Fanny Mendelssohn

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Fanny Hensel, 1842, by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim Fanny Hensel 1842.jpg
Fanny Hensel, 1842, by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Fanny Mendelssohn (14 November 1805 – 14 May 1847), [1] later Fanny [Cäcilie] Mendelssohn Bartholdy and, after her marriage, Fanny Hensel, was a German pianist and composer. She composed over 460 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 her brother, Felix Mendelssohn's, name in his opus 8 and 9 collections. Her piano works are often in the manner of songs, and many carry the name Lieder für das Pianoforte (Songs for the piano, a parallel to Felix's Songs without Words ).

A piano trio is a group of piano and two other instruments, usually a violin and a cello, or a piece of music written for such a group. It is one of the most common forms found in classical chamber music. The term can also refer to a group of musicians who regularly play this repertoire together; for a number of well-known piano trios, see below.

Felix Mendelssohn 19th-century German composer, pianist and organist

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. Mendelssohn's compositions include symphonies, concertos, piano music and chamber music. His best-known works include his Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Italian Symphony, the Scottish Symphony, the oratorio Elijah, the overture The Hebrides, his mature Violin Concerto, and his String Octet. The melody for the Christmas carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" is also his. Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words are his most famous solo piano compositions.

In musical composition, the opus number is the "work number" that is assigned to a composition, or to a set of compositions, to indicate the chronological order of the composer's production. Opus numbers are used to distinguish among compositions with similar titles; the word is abbreviated as "Op." for a single work, or "Opp." when referring to more than one work.

Contents

In Hamburg, the Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn Museum is dedicated to the lives and the work of her and her brother Felix. [2]

Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn Museum biographical museum in Peterstraße , Hamburg-Neustadt

The Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn Museum is a museum in the Composers Quarter in Hamburg-Neustadt, Germany. It is dedicated to the classical composers and siblings Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn. It opened on 29 May 2018.

Life

Fanny Mendelssohn, sketched by her future husband Wilhelm Hensel Fannymendelssohn-improved.jpg
Fanny Mendelssohn, sketched by her future husband Wilhelm Hensel

Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, the oldest of four children, including the composer Felix Mendelssohn. She was descended on both sides from distinguished Jewish families; her parents were Abraham Mendelssohn (who was the son of philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and later changed the family surname to Mendelssohn Bartholdy), and Lea, née Salomon, a granddaughter of the entrepreneur Daniel Itzig. Her uncle was the banker Joseph Mendelssohn. She was not brought up as Jewish, and never practised Judaism, though it has been suggested that she "retained the cultural values of liberal Judaism". [3]

Hamburg City in Germany

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million.

Mendelssohn family family

The Mendelssohn family are the descendants of the German Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, and include his grandson, the composer Felix Mendelssohn and his granddaughter, the composer Fanny Mendelssohn.

Moses Mendelssohn German Jewish philosopher and theologian

Moses Mendelssohn was a German Jewish philosopher to whose ideas the Haskalah, the 'Jewish enlightenment' of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is indebted.

She received her first piano instruction from her mother, who had been trained in the Berliner-Bach tradition by Johann Kirnberger, who was himself a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. Thus as a 13 year old, Fanny could already play all 24 Preludes from Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier by heart, and she did so in honor of her father's birthday in 1818. She studied briefly with the pianist Marie Bigot in Paris, and finally with Ludwig Berger. In 1820 Fanny, along with her brother Felix, joined the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin which was led by Carl Friedrich Zelter. Zelter at one point favored Fanny over Felix: he wrote to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1816, in a letter introducing Abraham Mendelssohn to the poet, 'He has adorable children and his oldest daughter could give you something of Sebastian Bach. This child is really something special'. [4] Much later, in an 1831 letter to Goethe, Zelter described Fanny's skill as a pianist with the highest praise for a woman at the time: "She plays like a man." Both Fanny and Felix received instruction in composition with Zelter starting in 1819. [5]

Johann Kirnberger German composer

Johann Philipp Kirnberger was a musician, composer, and music theorist. He was a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. According to Ingeborg Allihn, Kirnberger played a significant role in the intellectual and cultural exchange between Germany and Poland in the mid-18th century. Between 1741 and 1751 Kirnberger lived and worked in Poland for powerful magnates including Lubomirski, Poninski, and Rzewuski before ending up at the Benedictine Cloister in Lviv. He spent much time collecting Polish national dances and compiled them in his treatise Die Charaktere der Taenze. He became a violinist at the court of Frederick II of Prussia in 1751. He was the music director to the Prussian Princess Anna Amalia from 1758 until his death. Kirnberger greatly admired J.S. Bach, publishing his Clavierübungen mit der bachischen Applicatur in the 1760s, and seeking to secure the publication of all of Bach's chorale settings, which finally appeared after Kirnberger's death; see Kirnberger chorale preludes. Many of Bach's manuscripts have been preserved in Kirnberger's library.

