Marianne’s Square Piano

May 24, 2018 at 3:00 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, portraits and paintings, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2010, I wrote on film adaptations of Sense and Sensibility, specifically asking (and noting) how various films treated Marianne Dashwood’s pianoforte. It has always bothered me that I scoffed at the idea of the piano being moved from Norland Park (the Dashwood estate now in the hands of their half-brother) to Barton Cottage by water. How could something so delicate (in my mind) be subjected to (perhaps!) a watery grave?

A new-to-me book, Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano, by Madeline Goold, brings home just how ingeniously-constructed these early pianos were. She purchased at auction an 1807 Broadwood “box” piano. This probably was the type of pianoforte the Goslings sisters first learned to play. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this Beechey portrait (below), identified as the Coventry Sisters, is VERY like the description of the Beechey portrait (still “missing”) of Elizabeth and Mary Gosling.

(You should also read the post, “Elations and Disappointments“…)

Early Music

(the periodical “Early Music” on JSTOR)

The piano, though, is what we want to pay attention to in this portrait. And that brings me back to Goold’s pianoforte. When she first found it – in “complete” condition (unlike one that was a hollow shell, latterly used for chickens!) – its legs were laying beside the keyboard’s “box. I certainly NEVER thought, when contemplating the removal of Marianne Dashwood’s piano, about disassembling it to the point of removing its legs, packing it in a deal box (a “box” within a box, if you will), thereby making it not only portable, but highly stable. Can’t tip over if it isn’t standing upon its legs, can it?

Goold’s book (which isn’t new – published in 2009) highlights the fascinating history of her auction purchase, and how she put together that history. I, too, have wished for a bit more of the backstory (even as an appendix) concerning the two-year restoration her Broadwood No. 10651 incurred. Goold’s story of the almost-accidental discovery of the pianoforte, in the early chapters, really spoke to me; so many of us would have loved to have made a similar discovery.

(I, alas, do not play…)

In March, 2017, I attended an Austen symposium at SUNY Plattsburgh, a Bicentenary Celebration of Art, Music, Austen. This was a wonderful gathering. Small and intimate, presenters made up a good deal of the audience. A FABULOUS mini-concert by mezzo Meagan Martin (with pianist Douglas Sumi) which presented her commissioned piece, “Marianne Dashwood: Songs of Love and Misery”. The weekend ended with an optional tour through Plattsburgh’s Kent-Delord House – and there, against the wall in one room, was their box (or square) piano. Alas! the vagaries of too many winters & summers had been quite unkind to it. Our docent pronounced it unplayable. Which was not to be the case with Goold’s auction find!

A sad fate for so many; a happy fate for too few – such as the Broadwood No. 10651.

The book includes information on the Broadwood business (the glimpse into their sales books is highly interesting), as well as the titular “Mr. Langshaw,” a piano teacher in the north of England who helped supply pianos to his students.

* * *

UPDATE: The blog Prinny’s Taylor posted in 2011 the “Adventures of a Pianoforte” which discusses (with pictures!) a restored 1809 Broadwood GRAND piano affiliated with author Charles Bazalgette’s ancestor, Louis Bazalgette. A fascinating use of the old ledgers of the Broadwood business. The Bazalgettes were especially active in having their piano moved and tuned. I must admit that I never _thought_ about WHO was tuning the pianos in the Smith and Gosling family. They make mention only a couple of times; but I’ve never thought about following such a lead – and wouldn’t have without Charles’ post.

 

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Mrs William Gosling’s Concert

October 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm (a day in the life, british royalty, entertainment, news, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Anyone reading Two Teens in the Time of Austen will know that I LOVE classical music. Mrs William Gosling, Mary’s stepmother was an inveterate “party, ball, concert” giver during the London season.

Thanks to Craig in Australia, I found the following newspaper announcement of a tremendous party given in 1821. It was reported in The Morning Post, Wednesday 6 June 1821:

“In Portland-place, on Monday evening, was attended by 300 fashionables. The music commenced at half-past ten, with an instrumental Septetto, the composition of HAYDN. An Aria, by Madame CAMPORESE, from Don Giovanni, accompanied by Mr. LINLEY, on the violoncello [sic], was a delightful treat. A duetto, by Madam CAMPORESE and Signor AMBROGETTI, from Il Turco in Italia, was followed by an air by Miss STEPHENS. ‘Hush, ye pretty warbling choir.’ Selections from HANDEL, ROSSINI, ROMBERG, MAYER, BISHOP, and BEETHOVEN. Leader of the Band, Mr KIESEWETTER; at the pianoforte, Sir George SMART.

Among the audience were —-
His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess de Frias and suite, Bavarian Envoy, Marchioness of Salisbury and Lady Georgiana Wellesley, Sir William Abdy, Mr. and Lady Drummond, Miss Nugent, Lady Elizabeth Talbot, Mrs. Malcolm and Miss Macleod, Lady Robert and Miss Fitzgerald, Marchioness of Winchester and Lady Mary Paulet, Sir Eyre Coote, Mrs. and Misses Blackshaw, Earl and Countess Verulam, Countess of Westmeath, Mrs. Hope.”

