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December 16th has more than one birthday of interest to us Regency-ers. Along with Austen, it’s also the birthday of Beethoven, born in 1770. Five years before Jane. (It’s also the birthday of my mother, but that’s probably only of interest to me, who still has to find her a present. Jane and Ludwig aren’t quite as picky).

I had hoped to make this post about Jane’s own interest in the music of Beethoven. After all, we know she enjoyed music, and that he was one of the leading composers of the era. Alas, according to the Jane Austen Memorial Trust, which has cataloged over 300 pieces of music-related material belonging to Jane, she owned very little by Beethoven (or Mozart, or Handel, or any of the other composers we listen to most today). She owned a lot of pieces by such non-household names as Pleyel, Dibdin, Sterkel, and Kotzwara. So there goes my theme. But here are a few other little factoids I found on my search!

In 1811, Jane Austen published “Sense and Sensibility”; Beethoven first performs his Piano Trio in B-flat
In 1813, “Pride and Prejudice”; Wellington’s Victory
1818, Mary Shelley publishes “Frankenstein”; Beethoven the Piano Sonata #29 (Hammerklavier) (not Austen, I know, but interesting!)

The 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice featured some Beethoven. At the Phillips’ party, Mary plays “Nel cuor non mi santo”. At Pemberley, Georgiana plays “Andante Favore.” And according to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice website, the score was inspired in great part by Beethoven’s piano sonatas, and performed by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet with the English Chamber Orchestra in that sort of style. I couldn’t find any info on “real” Ludwigian pieces they might have used, but they did use Purcell at the Netherfield ball.

I also saw that at the Jane Austen Evening our own Cara will be attending in January, there is a visit from “Herr Beethoven” scheduled as well.

Happy birthday, Jane and Ludwig! Hopefully some of you will have other nuggets of factoids to share.

My husband the music expert is currently amusing himself with this book, Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers Since Beethoven’s Time, by Nicholas Slonimsky. On the cover, GB Shaw wields his mighty weapon and Beethoven receives a direct hit.

It makes for some fascinating and cringeworthy reading. Here, for instance, is a Viennese critic’s comment from 1804:

Beethoven’s Second Symphony is a crass monser, a hideous writhing, wounded dragon, that refuses to expire, and though bleeding in the Finale, furiously beats about with its tail erect.

More animal symbolism from a Paris critic of 1810:

Beethoven, who is often bizarre and baroque, takes at times the majestic flight of an eagle, and then creeps in rocky pathways… He seems to harbor together doves and crocodiles.

Whereas The Harmonium, London, in 1823, took this no-nonsense approach:

Opinions are much divided concerning the merits of the Pastoral Symphony of Beethoven, though very few venture to deny that it is much too long.

And moving right along, in my Internet search for more music criticism articles, I ended up here, which is appropriate in a way:

By 1815 London had expanded beyond its medieval walls and the populace had grown to 1.4 million. People began to generate waste at an unprecedented rate. [italics mine]

Now I don’t believe the author of the article, Night-Soil Men, the Human Waste Collectors of Georgian London, meant that, uh, personal production increased, although that was certainly the first thought that came to my mind. Anyway, read the article for everything you always wanted to know on this topic. Isn’t the internet a wonder?

I’d also like to direct you to a fabulous site, Georgian London, a terrific, smart, well-researched resource. I was thrilled to learn that the site owner, Lucy Inglis, will be speaking at the RNA Conference in July, on “Trades for 18th-century women.” Can’t wait! And I’m speaking on a panel about writing for UK and US markets.

I expect you’ve seen the news about the discovery of the world’s oldest shoe (5,500 years old, found in Armenia).

And since I’m encouraging explorations online, please drop by my website to read an excerpt from Jane and the Damned.

What strange internet searches have you performed recently? Where did you start? Where did you end up?

Following on from Elena’s post about her enviable concert experiences, one thing that has always fascinated me is how different writers (and musicians) produce.

So are you a Beethoven or a Mozart?

Here’s Mozart’s manuscript for K. 617, Adagio and Rondo for glass harmonica, flute, oboe, viola, and cello.

The glass harmonica was an instrument that plays on the principle of running your finger around the top of a wine glass to produce a beautiful humming, otherworldly sort of sound. The Metropolitan Opera used a glass harmonica for the mad scene in their recent production of Lucia di Lammermoor–here’s an article from the NY Times about it. It’s usually played on the flute since they’re aren’t that many glass harmonicas around now–or people who know how to play them. This instrument was made in 1785.

But I digress. Here’s one of Beethoven’s scores.

The point I’m trying to make (yes, there is one) is that Mozart was notorious for composing in his head and then just writing it all down; or writing the music down after he’d improvised it at a concert. So his scores, although they have a certain messiness from writing fast, tend to be very clean. Whereas Beethoven used the delete key a lot, scribbling out and, although you can’t see this here, digging his nib into the paper with splattery results–all sturm und drang.

So for the writers among us, who’s a Beethoven and who’s a Mozart?

And for everyone, did you hear the Met broadcast of Lucia? (I missed it, to my great annoyance.) And what’s your favorite instrument?

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