Johann Sebastian Bach German composer

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period. He is known for instrumental compositions such as the Art of Fugue, the Brandenburg Concertos, and the Goldberg Variations as well as for vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach Revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time.

<i>The Well-Tempered Clavier</i> Collection of keyboard music by J.S. Bach

The Well-Tempered Clavier, BWV 846–893, is a collection of two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 major and minor keys, composed for solo keyboard by Johann Sebastian Bach. In Bach's time Clavier (keyboard) was a generic name indicating a variety of keyboard instruments, most typically a harpsichord or clavichord – but not excluding an organ either.

Fanny showed prodigious musical ability as a child and began to write music. Visitors to the Mendelssohn household in the early 1820s, including Ignaz Moscheles and Sir George Smart, were equally impressed by both siblings. She may also have been influenced by the role-models of her great-aunts Fanny von Arnstein and Sarah Levy, both lovers of music, the former the patroness of a well-known salon and the latter a skilled keyboard player in her own right. [6]

Ignaz Moscheles Czech conductor, music educator, composer and pianist

Isaac Ignaz Moscheles was a Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso, whose career after his early years was based initially in London, and later at Leipzig, where he joined his friend and sometime pupil Felix Mendelssohn as Professor of Piano at the Conservatoire.

George Thomas Smart English musician

Sir George Thomas Smart was an English musician.

Fanny von Arnstein Austrian salon-holder

Baroness Franziska "Fanny" von Arnstein, born Vögele Itzig was a leader of society in Vienna.

However, Fanny was limited by prevailing attitudes of the time toward women, attitudes apparently shared by her father, who was tolerant, rather than supportive, of her activities as a composer. Her father wrote to her in 1820 "Music will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix's] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament". [7] Although Felix was privately broadly supportive of her as a composer and a performer, he was cautious (professedly for family reasons) of her publishing her works under her own name. He wrote:

From my knowledge of Fanny I should say that she has neither inclination nor vocation for authorship. She is too much all that a woman ought to be for this. She regulates her house, and neither thinks of the public nor of the musical world, nor even of music at all, until her first duties are fulfilled. Publishing would only disturb her in these, and I cannot say that I approve of it. [8]

The siblings shared a great passion for music. Felix did arrange with Fanny for some of her songs to be published under his name, [9] three in his Op. 8 collection, [10] and three more in his Op. 9. [11] In 1842 this resulted in an embarrassing moment when Queen Victoria, receiving Felix at Buckingham Palace, expressed her intention of singing the composer her favourite of his songs, "Italien" (to words by Franz Grillparzer), which Mendelssohn confessed was by Fanny. [9] [10]

In turn Fanny helped Felix by constructive criticism of pieces and projects, which he always considered very carefully. [12] Their correspondence of 1840/41 reveals that they were both outlining scenarios for an opera on the subject of the Nibelungenlied: Fanny wrote 'The hunt with Siegfried's death provides a splendid finale to the second act'. [13]

In 1829, after a courtship of several years, Fanny married the painter Wilhelm Hensel and the following year she had her only child, Sebastian Ludwig Felix Hensel. [14] Sebastian's sons Paul became a philosopher, and Kurt became a mathematician.

Wilhelm was supportive of Fanny's composing. Subsequently, her works were often played alongside her brother's at the family home in Berlin in a Sunday concert series (Sonntagskonzerte), which was originally organised by Fanny's father, and after 1831 carried on by Fanny herself. Her public debut at the piano (and only known public performance) came in 1838, when she played her brother's Piano Concerto No. 1. In 1846, she decided, without consulting Felix, to publish a collection of her songs (as her Op. 1). [15]

Grave of Fanny Hensel in Berlin Fannyhenselgrave.jpg
Grave of Fanny Hensel in Berlin

Fanny Hensel died in Berlin in 1847 of complications from a stroke suffered while rehearsing one of her brother's cantatas, The First Walpurgis Night . Felix himself died less than six months later from the same cause (which was also responsible for the deaths of both of their parents and of their grandfather Moses), [16] but not before completing his String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, written in memory of his sister.

In recent years, her music has become better known thanks to concert performances and a number of CDs being released on labels such as Hyperion and CPO. Her reputation has also been advanced by those researching female musical creativity, of which she is one of the relatively few well-documented exemplars in the early 19th century.[ citation needed ]

Music

Fanny Mendelssohn composed over 460 pieces of music. [12] 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. Her piano works are often in the manner of songs, and many carry the name Lied ohne Worte (Song without Words). This style (and title) of piano music was most successfully developed by Felix Mendelssohn, though some modern scholars assert that Fanny may have preceded him in the genre.

