Jane Austen’s Music

For information on what JA played ,we suggest you try and get hold of a copy of The Innocent Diversion by Patrick Piggott. This is a fascinating book (sadly out of print , but available second hand.) which discusses the type of music JA’s characters would have played (he makes an informed guesses as to exactly what Marianne’s “magnificent concerto” would have been ,for example.) and examines JA’s taste as reflected in her own manuscript music books (now held at the Jane Austen Museum in Chawton).

Her music books contain pieces by such composers as Pleyel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Pleyel)

and Clementi (http://www.carolinaclassical.com/clementi/)

who are still known today.

But she also liked works by some who are relatively obscure now, but who were the popular composers of her day: men such as William Shield, Johann Franz Xaver Sterkel, the famous Linleys of Bath (both father and son),and Frantisek Kotzwara.

Indeed, The Battle of Prague composed by Kotwara is the work thought by Patrick Piggott to be Marianne’s “magnificent concerto.”

JA also had a collection of songs by Charles Dibdin , who was a prolific composer of music for the theatre in late 18th century England. You can if you search hard enough you can find CDs of these composer’s works today (Try the Hyperion label as they specialize in somewhat forgotten works and composers. (www.hyperion.com).

She also liked Irish and Scottish songs, which were very popular at the beginning of the 19th century, and some of these can be found in her music collection.

If you are interested in reading about what music was performed in Britain during Jand Austen’s lifetime ,then I can highly recommend Concert Life in Eighteenth Centruy Britain edited by Susan Wollenberg and Simon McVeigh and Concert Life in London from Mozart to Hayden, also by Simon McVeigh. These are both scholarly but readable books which will help you discover the type of music that was played at concerts throughout JA’s lifetime both in London and in the provinces..