The Music of P&P2

A summary of the music in P&P posted on AUSTEN-L by Doug Short:

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Date: Wed, 26 Jun 1996 14:58:39 -0400 
From: Doug Short 
Subject: The Music of P&P2 

Regarding the CD soundtrack for _Pride and Prejudice_, 
It contains 24 tracks, each with a descriptive title: "Winter 
into Spring," "The Gardiners, " etc. Five of the tracks feature 
the fortepianist Melvyn Tan in cadenza-like pastiches from each 
of the first five episodes. 

While the CD has none of the source music from the production 
(the period dance music and compositions), it's nevertheless a 
welcome addition to my collection. In fact, it has enriched my 
project of the week, which is to compare the BBC/A&E production 
of P&P with the earlier one from BBC. At the risk of annoying 
the S&S discussants with yet another digression, I'd like to 
share some observations on the music of the new P&P. 

The Carl Davis Compositions 

I've now watched the BBC/A&E production more times than 
I'd care to admit to anyone outside this listserv, but it was not 
until listening to the soundtrack alone that I've begun to 
appreciate the skill that Carl Davis brought to the production. 
The music of the opening credits provides the germ for much of 
overall soundtrack. In the CD liner notes, Davis is quoted as 
wanting to communicate two ideas with the opening music, first 
the story's "wit and vitality, its modern feel, and something of 
the character of Elizabeth and her family." The second concerns 
"marriage and affairs of the heart." By my analysis the opening 
music is structured in ABB form and consists of 30 bars in a 
lively 6/8 tempo. The first phrase (10 bars) conveys the "wit 
and vitality" with an underlying 16th note pulse. The second, 
more lyrical theme, is also a ten-bar phrase, repeated once to 
round out the opening credits. Davis features these two themes 
throughout the production, varying them in tonality, tempo and 
orchestration to suit the context. There is a brief horn motive 
in the first theme (measure 7) that, according to Davis, "picks 
up one of the main drives of the book, the hunt for husbands!" 

Another theme that complements the first two in shaping the 
soundtrack is heard for the first time as Darcy bathes in his 
copper tub and then watches Elizabeth frolic outdoors with the 
dog (CD track 3 "Elizabeth Observed"). It's a Davis composition, 
but it strikes me as highly suggestive of the second movement of 
Schubert's Quintet in C. This theme recurs throughout the 
production, where it's associated not only with Darcy's feelings 
for Elizabeth, but also with Pemberley; it's the music heard as 
the Gardiner party approaches the estate. 

For Mr. Collins Davis composed a delightfully comic melody 
featuring a bassoon in an unusual role as the lead 
instrument (track 5 "Canon Collins"). It immediately invites 
comparison with a similar musical characterization of Mr. Collins 
in the earlier BBC production. 

Another character associated with her own very distinctive theme 
is Lady Catherine de Bourgh. With a brilliantly apt musical pun, 
Davis gives us a textbook example of a French overture, or at 
least the stately minor-key dotted-rhythm opening of a French 
overture (CD Track 10 "Rosings"). Naturally enough, this music 
also accompanies her Longbourn arrival and departure. In a sense 
the Longbourn episode implies a complete French overture in the 
familiar ABA form. It's as if Lady Catherine's verbal duel with 
Elizabeth supplies the central fugal section. 

Another distinctive theme that serves a more complex purpose is 
first heard as the Bingley party departs Netherfield. It has a 
somewhat fussy march-like feel that I first took to suggest Miss 
Bingley's efforts to end her brother's interest in Jane, a notion 
that is reinforced by the reprise when Carolyn visits Jane in 
London. The theme subsequently takes on a broader import, for is 
heard again in connection with Darcy's role in the matter, as 
disclosed in his letter. But more puzzling is its association 
with Lydia and Wickham at their wedding and again when they visit 
Longbourn. Musically the theme works perfectly in the latter 
context. It's tempting to deduce some sort of larger connection 
hinted at by a lightmotif. But such speculation requires a more 
academic analysis of the subject than I'm disposed to offer. 

There are many other musical riches that reward careful attention 
to the soundtrack: The lively melody associated with the 
Gardiners and the music of Bingley's return to Netherfield (both 
of which make effective use of horn motives), the poignant 
accompaniment to Elizabeth's anguish over Darcy's letter (CD 
track 12), the farewell to the regiment (CD track 13), the 
delicate theme linked to Miss Darcy at the time of her elopement, 
the cadential motive heard both times Darcy discovers the 
infamous Wickham -- these are among my favorites. 

The Period Music 

The period music of the production falls into two broad 
categories -- the delightful dance music that hasn't survived in 
the repertoire and the bits and snatches of melody that have. Of 
the former, all I can say is that I'd pay a premium price for a 
CD that gave me all dances used in the production (I believe 
Birtwistle and Conklin mention in _The Making of Pride and 
Prejudice_ that there are 15 of them. In his pastiche for the 
second episode, Melvyn Tan does quote a measure or two 
of "Mr Beveridge's Maggot," the music of Elizabeth 
and Darcy's dance at Netherfield -- just enough to make me 
long for the rest of it! 

As for the selections from the standard repertoire, there are a 
number of salient features that many of you will have noticed: 
Mary certainly likes her Handel. We hear her in hammering away 
at "The Harmonious Blacksmith" at Lucas Lodge, and of course the 
famous Largo from his opera Xerxes is her initial contribution at 

After Mr. Bennet rescues the ball from Mary's second number, Mrs. 
Hurst trumps the Bennet performance by tearing through the 3rd 
(alla turca) movement of Mozart's piano sonata in A, K.332. 
Mozart appears to have been the favorite classical composer of 
the production. As the Bennets arrive for the ball at 
Netherfield, we hear the march from the finale of Act III of the 
Marriage of Figaro. Lizzy especially likes Mozart; at Rosings 
she plays the first movement of the SAME sonata that Mrs. Hurst 
played at Netherfield. And at Pemberley she sings Cherubino's 
aria "Voi che sapete" from Act I of the Marriage of Figaro (the 
lyrics of which describe Cherubino's confused feelings of love 
for the Countess!). An instrumental reprise of the aria is heard 
later in the production. 

In one of the most affecting uses of period music, Miss Darcy 
follows Elizabeth's aria with Beethoven's Andante in F (also know 
as the Andante Favori). This is the scene in which Miss Bingley 
mentions Wickham in an effort to embarrass Elizabeth, but 
she unwittingly disconcerts Miss Darcy instead. Elizabeth quickly 
rejoins Georgiana at the piano, and the music swells into a rich 
orchestral transcription while Elizabeth and Darcy exchange 
meaningful gazes from across the room. What a moment! 

A less memorable instance of period music took place earlier at 
Netherfield when Miss Bingley attempted to ease the tension of 
the verbal fisticuffs between Elizabeth and Darby by rushing to 
the piano and dashing off the same piece that Mrs. Kuenzelmann, 
the piano teacher of my youth, tortured me with. Less memorable 
indeed -- I can't recall what it is, but I think it might be a Haydn 
rondo in Gypsy style. 

Yikes! This note has swelled into far more than I intended. 
Again, my apologies to the participants in the S&S thread for 
another wayward missive. 

Doug Short 

PS -- The CD is available in the US as Angel 7243 8 36090 2 4 
(I paid about $13).

NOTE: What Doug omits from his post is that the second piece of music played by Georgiana at Pemberley is the second movement of Sonatina 4 by Muzio Clementi.