Ars Musica Chicago presented Sensibility in Sound: Music from the Time of Jane Austen on 29 April 2012 in Vail Chapel, Northwestern University, Evanston IL. The event featured music from the life of Jane Austen and from her time in a musical performance illuminated by an in-concert lecture. Josefien Stoppelenburg, soprano, was accompanied by Stephen Alltop on a replica of a Broadwood fortepiano from the era.
The works included were by well-known composers from the Continent, those of composers found in Austen’s own manuscript library and others who were contemporary with her. The event began with music from the year 1811. Songs by Beethoven and Schubert for soprano set the context with their nascent romanticism. The program then moved to the England of Jane Austen, who as an accomplished pianist herself had written out works by Muzio Clementi, Ignaz Pleyel and František Kočvara for her own use. A highlight of the concert was Kočvara’s Battle of Prague, which depicts the 1757 conflict between the Kingdom of Prussia and the Hapsburg monarchy in graphic, musical detail. The last part of the program featured the song Chastity, Thou Cherub Bright, a song by G.F. Handel. Though he had died more than fifty years earlier, Handel was well known in England at that time, as he still is today.
The concert’s performance and lecture format gave Austen admirers fresh insight into her world through the aesthetics of music and its history. The keyboard performance utilized a copy of a Broadwood piano, an instrument of the type the author knew and mentions in the plot of her novel “Emma.” Austen writes: “As she entered the room [she] had been struck by the sight of a pianoforte – a very elegant looking instrument – not a grand, but a large-sized square pianoforte; … this pianoforte had arrived from Broadwood’s the day before.”
Stephen Alltop has built a career locally and internationally based on excellence in several disciplines, conducting both orchestral and choral ensembles, and performing as a keyboard artist. In Chicago, he has served on the conducting and keyboard faculties at Northwestern University since 1994, where he conducts the Alice Millar Chapel Choir and the Baroque Music Ensemble. In 2011, he was the principal organist in the highly-acclaimed Bach St. Matthew Passion for Soli Deo Gloria’s Chicago Bach Project. He made his debut as a harpsichord soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2009 with Pinchas Zukerman conducting. As a harpsichordist and organist, he has appeared with the Chicago Chamber Musicians and Chicago Sinfonietta, as well as with Ars Musica Chicago while serving as its Artistic Director. He also serves as Music Director of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra. Among his national credits as a conductor are a 2000-2008 tenure with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and his Carnegie Hall debut in 2007 conducting music of Eric Whitacre. Internationally, has worked in Italy with several orchestras focussing in baroque opera.
Josefien Stoppelenburg graduated from the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music in 2005. She is regularly invited as a soloist for oratorio performances in the Netherlands and Germany and at international choral events. From 2005 until 2007 she was part of the Young Opera Ensemble of Cologne, Germany (Junge Kammeroper Köln). With her sister Charlotte she forms the duo Unique Harmony of Two Voices. In 1997, the sisters were the first to win the Princess Christina Competition for vocalists in the Netherlands. They have been featured regularly on Dutch national television and radio, including an appearance in a televised concert for the Dutch royal family. Josefien’s solo engagements for the 2011 – 2012 season have brought her from abroad to the United States. Her appearances have included Handel oratorios with Baroque Band and the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and a memorable role singing Aci in Handel’s Aci, Galatea e Polifemo for the recently-formed Haymarket Opera Company of Chicago. She is also is also appearing as a soloist with Fulcrum Point, the Northwest Indiana Symphony, and the New Classic Singers.
This program was presented by Ars Musica Chicago. Since 1986 Ars Musica Chicago has provided concerts, workshops and educational outreach events about music from the 12th to the early 19th century for audiences in the Chicago area. Ars Musica Chicago, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, is funded in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; a CityArts I Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural affairs; and by generous individual contributors.