Welcome back to my blog for week two of this four week composer series! For my first time through this series, (I’ll be throwing in four weeks of great composers a couple of times throughout the year) I’m focusing on female composers in honor of Women’s History Month. I’m so excited you’re back and I’m thrilled to be able to write to you today about a composer who will completely rock your socks off. Seriously, this is one lady you’ll never want to forget.
Many music enthusiasts have heard of a man named Felix Mendelssohn, famous for many pieces during the Romantic Era including A Midsummer Night’s Dream Scherzo and the traditional Wedding March. Far fewer have heard of Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix’s older sister.
Like many of the composers I’m including in this series, Fanny was a talented musician from a very young age. She was first taught by her mother, (who was taught by a student of J.S. Bach) and by the age of thirteen she could play all twenty-three of the preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. Despite her natural talent and love for music, Fanny had a difficult start with very little support from her father. He told her, “Music will perhaps become his [Felix’s] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament.”
Fortunately, Fanny’s mother, her brother Felix, (and later her husband Wilhelm Hensel) encouraged her to pursue music, and she didn’t disappoint.
Fanny often composed privately, publishing some of her pieces under Felix’s name. One of which, Italien, was chosen by Queen Victoria as her favorite. When the queen made this announcement, Felix disclosed that it was one of his sister’s compositions. In addition, Fanny Mendelssohn is now speculated to be the creator of the musical genre dubbed Songs Without Words, a category in which she and her brother both composed a number of beautiful pieces.
Throughout her lifetime, Fanny Mendelssohn composed over 460 of her own songs, as well as composed collaboratively with her brother. She did eventually perform publically at the age of thirty-three, finally published a piece under her own name in 1846, and passed away in 1847.
If you haven’t heard any of Fanny’s music just yet, I would encourage you to check out some of my favorites: Capriccio in A-Flat and Piano Trio in D minor. No, I didn’t have those titles memorized. But they have made it to my favorite classical playlist;). Don’t you just love those people who can spout off titles of obscure classical pieces? I’m not one of them. Yet.
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Fanny Mendelssohn! We’re already halfway through the first composer series of this blog. Make sure to hop on next week for the third composer of the month, and feel free to post any comments, like or share. See you next week!