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The Jane Austen Songbooks

The Pianoforte was one of the most popular instruments for young ladies to learn to play during the Regency. With this, they could accompany dancers or singers or play solos that would entertain guests at gatherings and display their talents for all to see. Jane Austen, herself, was an accomplished musician and the following CDs give a glimpse into the types of music that she might have enjoyed.

Jane’s Hand: The Jane Austen Songbooks

Borrowing from Jane Austen’s own meticulously kept music books, Jane’s Hand reproduces 22 pieces of music written for piano and voice. The CD, which runs nearly 80 minutes, includes pieces by Handel, Gluck, Gay and even Georgiana Cavendish, the notorious Duchess of Devonshire. With guest appearances from an array of Sopranos and Tenors, as well as period instrument players (the Harpsichord, Fortepiano, Baroque Violin and Baroque Guitar), familar pieces are interspersed with period gems. The included 20 page booklet provides the history of Jane Austen’s music, as well as photographs of Chawton Cottage and Jane’s fortepiano. Information on the musicians as well as the full text of each song is also given.

For those who can’t get enough of the music from the movies, How Can Show How Much I Love Her? (Virgins are like a fair flower…) and Silent Worship (Did you not hear my lady?) – both featured in Emma2, are here performed. Click below for a sample. This CD was released in 1996 by Vox Classics. Though difficult to find, it’s well worth searching for.

Piano Classics from the World of Jane Austen

One of the best “Jane Austen” CDs available, Piano Classics from the World of Jane Austen features classical piano music accurately reflecting the musical milieu of Jane Austen’s period and social sphere. Only imagine, this is what was heard emanating from the elegant drawing rooms graced by many of Austen’s immortal and pianistic heroines. All musical selections are drawn from Austen’s personal library, social sphere, or time period.

The CD contains 73 minutes of music by well-known and lesser-known composers, including four complete sonatas, and premiere recordings of works by Cramer, Clementi, and Schobert. Included is a delightful 16-page booklet featuring a bibliography and in-depth program notes discussing Jane Austen’s pianistic background, the role music performance fulfills in Austen’s plot/character development and social satire, historic/stylistic sketches of each piece, and the artist’s personal speculations as to who might have played what, where, and under what circumstances.

The Jane Austen Companion

Produced by Nimbus Records, this CD, The Jane Austen Companion, is just that. A terrific companion to reading her works, writing your own Regency pieces or for simply getting you in that “Regency” mood. This CD is a delightful mix of popular pieces of the time. As the intelligent and interesting notes maintain, “London at the time of Jane Austen was one of the most exciting centers in all of Europe for music,” and this was an era of great fertility of composers in general. Lucky Jane! Imagine publishing your second novel the same year that Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony receives its premiere. Or offering your fourth novel to the public near the time of the first performance of Schubert’s Fifth Symphony. The program highlights popular music from Austen’s time by Mendelssohn, Haydn, Fasch, J.C. Bach, Boyce, Schubert and others.*

While there is no proof that Jane, herself, favored these composers or even listened to these particular pieces, they do provide a lovely picture of this period’s music for the upper classes. Other CDs may contain country dances or chamber pieces- both popular and important styles of the time- this is just a slice of life- a peek into the Regency’s orchestral scene.

*Gwendolyn Freed and other quotes from Amazon.com

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