Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Grace Burrowes, Author of The Virtuoso and Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish

Welcome to History Undressed, today's guest author, Grace Burrowes! Writer of Regency romance, she has a lovely blog for us today. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her newest release, THE VIRTUOSO. (2 winners/ US & Canada only)


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/.




Neecy said...

Love piano music and this sold me! I can't wait to read it. I'm half way through with The Soldier and I'm loving it!

Grace Burrowes said...

Neecy, there aren't many references to specific works (Mozart's Requiem, maybe) but there are a lot of musical analogies in the book. And Val isn't the only character referred to as a virtuoso, something I only realized when I was editing the galleys.

Anonymous said...

Grace, I have actually read (and LOVED) both of these books and made the mistake of loaning them to a friend. Now, she has loaned them to a friend and I will probably never see them again!

Needless to say, I would love to win a copy of either of the books (Virtuoso or Christmas Wish) for my Keeper Shelf.

Thanks for many hours of reading pleasure.


Heather E. said...

I loved Val in The Heir, and I love him even more now that I've read The Virtuoso. I adore your books, Grace! I enjoyed this blog post. I didn't know any of that about the piano.

Unknown said...

How fascinating about the research of the piano and time frame. I loved playing piano as a child (don't have the room for one now) and didn't know they weren't full size during that time period. I wonder if many of the pieces written had to be re-done for the 8octave keyboard?

I love the premise of the book THE VIRTUOSO and would love to know how he lost his music.

All the best,


derekd said...

Grace, your writing has inspired me quite a bit, and I am glad to see your continued and much deserved success. As a long time musician, it has been a real treat to read about a character through 3 books who is a gifted and dedicated player.

Lady Sophie was an enjoyable read for different reasons. Expectations for women in those days make for such fertile storylines. I look forward to what you have to offer us in 2012.

Anna said...

Love the little history you presented here. I was in Williamsburg the other week and heard someone playing on a colonial era early pianoforte and it was a pitiable little thing. (I'm wondering now if I'm mistaken it was some other iteration -- but it wasn't a spinet or a clavichord or, of course because it would have sounded very different, a harpsichord. But I can't recall offhand.)

Anyway, one thing the player said that surprised me was that he had to tune the instrument every time he wanted to play it. Made me wonder if people in great houses did their own tuning or what. I would obviously never try tuning my own piano myself (I don't have one these days, but if I did), but think nothing of people tuning their stringed instruments.

Clancy said...

I love, love, love The Heir and The Soldier and have been anxiously awaiting The Virtuoso! I am so happy it is here. I hope I win, but if not - I'll be buying both of these ASAP. Grace Burrows is now one of my favorite authors.
clancym13 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

How could one NOT visit a blog when the author posted a teaser of "How Big is Val's Instrument?" I couldn't resist. Lord Valentine has been an intriguing figure in the first two books and I'm very happy to hear that he is suitably endowed (piano-wise, of course) in his own story.

Anita Clenney said...

Great post, Grace. I can't wait to read this book. I loved The Heir and was intrigued by Lord Valentine.

I so admire you historical writers. I can't imagine setting an entire story in another time. Kudos to you all!

Julee J. Adams said...

I always learn from your posts, thank you! One of my contemporary heroes was supposed to be a concert pianist, but anger issues led him to the military. In his younger years, he was kind of a punk and "tagged" the pianos he played by leaving a mark inside.

You are a very naughty girl, teasing us with "size matters." That's why we love you. And I do love Val in THE HEIR and look forward to seeing, um, more of him.

juleejadams (at) gmail (dot) com

Grace Burrowes said...

Laura, failing to return a loaned book ought to be a felony offense punishable by chocolate restriction or something equally heinous. Dante failed to mention the place in hell reserved for book swipers.... but then again, you might have gained me new reader, so maybe the good balances the inconvenience? Watch the blog tour for more giveaway opportunities.

Heather, you'll also want to watch for an e-novella next summer featuring Morgan Seaton James. She deserves her happily ever after, too.

Derek, greetings! I was much relieved when a reader told me of an organist with severe carpal tunnel, because I don't think it plagues musicians much. And what are YOU up to in 2012, hmmm?

Grace Burrowes said...

Loni, I have only come across one piece of music (by Brahms) that uses the very lowest keys on the piano, and none that use the highest. Most of our repertoire would work just fine on the earlier pianos. I heard a vintage piano played once when I toured Buckhingham Palace, and the point made was that the earlier pianos had much lighter action, so they could be played faster--hence a lot of the tricky pieces written in the Baroque and early classical are harder for us on our modern instruments (which our piano teachers don't tell us).

Heather E. said...

Oh my gosh, yay yay yay! I'm so glad Morgan has a story coming! Thanks!

Grace Burrowes said...

Anna, the early pianos DID require frequent tuning, and often, the performer would tune them to play in the key of the piece about to be played. Bach's Well Tempered Clavier is not a book of pieces for a happy piano, but a book of pieces in each key, major and minor, to demonstrate that a properly tuned piano ought to sound good in all keys. One of the major advances made during the Regency was in the strength of the piano wire used, which meant larger sound boards were possible, and tuning would hold longer. Woulda thought wire was behind Beethoven's late sonatas?

grace Burrowes said...

Clancy, and don't forget "Lady Sophie's Christmas Wish," in which three wise men come from the east bearing gifts and looking a lot like Westhaven, St. Just and Lord Valentine.

Grace Burrowes said...

Bonnie, you leave such a trail of tweets, FB books, author page notices, and so on, that several weeks into a blog tour, some odd things can happen.. Glad to see you, in any case!

Grace Burrowes said...

Anita, I admire the contemporary writers. EVERYBODY is an expert on the contemporary world, and what one reader calls literary license, another might consider unrealistic world building. I guess the positive note is that readers of all genres can be very passionate about their fiction, and that's a good thing.

Grace Burrowes said...

Julee, when a tuner works on a piano, he or she will often leave a penciled note on the sound board, so if the piano changes hands, there's a history "written on its skin." Don't know if present day tuners do this, but as I grew up, it will stills standard practice.

Jim said...

With a pen last name close to mine of course I must read your books. I do enjoy them and can't wait for the next.