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 »


Permalink 4 Comments

Marianne’s Pianoforte

August 6, 2010 at 8:45 am (books) (, , , , , , , )

I am working on an article that features thoughts on Marianne Dashwood’s piano. Jane Austen is QUITE clear: the instrument is moved from Norland to Barton Cottage.

But do the movies and TV adaptations treat this most beloved instrument of a most beloved sister equally?? In the back of my mind I swear there’s at least one adaptation that has the pianoforte arriving as a “gift”. Am I dreaming?

UPDATE (Sunday): The Thompson screenplay does include this scene – very late in the film, once Brandon is “back in her favour” with Marianne (after she has recovered from her life-threatening illness). How could I forget, given that the “photo” of the family, gathered around this instrument, is used on the jacket to Sutherland’s book (see below).

Still blows the theory that Brandon watched Willoughby sing with Marianne. So either there are other versions out there, in which the instrument was Brandon’s gift, or of parties at Barton Park where Willoughby and Marianne duet, that I am thinking of. Alas, the only version of S&S I own is the Thompson version.

(I take the opportunity to include a YouTube clip of Marianne singing the first song, played for her Barton Park audience: Weep No More Sad Fountains. Can’t help but think of young Augusta Smith Wilder in scenes like this. BTW, how attentive Marianne’s audience is here in this film! In Austen’s novel, only Colonel Brandon impresses her because of his behavior; Sir John, for instance, while applauding loudly also talks loudly while she is playing! [Here, unlike the novel, there is no wife to discourage such behavior.] Makes me think of poor Mozart, when he commented about his chattering audience (never mind his chattering-teeth and frozen fingers, thanks to a very cold room), when ‘hired’ to give a private performance. Always, thus, for the performing artist — even in the theater, given the tales of talking and eating at the opera house which are legendary.)

I know what Austen wrote (ie, the instrument was Marianne’s and came from Norland); but what did other screenwriters think to do with the pianoforte?? Happy to read all comments! Thanks,  in advance, for the help.

UPDATE (Tuesday): I was hoping to find a YouTube extract of Brandon’s gift to Marianne — but the one scene that’s close is the scene before the piano gets carried up the hill; so: ends too soon!

Calista in Montreal has mentioned that the 1981 series (starring Irene Richard) simply shows Marianne playing; i.e., nothing is mentioned about the piano, and it certainly is no “gift”. She writes that it is in Episode Two we see for the first time Marianne — with Willoughby — at the piano.

BTW, I’ve switched out the banal DVD jacket photo for this gorgeous one of Kate Winslet at the piano. Just so evocative. Never really noticed how great the stills sometimes are on the Internet Movie Database (

Permalink 8 Comments