Shining a Light on Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Composer and Pioneer

This fall, Melodia Women’s Choir proudly showcases Three Songs of Heinrich Heine by the marvelous  Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. Less well known than her brother Felix, Fanny Mendelssohn is finally getting her due as a brilliant composer and pioneer.

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (1805-1847) was an accomplished German pianist and composer of nearly 500 works, including several published as and/or attributed to her brother Felix Mendelssohn.

As a woman, Mendelssohn Hensel was discouraged in her lifetime from a profession in music by her father and overshadowed as a composer by her younger brother Felix. But in recent years, the prolific composer has come increasingly into her own spotlight, recognized for her lyrical and accomplished works, including the piano trio, several books of solo piano works, and the artistic music and illustration collaboration Das Jahr (The Year) about the months of the year with her husband Wilhelm Hensel.

Just this past spring, the major work Easter Sonata, lost for 140 years and mistakenly attributed to Felix Mendelssohn when discovered and published in 1970, was performed for the first time in Mendelssohn Hensel’s name at the Royal Academy of Music in London on International Women’s Day.

DID YOU KNOW…?

  • Three of Mendelssohn Hensel’s compositions were published as part of Felix Mendelssohn’s Op. 8 collection, and three more in his Op. 9, purportedly because “She regulates her house, and neither thinks of the public nor of the musical world,” according to her brother Felix. “Publishing would only disturb her in these…”
  • In 1842 Queen Victoria, met Felix Mendelssohn in London, and declared one of her favorite songs of his to be Italien, to which he confessed was actually Fanny’s, published under his name.
November 6th, 2017

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