The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: A FREE concert of Latin American piano music is on tap in Verona on Saturday night and a concert last week in Door County recreated the piano music that classic writer and popular novelist Jane Austen and her characters played.

February 24, 2012
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ALERT:  This Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Rhapsody Arts Center in Verona, at 1031 North Edge Trail, there is a FREE concert of solo piano and four-hand piano works by Latin American composers Ginastera, Leon, Piazzolla and Soler along with Bach. A free reception will follow the concert. Performers are members of Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Chapter at UW – Madison.

By Jacob Stockinger

Few novelists have proven as durable or popular as the great British writer Jane Austen (below), famous for her novels “Pride and Prejudice,” “Emma,” Sense and Sensibility” and “Persuasion.”

All those titles have stayed in print since they were first published. All have also been made into popular and prize-winning TV series and movies, several times in most cases.

So people who know those works by either reading or viewing also know that music plays a big role in Austen’s work. Indeed, women of the class she writes about were expected to be proficient on the piano and to play music, especially dance tunes, of the day.

One of the best scenes for me is in “Pride and Prejudice” when the father, Mr. Bennet, says to a less proficient Bennet sister (Mary, perhaps) after her after-dinner performance full of wrong notes something to the effect “You have entertained us quite enough. It is time to give someone else a chance.”

Talk about a classy, witty and understated put-down!

Anyway, if you want some history about Austen’s literary work and her world and the role that music played in them, here is a background story:

And more to the point, here is a link to a story in the Wisconsin Gazette by a fine Madison arts writer, Mike Muckian, about a concert that was sponsored this month by the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County. The concert recreated a typical evening’s fare of Jane Austen’s piano music:

Sounds like it was an entertaining evening, no?

And it is curious how obscure some, or even most of the names sound today – like Charles Dibdin. (Austen’s own score of his “Soldier’s Adieu” is below.)

That says something about how musical taste changes through the years – and about how so-called first-tier and second-tier composers are different with history’s hindsight. (Below is a version of a period tune in duet form from “Emma” played on modern pianos.)

Maybe a similar concert can be recreated again here in Madison. What do you think or say?

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