She also wrote, amongst other works for the piano, a cycle of pieces depicting the months of the year, Das Jahr ("The Year"). [17] The music was written on coloured sheets of paper, and illustrated by her husband Wilhelm. Each piece was also accompanied by a short poem. In a letter from Rome, Fanny Mendelssohn described the process behind composing Das Jahr:

I have been composing a good deal lately, and have called my piano pieces after the names of my favourite haunts, partly because they really came into my mind at these spots, partly because our pleasant excursions were in my mind while I was writing them. They will form a delightful souvenir, a kind of second diary. But do not imagine that I give these names when playing them in society, they are for home use entirely. [18]

Amongst her works is the Easter Sonata written in 1828, which was unpublished in her lifetime, then discovered and attributed to her brother in 1970, before examination of the manuscript and a mention of the work in her diary finally established that the work was hers in 2010. [19] It was debuted in her name on 8 March 2017, International Women's Day. [20]

Grandchildren

She was the grandmother of the philosopher Paul Hensel and the mathematician Kurt Hensel.

Notes

  1. "Fanny Mendelssohn". Encylopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  2. Deutschland Funk, Platz für Mahler und Mendelssohn-Geschwister, Dagmar Penzlin, 28 May 2018 (in German)
  3. Citron (1994), p. 322
  4. Conway (2011), 171
  5. "Mendelssohn's Musical Education". www.cambridge.org. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  6. Citron, Mendelssohn, Fanny [Grove]
  7. Letter of 16 July 1820, in Hensel (1884), I 82
  8. Letter to Lea Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, 24 June 1837. Mendelssohn (1864), p. 113
  9. 1 2 Hensel (1884), II 168–71
  10. 1 2 Todd (2003), p. 175
  11. Todd (2003), p. 224
  12. 1 2 "Women of Historic Note". Washington Post, By Gayle Worl March 9, 1997
  13. Letter of 9 December 1840. See Fanny Mendelssohn (1987), pp. 299–301
  14. Halstead, Jill (March 1998). "Fanny Mendelssohn: Her Life and Music". Music for Pianos. Liverpool, UK. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  15. Citron, Mendelssohn, Fanny
  16. Sterndale Bennett (1955) 376
  17. Marcia J. Citron: 'Mendelssohn, Fanny', Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed [10 June 2008]), <http://www.grovemusic.com> (subscription required)
  18. Citron, Marcia J. The Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn.
  19. "A Mendelssohn masterpiece was really his sister’s. After 188 years, it premiered under her name.". Washington Post, By Derek Hawkins March 9, 2017.
  20. "A Fanny Mendelssohn masterpiece finally gets its due". The Guardian Sheila Hayman. 8 March 2017

Related Research Articles

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Carl Friedrich Zelter German composer

Carl Friedrich Zelter was a German composer, conductor and teacher of music. Working in his father's bricklaying business, Zelter attained mastership in that profession, and was a musical autodidact.

University of Music and Theatre Leipzig public university in Leipzig (Saxony, Germany)

The University of Music and Theatre "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig is a public university in Leipzig. Founded in 1843 by Felix Mendelssohn as the Conservatorium der Musik , it is the oldest university school of music in Germany.

Kurt Hensel German mathematician

Kurt Wilhelm Sebastian Hensel was a German mathematician born in Königsberg.

Wilhelm Hensel German painter

Wilhelm Hensel was a German painter, brother of Luise Hensel, husband to Fanny Mendelssohn, and brother-in-law to Felix Mendelssohn.

Many of the thirteen children of Daniel Itzig and Miriam Wulff, and their descendants and spouses, had significant impact on both Jewish and German social and cultural history. Notable ones are set out below.

Sing-Akademie zu Berlin choir

The Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, also known as the Berliner Singakademie, is a musical society founded in Berlin in 1791 by Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch, harpsichordist to the court of Prussia, on the model of the 18th-century London Academy of Ancient Music.

Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy German banker; father of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn Bartholdy

Abraham Ernst Mendelssohn Bartholdy was a German banker and philanthropist. He was the father of Felix Mendelssohn, Rebecka Mendelssohn, Paul Mendelssohn and Fanny Mendelssohn.

Songs Without Words is a series of short lyrical piano pieces by the Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn, written between 1829 and 1845. His sister Fanny Mendelssohn and other composers also wrote pieces in the same genre.

Paul Hensel German philosopher

Paul Hugo Hensel was a German philosopher.

Wolfram Lorenzen is a German pianist.

Bartholdy is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Marcia Judith Citron is an American professor of musicology at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She is a leading musicologist specializing in issues regarding women and gender, opera and film.

Marian Wilson Kimber is an American musicologist and a Professor of Music at the University of Iowa. Having completed a dissertation on the autograph scores of Felix Mendelssohn's piano concertos, Wilson Kimber received her PhD in Musicology from Florida State University in 1993. Her work covers topics of gender, biography, performance, and bibliography in the long nineteenth century. Specifically, she has published on Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Jane Austen, spoken-word recitation to musical accompaniment, and female performance genres. Wilson Kimber's recent book The Elocutionists: Women, Music, and the Spoken Word, was a recipient of grants from both the American Musicological Society and the Society for American Music.

The Piano Trio in D minor Op. 11 by Fanny Mendelssohn was conceived between 1846 and 1847 as a birthday present for her sister, and posthumously published in 1850, three years after the composer's death.

References