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Monday, Sept. 28, 2009

WCM’s ‘Music and Times of Jane Austen’

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Among classical composers, there are many who achieved widespread fame only after their deaths. For the most part toiling in relative obscurity, their works came to be known to a few close friends, perhaps a patron or fellow composer or two during their lifetimes. But among writers, there were those who purposely avoided the limelight, for whatever reason, adopting a pseudonym, publishing anonymously. Among these was English novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817), whose four great novels certainly earned her a living, but brought no great fame until well after her death, this apparently of her own choosing. Indeed, her name and life story didn’t become familiar to the public at large as the writer of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815) until the publication of her nephew’s A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869. Today, her name is well known and her fans legion. Jane Austen has the fame she never sought on her own.

Acknowledging the strong ties between classical music and literature, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music presents a special concert, “The Music and Times of Jane Austen,” welcoming Cynthia Kartman from the Jane Austen Society of North America to connect the novelist’s life and works to the music. Both the concert’s setting and substance will attempt to recreate a chamber music and song recital that could easily have taken place during Austen’s adulthood—even, perhaps, in her very presence.

The Prometheus Trio performs the Adagio from Beethoven’s Trio in B-Flat Major, Op. 11, and Haydn’s Trio in A Major. Vocalist Marlee Sabo joins them for Beethoven’s lied The Sweetest Lad Was Jamie. Likewise, Ms. Sabo, fellow soprano Jenny Gettel and baritone J. Mark Baker sing several additional airs (with accompaniment by pianist Fumi Nishikiori), including Haydn’s O Tuneful Voice and She Never Told Her Love, a trio of Italian songs by Mozart, John Braham’s The Death of Nelson, and others. Guitarist Raymond Mueller strums his way through five etudes and the Waltz in E Major, Op. 32, No. 2 by Fernando Sor. Adding yet another tasty element to this ambitious undertaking will be a post-concert “tea” that serves as the capstone of this journey back to Austen’s time.

At Helen Bader Hall of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music on Oct. 4.