Entertaining Miss Austen - Newly discovered music from Jane Austen’s family collection
Fairy Dance (arr Mattias Holst, 1769-1854) †††
She never told her love (Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809) words: Shakespeare †
One half o’ the world (James Hook, 1746-1827) words: Charles Dibdin ††
Waly waly (Anon) words: Anon † **
Crazy Jane (Harriet Abrams, 1758-1821) words: M Lewis †
Robin Adair (George Kiallmark, 1781-1835) †††
Captivity (Stephen Storace, 1762-1796) words: The Revd Mr Jeans † **
Que j’aime à voir les hirondelles (Anon) words: Anon † *
Fandango (Ann Thicknesse, 1737-1824) †††
Queen Mary’s Lamentation (Tommaso Giordani, 1730-1806) words: Anon † **
Song from Burns (Anon) words: Robert Burns † *
African Song (G G Ferrari, 1759-1842) words: Georgiana Cavendish ††
Hindoo Song (Edward Smith Biggs, d.1820) words: Amelia Alderson Opie † **
Overture to Rodelinda (Handel, 1685-1759, arr Anon, 1755) †††
The Irishman (Anon) words: possibly Charles Dibdin † **
The Wife’s Farewell (Michael Kelly, 1762-1826) words: M G Lewis † *
The Husband’s Return (Michael Kelly) words: probably M G Lewis ††
Nobody coming to marry me (Anon) words: Anon †
Favorite Song from The Stranger (Georgiana Cavendish, 1757-1806) words: R B Sheridan † **
The Whim of the Day (James Hook) words: Charles Dibdin ††
Les petits riens (J B Cramer, 1771-1858) †††
Amanda Pitt (soprano), John Lofthouse (baritone), David Owen Norris (piano)
rec. Music Room, Hatchlands, Surrey, 18-19 Nov 2009. DDD
† soprano song; †† baritone song; ††† piano solo
* denotes the three songs that Jane’s niece Caroline recalled as her aunt’s particular favourites
World premiere recordings, except tracks **

The links between the musical and the literary often intrigue. They are numerous between Housman and a host of British composers including John Williamson. But let's not forget Hardy whose words attracted Finzi and Boughton.

More diffuse are the links between composers and Jane Austen. Phil Scowcroft has charted those links and this CD serves as a rather pleasingly complementary companion. It is not as if Austen is famed for her poetry and I am not really aware of any opera founded on her novels. Rather we are driven to wonder about the musical references in her writings and also her own music collection.

This anthology of 21 pieces has been plucked from the seventeen music albums that belonged to Jane and her family. The extended note by pianist David Owen Norris addresses the albums and each of the songs and piano solos in some detail. Austenites will I am sure find Norris's writing satisfying. The sixteen songs have interspersed among them five piano solos which is where we start. The fiercely jolly Fairy Dance is by Holst's great-grandfather. The songs are resolutely taken by the operatically fervent Amanda Pitt whose voice sports a contralto fruitiness. Norris's 1817 Broadwood Grand and stylish ways lend the proceedings a sense of 'Georgian antiquity'. John Lofthouse relishes the for me surprisingly satirical words of Charles Dibdin as set by James Hook in One half o' the world and The Whim of the Day. There is no doubting his total engagement with the words. Thicknesse's piano solo Fandango voices a lively Iberian influence untrammelled by its unmistakable harpsichord inclinations. Speaking of national flavour we get a nice pianistic skirl for the Song from Burns. The Handelian grandissimes of Rodelinda are then succeeded by the faintly Gaelic song - The Irishman.

In fact Cramer and Broadwood are the only composer and piano make mentioned in Austen (Emma, 1815). Cramer it is whose sprightly and melancholy-tinged Les petits riens rounds out this collection.

This disc can be enjoyed with Patrick Piggott’s Austen and music book and Phil Scowcroft’s Austen article. I should also mention the Jane Austen Collection on Divine Art.

Rob Barnett

Austen and music with sprightly and committed performances.