Jane Austen’s enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, music is well known and has formed the basis of previous recordings. This one, by the York-based Concert Royal, uses period instruments and presents excerpts from Jane Austen’s own collection of sheet music. This not only included British music. There is no Beethoven or Mozart here, but Haydn figures, with one of his English canzonets, another song arranged (by Thomas Billington) from a piano sonata movement and one of his popular Scottish song arrangements, also Pleyel and Kozeluch. However Austen did own much British 18 th century music and we have some comparative rarities; a movement from a Stephen Paxton cello sonata based on a traditional Scottish tune; Arne’s delightful cantata, Cymon & Iphigenia , the longest work here; Samuel Webbe senior’s recitative and air The Mansion of Peace; James Hook’s deliciously shapely song The Wedding Day ; a song by William Jackson of Exeter with just flute accompaniment, no piano; and one or two traditional or anonymous instrumental items. Performances are stylish and thoughtful, Miss Ashton’s remarkably clear delivery doing much for her mostly little known songs (she also reads six brief excerpts, of musical significance, from Austen’s letters and from two novels), the instrumentalists supporting excellently. Mr Treharne ( sic) plays a Broadwood square piano, the same make as the piano purchased for Jane Fairfax in Austen’s Emma .
This well recorded disc sheds much light on English middle class musical taste around 1800, but at 48 minutes it is a touch short on playing time.