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English Echoes: English Country Dance Favorites

It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind; — but when a beginning is made — when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt — it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.
Emma

This CD anyone who’s ever wanted to hear (or even dance) the dances that Jane Austen was familiar with. Dancing plays an integral part in all of Austen’s romances, from Darcy leading Lizzy to the floor at Netherfield, to Mr. Knightley’s “not so much brother and sister” at the Crown Inn.Henry Tilney first engages Catherine Morland’s notice at an assembly in Bath and Willoughby’s duplicity with Miss Grey is discovered at a similar assembly in London.

English Echoes features 14 dance length country dances and waltzes that would have been well known to the Austen family. Several are by John Playford, of Playford’s Dancing Master fame. Another, Shrewsburry Lasses, (by Charles and Samuel Thompson, 1765, Dances as they are performed at Court, Bath, and all Publick Assemblys.) is familiar from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. Discerning listeners will recall Lizzy and Mr. Collin’s failed attempt at dancing at the Netherfield ball (“Other way, Mr. Collins!)*.

All in all, it is a delightful collection, evocative of “Jane Austen movies – at times smooth and elegant, others bouncy and lively – this music accompanies dancing that has been enjoyed since the 1600’s. Becky, Liz, and Colleen weave together sweet harmonies with lively rhythmic punctuation.” The CD may be ordered from CDbaby.com. The full track listing may also be downloaded in mp3 format from Amazon.com.

From the Liner Notes:
Becky Ross, Liz Donaldson, and Colleen Reed play regularly as part of a vibrant and talented community of musicians at the weekly English Country Dance sponsored by the Folklore Society of Greater Washington in Glen Echo, MD. They have found an easy chemistry as a trio, weaving together sweet harmonies and melodies with lively rhythmic punctuation.

English Country Dancing is thought to have taken place as early as the 16th century, but became all the rage in the 1600’s and continued well into the 18th century. In the early 1900’s, reinterpretations of historic dances sparked renewed interest. All the while, new dances are continually being devised so that today’s dance community enjoys a vast repertory of modern and old dances, with music from the 1500’s to the present.

English Echoes represents a selection of our favorite tunes offering a variety of meters (jigs, reels, waltzes, 3/2 time) and moods, from elegant and smooth to bouncy and lively. We ordered the dance-length selections as a dance program representing a variety of styles and dance formations. We hope you will also enjoy this recording for general listening.

Tracks include:

  1. Take A Dance
  2. Mr. Isaac’s Maggot (Playford)
  3. Honeysuckle Cottage
  4. Collier’s Daughter (Playford)
  5. Halsway Manners
  6. Peace Be With You
  7. Newcastle (Playford)
  8. Newcastle Reprise
  9. The MollyAndrew
  10. Key to the Cellar
  11. Shrewsbury Lasses
  12. Alice
  13. Money in Both Pockets
  14. Well Hall

Fourteen selections with Liz Donaldson, piano, Becky Ross, fiddle, Colleen Reed, flute and Bruce Edwards, bassoon. Approximately 56 minutes of music. Copyright 2007.

* Download the sheetmusic for Shrewsbury Lasses. Just right click and save.

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First Impressions: The CD

First Impressions (1959) is a Broadway musical with music and lyrics by George Weiss, Robert Goldman, and Glenn Paxton, and book by Abe Burrows (Guys and Dolls), based on the stage adaptation by Helen Jerome of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice. The Broadway production premiered at the Alvin Theater, New York City, on March 19, 1959, and played 84 performances. The stars of the original cast were Hermione Gingold (as Mrs. Bennet), Polly Bergen (as Elizabeth Bennet), and Farley Granger (as Mr. Darcy), supported by Phyllis Newman, Ellen Hanley, Christopher Hewitt, and James Mitchell. The original production’s lavish scenic design (the period was 1813) by Peter Larkin is particularly noteworthy.

The time is 1813, the scene is Longbourn, the home of the Bennets in Hertfordshire. The family consists of Mr. Bennet, his busy wife and their five unmarried daughters: Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Lydia and Kitty. Mrs. Bennet’s primary aim in life is to see her children well married, which is not easy when one has five daughters. Nor are the daughters, particularly Elizabeth, entirely sympathetic to her schemes. But good news comes to Mrs. Bennet that a rich young man, Charles Bingley, is coming to live at nearby Netherfield Hall, accompanied by his even richer friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, and she hurries out to tell her friends.