What fun! though could _I_ ever envision a party for three hundred people?! Yow! Love the term “fashionables”! In a letter I have, from the Two Augustas (Mamma and her eldest daughter), they speak of Rossini being in London: did Mrs Gosling open her purse (as Augusta intimated would NOT be the case with another grand lady) and invite him to her home?

Do you think they served any Syllabub??

Because this 1824 article describes the layout of the house, I include this brief notice about Mrs Gosling’s “excellent quadrille Party” :

“The three drawing rooms were appropriated to dancing.

The supper was set out in the large bow banquetting-room, on the ground floor. There was an abundance of sparkling champaigne [sic], and fruits peculiar to the season…”

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Music to my Ears

February 2, 2012 at 10:51 am (books, diaries, entertainment, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

To most people, today (Feb 2nd) is Groundhog Day — when the end (or not!) of winter is “predicted” down in Punxsutawney, PA. It’s a very grey day, here in Vermont; but I guess even I would see my shadow.

Yet after reading Eliza Chute’s 1800 diary one fateful day, and seeing her comment that,

“Mrs Gosling brought
to bed of Mary”

on Sunday, February 2nd, this day has always represented Mary Gosling’s birthday, 212 years later!

I have mentioned, in previous years, how unusual Eliza’s comment seems; typically it should have read “of a girl”, never naming the child at this point. My only conclusion is that Eliza G must have told Eliza C “If it’s a girl, she will be MARY, after my mother and my sister.”

The Goslings’ elder daughter was named after her own mother, although perhaps with the names inverted: Mother was Margaret Elizabeth — always called Eliza, she signed her letters, at least to Eliza Chute, MEG. Daughter may have been Elizabeth Margaret or Margaret Elizabeth (I have found evidence of both, though tend to think the later is correct). She was always called Elizabeth by the Smiths, yet never referred to in writing by Mary as anything other than my Sister. Finding a letter of Elizabeth’s — whether signed Elizabeth Gosling or Elizabeth Christie — would be a great FIND!

I am still at the preliminary stage of tracking down the dual portrait of the sisters, done by Sir William Beechey. I have an excellent description of it, via Elizabeth’s daughter Charlotte. Mary is seated at a pianoforte; Elizabeth, seated beside her, holds a piece of music composed for her by Cramer.

Mary mentions, I believe only once, having the piano tuner in. Emma’s diaries, written in the midst of lessons and family performances, makes frequent mention of music. Often concerning herself and elder sister Augusta.

I adore music, although I never took lessons. (I blame it on an ever-so-slightly older cousin who did not stick with the clarinet; it was thought I wouldn’t stick with an instrument either. One music career blighted before it even began!) It is my deepest regret, despite trying to teach myself, that I have no facility for reading music. In serious books on music history, I have no choice but to skip over illustrations and lengthy descriptions. However, I have quite the collection of music history and biography, especially about Mozart.

It has been some weeks since I grabbed off my shelves a book I read when first purchased, about 1998 (when it was published): The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context, by Ruth Halliwell. I thought it an excellent book then, and am still enjoying it — more than 430 pages later! I haven’t stuck with a big book this long in a long while…

(BTW, this is the type of scholarship Austen Studies needs; something which looks at the whole family unit; also a scholarly edition of the entire family letters, setting Jane’s alongside the correspondence of others. See the original Mozart Briefe for what I’m talking about.)

One item which struck me was given very early (pages 42-3), in which I found myself saying, Emma commented on this for her musical education. Given that I’m reviewing Gillen D’arcy Wood’s Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840 for JASNA News, this passage from Halliwell brought home just how much an “amateur” had to accomplish:

“…Rieger {a biographer of Nannerl Mozart} appears to underestimate the creative nature of keyboard playing in the eighteenth century. To be able to play a fully-written-out piece accurately and in good taste was only one part of it. Most keyboard players, even amateur ones, also needed to be able to accompany solos and ensembles, and the accompaniments were not written out — only the base-line was provided, and the harmony notated below it in shorthand by figures. Because figured bass accompaniment is no longer practised by most keyboard players, it is difficult to … appreciate just what this meant in terms of skill and creative imagination.”

Immediately upon reading the likes of this I was transported back to c1818, where Emma writes of lessons in Thorough Base!

My girls were so lucky — no one nipped their musical interests in the bud.

So, honor my Mary, by grabbing a favorite beverage (a cup of tea, in my case) , and settling down to listen to a lovely Mozart piano work. And remember: Six more weeks of winter!

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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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La luna

August 21, 2010 at 12:21 am (books, entertainment, goslings and sharpe, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I write at the end of a long, busy day.

