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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Austen tunes

We’ve had Jane Austen musicals, Jane Austen operas, and databases of the music that Jane Austen herself played. And now comes word that a British composer with roots in the Hampshire town of Alton, not far from Chawton Cottage, where Austen spent the last eight years of her life, has written a piece of classical instrumental music inspired by seven of Austen’s female characters.

Philip Andrews’ Jane Austen Suite, a twenty-minute piece scored for piano, violin, cello, clarinet and flute, was first performed in Alton in June 2015. I learned about it from a press release Andrews’ publicist sent out last week, in hopes of drumming up interest ahead of next year’s bicentenary commemoration of Austen’s death.

Andrews was born in Alton, and his grandfather worked as a footman at Chawton House, though presumably not while it was owned by Austen’s older brother Edward Austen Knight, who died in 1852. Still, it’s a closer Austen connection than most of us can boast of.

I enjoyed the brief excerpts from the Jane Austen Suite (snippets from the “Mary Bennet,” “Charlotte Heywood” and “Miss Bates” movements) available on Andrews’ web site, though I’m such a musical ignoramus that my approval doesn’t mean much. Those of you who know from notes and keys can order the full score from the site. Tell us what you think -- and whether you're planning a local performance during next year's commemoration.

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