Celebrating the birthday of Fanny Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Hensel, born November 14

Fanny Hensel 1842
Fanny Hensel

Fanny Hensel (née Fanny Mendelssohn-Bartholdy) born November 14, 1805, was a German composer and pianist, and the sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

As a child, her parents kept her performances limited to periodic Sonntagsmusik salons that she and her brother Felix delivered at the Mendelssohn-Bartholdy home, to a selected group of family friends. Her brother Felix was permitted many more opportunities to travel and further educate himself while Fanny was instructed to focus on her future responsibilities as a wife and mother.

Fanny married Wilhelm Hensel in 1829 and in 1839/40, she and her husband traveled Italy for a year. Fanny was incredibly happy, as she finally received recognition for her work outside her family circle, and met many musicians who encouraged her and inspired her creativity. Upon returning home from Italy, she composed her most important piano work, the biographical cycle Das Jahr (1841).

Throughout her life, she was discouraged from publishing her work. Some of her pieces were actually published under her brother Felix’s name. Were she alive today, surely Fanny Hensel would have also chimed in on the #MeToo Movement. Women were not thought to have the intellect to write music and were told they should focus on being good wives and mothers to their children. She must have faced a constant uphill battle against those, including her own brother, who thought she should not publish her works.

From a 1987 New York Times article:

”I think discrimination against women composers still exists because the prestigious conducting positions are still held by men. I think it’s a problem, especially for older women composers.”

Dr. Marilyn Thomas, professor of theory and composition at Carnegie Mellon University

Fanny Hensel died May 14, 1847. At the request of Fanny’s husband, Wilhelm Hensel, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy had arranged for publishing of some of Fanny’s additional works, which happened after Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s death (November 4, 1847). These works appeared in 1850.

In 1987, the Furore Verlag began publishing those of her works which had remained unprinted.

This month, both our founder & principal author, Bard Suverkrop, as well as our business manager, Nora Miller Rubinoff, share a few Fanny Hensel selections from our collection, along with recommended listening links.

Bard’s selections:

Warum sind denn die Rosen so blaß?
IPA Text: https://www.ipasource.com/catalog/product/view/id/6555/category/662/
Listen to Diana Damrau: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-Shaw6QibE

IPA Text: https://www.ipasource.com/catalog/product/view/id/6553/category/662/
Listen to Elisabeth Breuer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fao0-otebeU

Nora’s selections:

Ich kann wohl manchmal singen
IPA Text: https://www.ipasource.com/catalog/product/view/id/6525/category/662/
Listen to Margarita Nosal-Strasser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbZGj3b64lY

Abendlich schon rauscht der Wald
IPA Text: https://www.ipasource.com/abendlich-schon-rauscht-der-wald-6588.html
Listen to the Hollywood Master Chorale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI3sd8CoCi4

Dämmrung senkte sich von oben
IPA Text: https://www.ipasource.com/catalog/product/view/id/6516/category/662/
Listen to Tobias Berndt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEKVdvz8bDs

View our complete collection of Fanny Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Hensel texts:


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