University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

When the University of Hartford was incorporated just over 50 years ago by business and community leaders, they envisioned a center of education and culture for Greater Hartford. Read more...

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Dibdin: The Ephesian Matron, The Brickdust Man, The Grenadier, The Jane Austen Songbooks

06/16/2024 1:00 pm
06/16/2024 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Sure, Vienna was the music capital of the Western World in the latter eighteenth century. This was the era of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, after all. But London was an even greater international capital, and after the death of Handel, continued to have a burgeoning scene for all manner of musicmaking, and lyric theater, too. Active in London's music theater culture then was Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), who wrote short comic operatic works for Covent Garden and Drury Lane and lesser venues as well. These English language works were tuneful pleasantries: by turns silly, witty, satirical, amorous, and sentimental singing sitcoms. Baroque specialist Peter Holman and his Opera Restor'd singers and players staged and recorded reconstructions of Dibdin's oeuvre for the British Hyperion label. Chief among these is the comic serenata The Ephesian Woman (1769), plus two more slender musical dialogues, The Brickdust Man (1772) and The Grenadier (1773). Hear all three today as presented on a single 1992 Hyperion CD release.

England's famous female novelist of this period, Jane Austen (1775-1807) was a considerable amateur musician. She played piano quite well and copied out for her own use in provincial home musicmaking sessions a quantity of short vocal pieces which would have remained popular in London into Napoleonic times. Dibdin's songs were among these pieces. Handel, Gluck, and Ignace Pleyel were also represented in chamber arrangements, along with tunes by a score of now obscure English musical figures. Austen seems to have had good musical taste as witnessed in these preserved handwritten songbooks. Generous recorded excerpts from them have been issued in two compact disc compilations, Jane's Hand (Vox,1996) and Jane Austen Entertains (Classical Communications,Ltd., 2007). Various vocal soloists are accompanied on harpsichord or pianoforte, with baroque violin or wooden flute obbligato parts in some cases, giving the sound of it all a true "period' quality.