eichner, Sonata in A major Op 3/1
13 Andantino molto
14 Allegro

Muzio Clementi, Sonatina
in C major Op 36/3
15 Spiritoso
16 Un poco adagio
17 Allegro

Sonatina in G major Op 36/5
18 Presto
19 Air Suisse
20 Rondo Allegro di molto

Sonatina in G major Op 36/2
21 Allegretto
22 Allegretto
23 Allegro

Martin Souter
plays on pianos of the period

Piano music seems to have been very much at the heart of Jane Austen's life. Her niece Caroline tells us that she practised every day and the majority of music in the writer's music collection at her house in Chawton, Hampshire, includes something to be played on the piano, whether as solo instrument, or a song accompaniment or an important part in a chamber music piece which she would have performed with friends and family. The music by Piccini, Pleyel and Eichner on this recording can all be found in the Chawton music collection. Further volumes of music knwon to have been associated with Jane Austen but not kept in her Chawton house include music by Haydn, and so two of his sonatas were chosen for the recording . Muzio Clementi was such a major musical figure of the time - he was active as a publisher, composer and piano maker - that his music must have been known to Jane Austen.

Jane Austen's own piano was made by Stodart and would have been very similar to one of the instruments used on this recording (tracks 7-12) - a Stodart piano of 1807. This small instrument looks rather like a highly decorated small side board which opens up to reveal the keyboard, action and strings of a very fine instrument. Its delicate sound seems perfect for the small-scale, intimate sonatinas of Pleyel which can be found in the fourth of the eight volumes of music in Jane Austen's Chawton collection.

The other piano used for most of the music was made by the firm of Broadwood in 1801. This is a grand piano and consequently has a fuller sound than the Stoddart square piano. The Broadwood make was one of the most popular of the time. The firm made pianos for the royal family, having previously made harpsichords. In fact, this piano looks very similar in size and shape to a harpsichord, and certainly is closer in style to the older instrument than to the modern grand piano of today. What both these instruments lack compared to modern instruments is the power and sheer volume of sound that a new piano can generate from its much greater string tension and solid iron frame. Both these old pianos are lightly constructed, but what they lack in power they more than make up for in the clarity and subtlety of their sound. It is certainly the sound that Jane Austen would have known and fits the gentle, elegant character of the music extremely well. These pianos were used in the recent film of Sense and Sensibility and in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.

Broadwood piano, London 1801
Stodart piano, London 1807 (tracks 7-12)
Recorded in Finchcocks, Goudhurst, Kent by kind permission of Richard and Katrina Burnett
Pianos tuned by Alastair Lawrence
Produced by Martin Souter

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