Six Degrees of Separation

December 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm (news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I was thinking last night: Emma Smith has a Beethoven connection! How so? you might ask… Through his pianoforte!

I uncovered this little tidbit when researching the Knyvett family — Charles Knyvett Sr., and his sons Charles and William — for an article in Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine.

Let’s start at the beginning: How I even came to know the name Knyvett.

Emma Smith’s diaries, especially in her teen years, are replete with concerts, operas, soirées, music masters and home-concertizing. She mentions all three Knyvett men as well as William Knyvett’s second wife, the singer Deborah Travis.

♦ see pictures of the Knyvetts at the New York Public Library ♦

For the article, I pulled out Emma-quotes specific to each family member, and gave each a little biographical study. “Space” considerations meant that, in the end, a lot of information ended up on the “cutting room floor”. Including a lengthy section about Beethoven and his piano. The conundrum that still exists concerns the fact that there were two Charles Knyvetts. Even a well-respected publication like Grove’s Dictionary interchanged the two men, father for son’s accomplishments and son for father’s accomplishments. Without a LOT of digging, it may be that we can never get certain attributions correct.

It does seem that the convention of the time (if we speak of when all three men were active, musically, then the 1790s-1810s) was to refer to the men as KNYVETT (Charles Sr.), C. KNYVETT (Charles Jr.), and W. KNYVETT (William).

In 1817, the famed London pianoforte manufacturer, THOMAS BROADWOOD, “sent” Beethoven a gift:

♦ read about Beethoven’s piano at Bonn’s Beethoven-Haus

The story says that Broadwood invited five known musicians/composers to be part of the gift; they signed a presentation label within the piano. The gentlemen are given as: Friedrich Kalbrenner, Ferdinand Ries, Johann Baptist Cramer, Jacques-Godefroi Ferrari and Charles Knyvett. But which Charles Knyvett? is my question.

The Broadwood returned to England in 1992, for restoration. Yet, it didn’t come from Bonn — but from BUDAPEST, having once belonged to Franz Liszt!

♦ Watch on YouTube the Pianoforte’s Restoration ♦

Part 1 (of 5) offers information on Broadwood’s idea of the gift, Beethoven’s receipt of the piano in Vienna, and why it ended up in the Hungarian National Museum. The actual discussion of the instrument is FASCINATING! Really puts in perspective the types of pianos Mozart and Beethoven used (late 18th century; Viennese), as well as why this Broadwood is such a special instrument.

Tonight, I’ll give my “guess” as to which Charles Knyvett was the “helper” in this gift exchange. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mrs Adams Hears Handel

May 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm (entertainment) (, , , , , )

In putting finishing touches on a talk that links correspondence of Abigail Adams and Jane Austen, I came across this paragraph that now means so much more than it would have a year or so ago, before investigating the lives of the Knyvett family musicians: Abigail Adams attended the 1785 Handel celebrations at Westminster Abbey.

In 1784, the celebrations had as one of its chief singers Charles Knyvett – the musician who young Emma Smith mentions in her diary decades later (10/21/1820):

Mamma Augusta & I left the Vine to go to Heckfield. We found only Mr & Mrs Shaw Lefevre & Mr & Mrs C. Lefevre there – Old Mr Knyvett was asked to meet us, but did not come

In a letter dated 2 Sept 1785, Mrs Adams writes:

“The most powerful effect of music I every experienced, was at Westminster Abbey. The place itself is well calculated to excite solemnity, not only from its ancient and venerable appearance, but from the dignified dust, marble and monuments which it contains. Last year it was filled up with seats, and an organ loft sufficiently large to contain six hundred musicians, which were collected from this and other countries. This year the music was repeated. It is called the celebration of Handel’s music; the sums collected are deposited, and the income is appropriated to the support of decayed musicians. [I just love her word choice here: decayed…] There were five days set apart for the different performances. I was at the piece called the Messiah, and though a guinea a ticket, I am sure I never spent one with more satisfaction. It is impossible to describe to you the solemnity and dignity of the scene…. I was one continued shudder from the beginning to the end of the performance. Nine thousand pounds were collected, by which you may judge of the rage that prevailed for the entertainment.”

And Charles Knvyett? He would be remembered forever and always as “one of the chief singers”. But: Did he also appear in 1785? I’ll have to revisit notes taken for my Regency World article, dig a bit deeper — and keep my fingers crossed.

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La Bella Voce II

March 8, 2010 at 9:39 pm (books, entertainment, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , , , )

With the publication of Jane Austen’s Regency World Magzine’s article on the Knyvetts, readers with an abiding interest in the family might like to consult some of the sources used in the article — which the magazine had no room to publish. This comes from the original, uncut version of the article ‘There Once Was a Golden Time’: The Knyvett Family Musicians.

In addition to Dictionary of National Biography (1892), Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1906) and New Grove Dictionary (2002), Brown and Stratton, British Musical Biography (1897):

Charles Knyvett, senior: Burke’s Extinct Baronetage (1841); Park, Musical Memoirs (1830); Gentleman’s Magazine (1802, 1808, 1822, 1832).

Charles Knyvett, junior: Smart, Leaves from the Journals (1907); Sainsbury, A Dictionary of Musicians (1824; rep. 1966).

William Knyvett: London Magazine (July-Dec, 1822); An Authentic History of the Coronation of His Majesty (1821); Annual Register (1856).

Deborah Knyvett: Victoria Magazine (1876); Matthew, ‘The Antient Concerts, 1776-1848,’ in Proceedings of the Musical Association (1907); London Magazine (Sept-Dec, 1825); The Quarterly Music Magazine (1818); The Manchester Iris: A Literary and Scientific Miscellany (19 Oct 1822).

Many of these sources are available online at books.google.com. The single most wonderful find of a source is the 1907 article on The Antient Concerts. Reading that I found out why young Belinda had to be smuggled in!

The first part of this post can be found here; anyone wishing to see pictures of the Knyvett quartet, visit the New York Public Library website; the three Knyvett men can also be found at the National Portrait Gallery. Anyone wishing to read the longer version of this article, email me (contact information found under “the author” tab).

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Jane Austen & Music

March 2, 2010 at 1:01 am (books, news) (, , , , , , )

 

Just published!

Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine

issue 44, March/April 2010

Jane Austen and Music: 

 

  • Franz Joseph Haydn describes his visit to Bath in 1794
  • Maggie Lane poses the question: Jane Austen, Music Lover?
  • David Owen Norris examines ‘What Was On Jane’s iPod?’
  • Composer Thomas Linley, a Mozart rival?
  • Tidings of My Harp: Instruments and Social Status
  • Matters of Taste: Sense & Sensibility examined
  • and my own ‘composition’: A Golden Time: Emma Smith entertained by the Knyvett family of musicians.
  • includes: a free CD of music performed when Jane lived in Bath!

Order your copy from the U.K. today!

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