Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

(14.11.1805, Hamburg - 14.5.1847 in Berlin)

Anyone who has listened to classical music has heard a composition by Felix Mendelssohn since he is considered by some to be the most popular composer of the Romantic era. However I suspect that few have heard of his sister Fanny Mendelssohn. She was a very talented composer herself and was supported by her family and husband in this pursuit.

As noted on Wikipedia - Fanny composed 466 pieces of music. Her compositions include a piano trio and several books of solo piano pieces and songs. A number of her songs were originally published under Felix's name in his opus 8 and 9 collections. One of these songs, 'Italy', was a favorite of Queen Victoria, who thought Felix had written it. Her piano works are often in the manner of songs, and carry the name Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words). This style of piano work was most successfully developed by Felix Mendelssohn, though some modern scholars assert that Fanny may have preceded him in the genre. She was also the only known composer of the time to depict the months of the year musically in her collection of pieces Das Jahr (meaning 'The Year').

Stories like Fanny's always bring to mind the question of how many other women's talents have never been known to us. In many stories like hers the success of the women is greatly dependent on the attitude of her father - the ability to be educated and to follow ones own talent. I also wonder about women all over the world living under a patriarchal society unable to express themselves in a way men take for granted. Men would never stand for this kind of treatment and rightly so. The other half of the population - mothers , daughters, etc. deserve the right to live out their dreams and talent. Fanny's story and music live on as a tribute to her and her family and the gift they gave to her...freedom.

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