December 16th is celebrated in the literary world as the birthday of English author Jane Austen. She was born on this date in 1775 in Steventon, Hampshire, where her father was the rector.
In the musical world, this same date is often commemorated as the birthday of composer Ludwig van Beethoven. His exact date of birth is unknown, but he was baptised on December 17, 1770, and scholars have made best guesses. Considering his presumed birthday buddy, I cannot think of a better day to celebrate his birth as well.
These two people, close in age but a world apart, stand as luminaries in their artistic fields. Love her or hate her (but really, love her), Jane Austen’s wit, keen eye, and brilliant prose, defined an era in English literature. Oh, to be in possession of a pen that could produce some of her zingers! Likewise, what would music be without Beethoven? I am hard pressed to state my favourite composer, but Beethoven is going to feature on pretty much any list I produce. His music bridged the Classical and Romantic eras of music, bringing form and precision into perfect harmony with the more personal and dramatic style of the later 19th century.
Here is an excerpt from the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, where Georgiana Darcy sits down at the pianoforte to entertain the guests at Pemberley. She is said to play the harp and the keyboard and has just received a new pianoforte as a gift from her brother. The piece she plays is Beethoven’s Andante favori in F major. It was originally meant to be the middle movement of the Waldstein sonata, opus 53 (1803), but upon realising the movement was too long for that work, he turned it into an independent piece.