Minuet & Variations
from incidental music to
Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice
for piano (2011)
Duration: 8 minutes
In late 2010, I was commissioned to compose incidental music for a stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice which would take place in Hartford, CT in February 2011. The play would be set as Austen had set it, in England in the early years of the 19th century, and the director wanted the music to feel appropriate for that time period. I chose a piano trio as the ensemble, keeping with the burgeoning of Hausmusik in middle-class society at the time, and I chose to highlight the piano as a solo voice at particular moments in the play to keep ties with the novel in which the pianoforte was such an integral part. In society, as Austen illustrated, a young lady’s skill at the pianoforte represented her poise, temperament, breeding, social station, and often around the pianoforte the societal game of chess, the maneuvering of family and flirtation, all occurred.
Because the director had hoped to have one of the actresses playing during the production, the Minuet was written in a relatively simple-to-play style. Not knowing the actress’s piano skills, I decided to add some variations, each increasing in difficulty, inspired by the continual invention that composers like Haydn and Beethoven showed in their own sets of variations for piano. Eventually, the idea of live performance by the actress was scrapped, but I decided to finish writing my set of variations and create a concert work from this stage music.
Elisabeth Tomczyk, piano
Berkman Recital Hall, The Hartt School, West Hartford, CT
February 9, 2012