Darcy and Bingley make their first appearance at the Assembly Dance, where the latter is immediately attracted to Jane, but an intense dislike springs up between Elizabeth and Darcy, arising from her spirited tongue and his overbearing pride of station. When Bingley forces them to dance together, they make the best of it but are by no means happy. Elizabeth is more attracted to the dashing Captain Wickham who is anathema to Darcy. Bingley and his sister invite Jane to dinner at Netherfield, and the canny Mrs. Bennet sends her off on horseback in the rain, planning for her to be invited to remain overnight. As long as there’s a mother, she assures her daughters, all will be well. Jane catches cold on her journey, and her stay is extended. When Elizabeth goes to visit her, she is persuaded by Bingley to sing for them, and Darcy, hearing her, is forced to conclude that he may have been wrong in his low opinion of her.

Mr. Bennet’s cousin Mr. Collins, to whom the Bennet estate is entailed, arrives at Longbourn with the idea of marrying one of the daughters, and decides upon Elizabeth, who is appalled by the idea, and indignantly refuses him. Meanwhile the romance between Jane and Bingley is blossoming and he gives a garden party at Netherfield for her. The strong-minded Elizabeth slowly begins to find Darcy more attractive and he, in turn, appears willing to over-look the commonness of her mother and her connections. Elizabeth is delighted until they unfortunately hear the foolish Mrs. Bennet boasting of Jane’s triumph. Darcy at once withdraws into his pride and prevails upon Bingley to leave for London, leaving Elizabeth bemused and angry.

Mr. Collins, spurned by Elizabeth, thereupon marries her friend Charlotte Lucas, to the intense disgust of Mrs. Bennet. He and Charlotte invite Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth to visit his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, a fine example of vintage snobbery and Darcy’s aunt as well. Mrs. Bennet, overcome by the grandeur of her surroundings, dreams of owning a house in town. Darcy arrives and tells Elizabeth he has conquered his dislike for her and her family, and that he wishes to marry her. This oddly-reasoned proposal incenses Elizabeth, who refuses, and moreover upbraids him for his cold behaviour to Captain Wickham. They argue violently, and he again stalks out, leaving her dejected.

Lydia, the fourth sister, takes advantage of their absence to run off with Captain Wickham, throwing the family into dismay and humiliation. At last Mr. Bennet returns from his search for them with the news that Wickham has come into an inheritance, has agreed to marry Lydia, and has paid his debts.

Lady Catherine arrives to forbid Elizabeth, quite unnecessarily, to marry Darcy, and unwittingly reveals that it was he who supplied the money to Wickham, despite the fact that Wickham had once plotted to elope with Darcy’s young sister. It dawns on Elizabeth that her feelings against Darcy are founded only on his pride, not on his person, and when Bingley suddenly arrives to be re-united with Jane, she allows Mrs. Bennet to persuade her to go to Netherfield to apologise. Together Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their pride and prejudice, based on first impressions, and agree that the heart has indeed won the game.

The musical concentrates more than the novel does on Mrs. Bennet’s attitude toward all this. The emphasis on Mrs. Bennet, no doubt, is the result of having cast a star (Hermione Gingold) in what was meant by Austen to be a secondary role.

While a number of critics at the time felt that Gingold was miscast as Mrs. Bennet, she was, by all accounts, wonderful in the role. First Impressions was a good–if, like its hero and heroine, slightly flawed–musical, a near miss in a crowded and highly competitive “golden age” Broadway marketplace, that remains interesting for its literary heritage and its intrinsic quality.

The very engaging score, which mixes early-19th-century “period” music with standard Broadway idioms of the 1950s, includes the following principal songs among the 18 recorded tracks (Click for sample):

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The Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack

The Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack

By Dario Marianelli

Before filming ever began on Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, he knew the type of soundtrack he wanted—and he knew who he wanted to write it: Dario Marianelli, best known for his scores for The Brothers Grimm and I Capture the Castle. Wright wanted music that would sound appropriate for the period—something Jane Austen herself, might have listened to or played; music that would seem not to be written for the movie, but taken from life.

Since the film is set in 1797, the same year that Jane Austen wrote the first draft of Pride and Prejudice, Marianelli found inspiration not only in the composers of the time, but also in dances, chamber pieces and Beethoven’s piano Sonatas. At times haunting and lonely, at others lilting and flirtatious, his music is the perfect accompaniment to Jane’s own “two or three families in a country village.” In keeping with that feeling,Marianell never uses more than three or four instruments at a time, performed by French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the English Chamber Orchestra. Often we are treated to piano solos, which become Elizabeth Bennet’s voice on her journey towards self discovery.

As in Nick Dear’s 1995 version of Persuasion, Joe Wright has chosen to show us less of the “light, bright and sparkling” and more of the grime of life. Pigs do wander into gardens and people do forget to comb their hair. We are given a more accurate portrait of true Georgian life, rather than the shiny image we like to imagine. And yet, perhaps this adds to the realism of the piece, as if, some how, these characters might be real people, their pain and triumphs as deeply felt as yours or mine.

