An author who’s going to make her Regency hero a piano virtuoso had first best determine whether such a thing existed at the time his story takes place. Fortunately for me and for Lord Valentine in The Virtuoso, it did—but only barely.
Most people are familiar with the term “wunderkind,” or wonder child, as it applied to Mozart (1756-1791) and his sister Nannerl. Their doting if profit-minded papa paraded them all over Europe in the years 1762-1773, including two trips to London (1764 and 1765). The English therefore had at least one precedent for a piano virtuoso. I was surprised to find that the first English piano virtuoso, and the first musician referred to generally as such, was none other than dear old Muzio Clementi (1752-1832).
Clementi’s sonatinas remain in our repertoire as teaching studies. They’re pretty, not too long, not too complicated, and they make nice party pieces—they also show only the confectionary end of Clementi’s abilities. In Lord Valentine’s day, Clementi, who was raised and educated in England from the age of fourteen on, would have been the grand old fellow of concert, composition, and music publishing fame. Clementi also built pianos and some of his technological advances are still in use in our modern instruments.
I have a degree in music history and my instrument was piano, and yet I did not know that Clementi was credited with influencing Chopin, Lizst and a host of other romantic figures. I also did not know enough about the technical evolution of the piano.
The first pianos probably date from about 1700 and were built in Italy. By Mozart’s time, they were still smallish instruments, with five octave keyboards, and only a simple sustaining pedal. By Lord Valentine’s day, small pianos for cottage use were being built along the earlier, more modest dimensions, but so too were concert versions and salon versions with six octaves and even a few—Beethoven had one—reaching to a seventh octave.
There would be something un-heroic about a big, handsome fellow in fancy evening attire sitting down to impress the ladies by playing at an itty-bitty piano capable of only itty-bitty sound. I was much relieved to know that grands and imposing square pianos were the norm in better households during the Regency, and that Lord Val would soon have at his disposal pianos with ranges very near to what we play on today.
Then too, for a virtuoso to tour profitably, there had to be large venues for him to play in (the English frowned on women performing for money, while the Continent took a more liberal view). During the Regency, the primary concert venue, His Majesty’s Threatre at Haymarket, was renovated to increase its capacity from 1200 seats to 2500.
So much to my relief, Lord Valentine arrived to his story at a point in musical evolution when both worthy instruments and worthy venues were on hand to showcase his talent… My only task was then to provide him a worthy lady to appreciate some of his other attributes—and his music too, of course.
The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes – In Stores November 2011
A genius with a terrible loss…
Gifted pianist Valentine Windham, youngest son of the Duke of Moreland, has little interest in his father’s obsession to see his sons married, and instead pours passion into his music. But when Val loses his music, he flees to the country, alone and tormented by what has been robbed from him.
A widow with a heartbreaking secret…
Grieving Ellen Markham has hidden herself away, looking for safety in solitude. Her curious new neighbor offers a kindred lonely soul whose desperation is matched only by his desire, but Ellen’s devastating secret could be the one thing that destroys them both.
Together they’ll find there’s no rescue from the past, but sometimes losing everything can help you find what you need most.
Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Grace Burrowes – In Stores NOW!
A luminous holiday tale of romance, passion, and dreams come true from rising star Grace Burrowes, whose award-winning Regency romances are capturing hearts worldwide.
All she wants is peace and anonymity…
Lady Sophie Windham has maneuvered a few days to herself at the ducal mansion in London before she must join her family for Christmas in Kent. Suddenly trapped by a London snowstorm, she finds herself with an abandoned baby and only the assistance of a kind, handsome stranger standing between her and complete disaster.
But Sophie’s holiday is about to heat up…
With his estate in ruins, Vim Charpentier sees little to feel festive about this Christmas. His growing attraction for Sophie Windham is the only thing that warms his spirits—but when Sophie’s brothers whisk her away, Vim’s most painful holiday memories are reawakened.
It seems Sophie’s been keeping secrets, and now it will take much more than a mistletoe kiss to make her deepest wishes come true…
About the Author
Grace Burrowes is the pen name for a prolific and award-winning author of historical romances. The Heir, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and was selected as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year for 2010. Both The Heir and its follow-up, The Solider, are New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. She is a practicing attorney specializing in family law and lives in a restored log cabin in western Maryland without a TV, DVD or radio because she's too busy working on her next books. For more information, please visit http://www.graceburrowes.com/.