Contemplating the use Austen makes of the pianoforte for young Marianne Dashwood, I have spent the week slowly watching the old (1980) BBC production of Sense and Sensibility. I must admit to being charmed by it. Oh, nothing is ever perfect…, but overall the right tone is struck so many times in this production, which stars Irene Richard as Elinor and Tracey Childs as Marianne.

I was exceptionally surprised at the ending to this series (7 approximately 1/2 hour episodes), which has Marianne interested in talking literature with Colonel Brandon. My reaction was: That’s the end?!?

But then, immediately rewatching episode 1, the series not only ends in the midst of action unresolved, it also begins in the midst of the story: the three Dashwood women riding back from having looked at an unsuitable house (Fanny Dashwood, quite obviously, wants her in-laws gone from Norland).

So, thinking about it now, I find the beginning and ending quite novel (no pun intended).

I include this picture of Tracey Childs as Marianne, with Robert Swann as Colonel Brandon. This is the scene I’m writing about for an article, and this scene comes to mind tonight because of “the moon”. As in the novel, this series’ Sir John Middleton refers to the invitations he gave to the evening’s gathering — only to find everyone already booked. The novel is specific: “it was moonlight — and every body was full of engagements”. The moonlight here in Vermont was bright tonight too, as I drove back from St. Albans. Who realized that moonlit nights made for an increase in people going abroad in Austen’s era!?!

A find today, while checking out the stock at The Eloquent Page, St. Albans’ great little used book store, was a copy of volume 2 of a relevant biography: The Life of Thomas Coutts, Banker (by E.H. Coleridge).  I might have bought it but for two things: firstly, no volume ONE; and this second volume wasn’t in the best shape (had it gotten wet once?). But the lucky thing about volume 2 is the index was in the back! Sure enough, a “Mr Gosling” was mentioned. The interesting thing about the citation (vol 2, p. 83) is the amount of money cited:

“Strand, 2nd December 1796

Sir, Mr Dent, Mr Hoare, Mr Snow, Mr Gosling, Mr Drummond and myself met to-day, and have each subscribed £50,000 . . . . I shall leave town to-morrow, having stayed solely to do any service in my power in fowarding this business, which I sincerely wish and hope my be the means of procuring peace on fair and honourable terms.

I am, Sir,

THOMAS COUTTS.

We have subscribed £10,000 in your name and shall take care to make the payments.”

Coutts’ correspondent was William Pitt. According to the index, the monies were contributed to a “loyalty loans” scheme. Robert Gosling (father to William, grandfather to my Mary) died in 1794, so he is not the Mr Gosling in question; that leaves Francis Gosling or perhaps my William himself. I always love finding such minute traces of these people…

As I drove the highway, the moon shone bright and nearly full — which made me think of this moonlight comment from S&S, and also (of course!) of the film Moonstruck, which I watched on TV a few weeks ago. Did Austen mean anything by the fact that she tells readers that the moon was big and bright on the very night Brandon meets Marianne at the Middleton residence? Or did it just provide a good excuse for inventing a small, intimate party??

Of course I got online trying to find the ENTIRE Coutts biography. And luck was with me: Internet Archive has both volumes: volume 1, volume 2.

I’ve looked, but find no mention of “Austen” in the Coutts index; of course Jane’s brother Henry was a banker for a while. The business went down the tubes, thanks to the economic crisis after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Pity Coutts made no mention of Henry Austen; that would have made for an interesting connection. I am actively trying to find any connection — banker to banker — between Henry Austen and William Gosling. (Last October, at the JASNA AGM, I had asked author Maggie Lane if she ever came across Gosling & Sharpe, when investigating Henry Austen’s business — but she had never heard of the Goslings’ firm).

When I arrived home I could see a large piece of mail in the mailbox: my extra copies of JASNA News had arrived!! Ah, how I had hoped the mail would come before I left the house, for I had a feeling it would come today. My article on the discovery of Augusta Smith’s 1798 diary, now owned by Mark Woodford, is included. (Interested in diary entries for this same year, I had started the day by reading Parson Woodforde’s diary; then moved on to some re-writes on the pianoforte article.) The one book review that I read soon after looking through the entire issue is Brian Southam’s of Young Nelsons: Boy Sailors During the Napoleonic Wars (2009), by D.A.B. Roland. Must see if I can locate a copy, for I am intrigued by the author’s use of diaries and letters — even if Southam finds some author errors and annoyances.

Hmm…, looking the Roland book up on Amazon.uk, don’t I find a second book on this subject (not yet published): The Real Jim Hawkins: Ships’ Boys in the Georgian Navy, by Ronald Pietsch. Popular subject! The Goslings knew Admiral Nelson and the Smiths married into the Seymour family, who had many naval men in their family tree.

It’s late, and before the moonlight fades, and I follow suit, I will say ‘good night’.

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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 (www.imdb.com).

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