And the similarities do not end there. Composers for both films found ways to incorporate period pieces into their music, underscoring their historic feel. As Jeremy Sams did with Chopin’s piano sonatas, so Marianelli mixes in bits of Purcell and militia music into his score. However, he does it with such grace and dexterity, it’s difficult to discover where this music lets off and his music picks up. Although the main theme often reminds us of that ofMansfield Park or Mrs. Dalloway, in the end Pride and Prejudice has a sound all it’s own.

Through the 17 tracks provided, we are given a summary of the story from Elizabeth’s point of view. We can hear the excitement of the Militia Marching In to Meryton, the pain and pleasure of Another Dance, the kinship Elizabeth finds with Georgiana when she discovers her at the piano, the tension Darcy’s Letter brings, and at last, Elizabeth’s joy as she revels in being Mrs. Darcy.

Tracks include:

  1. Dawn
  2. Stars And Butterflies
  3. The Living Sculptures Of Pemberly
  4. Meryton Townhall
  5. The Militia Marches In
  6. Georgiana
  7. Arrival To Netherfield
  8. A Postcard To Henry Purcell
  9. Liz On Top Of The World
  10. Leaving Netherfield
  11. Another Dance
  12. The Secret Life Of Daydreams
  13. Darcy’s Letter
  14. Can’t Slow Down
  15. Your Hands Are Cold
  16. Mrs. Darcy
  17. Credits

Format: Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Ucj/Decca
List Price: £12.75 /$18.98

This title can be found in our online giftshop by clicking on this link.


Laura Boyle is a fan of all things Austen and is happy to have the chance to review this CD. She also runs Austentation: Regency Accessories, creating custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe.

Special thanks to Ron Aylor for his help in discovering the name of the militia march played on this CD (The Militia Marches In) Mr. Aylor hosts the British Regimental Drums and Colours site. The name of the tune is The British Grenadiers. The Grenadier Guards were the royal household regiment and partook in many historic battles. This is their regimental march. One of the most recognizable regimental marches, it first appeared in print in 1775, though it was based on “The New Bath” a piece found in one of Playford’s dance books of the 1600’s.

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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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A Very Innocent Diversion

[Aunt Jane] began her day with music – for which I conclude that she had a natural taste…she practiced regularly every morning – she played very pretty tunes I thought – I liked to stand by her and listen to them…much that she played was from manuscript, copied out by herself – and no neatly and correctly that it was as easy to read as print.
From the Memoirs of Jane Austen’s neice Caroline, 1867

Piano music seems to be very much at the heart of Jane Austen’s life. Her neice Caroline tells us that she practiced 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 a solo instrument, or a song accompaniment or an important part in a chamber music piece 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 known 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 at 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 sideboard 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 Stodart 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 version of Sense and Sensibility and in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice.

Track Listing

  1. Overature La Buona Figliuola: Niccolo Piccini
  2. Moderato: Joseph Haydn, Sonata in D major Hob. XVI/4
  3. Menuet: Joseph Haydn, Sonata in D major Hob. XVI/4
  4. Allegro: Joseph Haydn, Sonata in C major Hob. XVI/1
  5. Adagio: Joseph Haydn, Sonata in C major Hob. XVI/1
  6. Menuet: Joseph Haydn, Sonata in C major Hob. XVI/1
  7. Menuetto: Ignaz Pleyel, Sonatina 1 in C major
  8. Allegro: Ignaz Pleyel, Sonatina 1 in C major
  9. Allegretto e Variazione: Ignaz Pleyel, Sonatina 2 in D major
  10. Allegro: Ignaz Pleyel, Sonatina 2 in D major
  11. Moderato e due Variazione: Ignaz Pleyel, Sonatina 3 in F major
  12. Andante ma non Troppo: Ignaz Pleyel, Sonatina 4 in A major
  13. Andantino molto: Ernst Eichner, Sonata in A major Op 3/1
  14. Allegro: Ernst Eichner, Sonata in A major Op 3/1
  15. Spiritoso: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in C major Op 36/3
  16. Un Poco Adagio: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in C major Op 36/3
  17. Allegro: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in C major Op 36/3
  18. Presto: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in G major Op 36/5
  19. Air Suisse: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in G major Op 36/5
  20. Rondo Alldegro di Molto: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in G major Op 36/5
  21. Allegretto: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in G major Op 36/2
  22. Allegretto: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in G major Op 36/2
  23. Allegro: Muzio Clementi, Sonatina in G major Op 36/2

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

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath is a permanent exhibition set in the heart of Georgian Bath, England. The centre opened in May, 1999 with the aim of providing the perfect starting point to the exploration of Bath in the time of Jane Austen.

Working closely with Classical Communications, we are delighted to present this elegant musical medley, reminiscent of times past.

A Very Innocent Diversion is available for purchase exclusively at the Jane Austen Centre, Bath. Order it online, today or stop by our Museum Shop to pick up a copy.

Text and music copyright Classical Communications, 2000
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