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14th March 2012
Singer Catherine Bott explores the Bronte sisters' musical world through their newly restored piano, now returned to the parsonage in Haworth. Joined by pianist Jonathan Cohen, Catherine looks through the Bronte's family music collection and discovers how musical life at the parsonage underscored the sisters' creative life, their work and tastes.
The Brontes are a literary industry, because we need them to stand as symbols of doomed, rebellious womanhood. And their lives, just as much as their writing, oblige us. They all wrote compulsively from early childhood, creating fantastical worlds in minute writing, moralising verse-tragedies - and Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. But when Charlotte, Emily and Anne made music, they came home from the fantasy lands of Gondal and Angria, to sing and play folk songs (such as Robert Burns' 'Ye Banks and Braes), popular numbers by Haydn and Handel, for their own pleasure, not solely to demonstrate their maidenly accomplishments. The piano their father bought them is still in the Parsonage, recently restored. And their sheet music is still in its drawer.
The Brontes' Piano opens up the sisters private, domestic sound-world. Does their music-making show us a different side to them - perhaps one that doesn't quite fit with how we want or need them to be?
Presenter: Catherine Bott
Producer: Simon Hollis