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Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: A Life of Music within Domestic Limits

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: A Life of Music within Domestic Limits
By Eugene Gates
Special points of interest:
Fanny Mendelssohn’s
Inside this issue:
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel:
A Life of Music within Do-
mestic Limits
New publications 5, 11
Mendelssohn (1777-1842), was a tal-
ented pianist and a good singer; she
spoke French and English fluently,
could read Homer in the original
Greek,2 and was, by all accounts, a
charming and witty hostess. In an-
nouncing Fanny's birth to his
mother-in-law, Abraham wrote: "Lea
says that the child has Bach-fugue fin-
gers"3--a statement which proved to
be prophetic.
Before leaving Hamburg,
Abraham and Lea had two more chil-
dren. Felix, their first son, was born
on February 3, 1809, and another
daughter, Rebecca, was born on April
11, 1811. The Mendelssohn family
moved to Berlin the following year,
where Paul, their youngest child, was
born on October 30, 1813.4 All four
Mendelssohn children were musical,
but Fanny and Felix were extraordi-
narily gifted. They were both child
Hoping to shield their young
family from religious discrimination
in a less than tolerant society, Abra-
ham and Lea had the children bap-
tized at Berlin's New Church in
1816. While on a trip to Frankfurt six
years later, the parents themselves
quietly underwent conversion to Prot-
estantism. To ensure that his progeny
would not be confused with their Jew-
ish relatives, Abraham changed the
A Journal of Women in Music
Fall 2007
Volume 5, Issue 2 The Kapralova Society Journal
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, the
elder sister of Felix Mendelssohn, was
deemed by her contemporaries to be as
musically gifted as Felix. She was not
only a superb pianist, but also an ex-
ceptionally fine composer. Fanny's
compositional style is very similar to
that of her more famous brother. Her
more than 400 works include lieder, pi-
ano and organ pieces, chamber music,
cantatas, dramatic scenes, an oratorio
and an orchestral overture. Despite her
prolific creative output, however, few
of her compositions were published,1
and, until very recently, historians have
limited her importance to the fact that
her diaries and letters provide valuable
source material for biographical studies
of Felix Mendelssohn. This article dis-
cusses the life and creative achieve-
ments of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel,
and the forces that impeded her prog-
ress as a composer: her relationship
with her father and brother, her respon-
sibilities as wife and mother, her often
debilitating sense of isolation, and her
ambivalence about her creative talent.
Born in Hamburg on November
14, 1805, Fanny Mendelssohn was the
eldest of four children. Her father,
Abraham Mendelssohn (1776-1835),
son of Jewish philosopher Moses Men-
delssohn, was a cultured and wealthy
banker who was passionately interested
in music. Her mother, Lea Salomon
family name from Mendelssohn to Mendelssohn Bar-
tholdy, but he was never entirely successful at mak-
ing the new name stick.5
Abraham Mendelssohn has been aptly de-
scribed as “the very model of the German paterfamil-
ias, his home an absolute monarchy."6 He valued
education above all else, and demanded almost unat-
tainable standards of excellence from his children--a-
cademically, musically and morally, Like most fa-
thers and husbands of his time, Abraham believed un-
conditionally that the only vocation for a respectable
young woman was that of a housewife. However, he
did not see this as a reason to neglect the education of
his daughters; in his opinion, women should be
taught to combine knowledge with charm.7 It was es-
pecially important to both Abraham and Lea that
Fanny's great musical talent be thoroughly devel-
Fanny and Felix received their first piano in-
struction from their mother, who had studied music
with Johann Philipp Kirnberger, a pupil of
J. S. Bach.9 Lea taught them together in several
five-minute sessions per day, gradually extending the
length of the lessons as her students' ability to con-
centrate increased. For several years she supervised
every moment of their piano practice. When the
Mendelssohns lived for a short time in Paris, Fanny
and Felix, then eleven and seven respectively, contin-
ued their piano lessons with Madame Marie Bigot, an
acquaintance of Haydn and Beethoven.10
Upon returning to Berlin, Abraham engaged
the finest available tutors to guide the education of
his children. Thus, Fanny and Felix studied piano
with Ludwig Berger, a pupil of Muzio Clementi and
John Field. For theory and composition they worked
with Carl Friedrich Zelter, a respected friend of
Goethe, and director of the Berlin Singakademie.11
Their rigorous academic education was supervised by
philologist Ludwig Heyse, father of the poet Paul
Heyse.12 Schooling was taken very seriously in the
Mendelssohn household. The children's lessons be-
gan at 5 AM; only on Sundays were they permitted to
sleep late, that is, until 6 AM.13 Fanny was blessed
with a phenomenal musical memory. In 1818, when
only thirteen, she played by memory twenty-four
preludes from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier as a
surprise for her father.14
Both for the enrichment of their children's
education as well as for their own pleasure, Abraham
and Lea Mendelssohn set out to make their home the
intellectual centre of Berlin. Their visitor's book read
like a "Who's Who" of early nineteenth-century cul-
tural and intellectual leaders: Leopold Ranke, the his-
torian; Jacob Grimm, collector of fairy tales; writer,
composer and critic E. T. A. Hoffmann; the poets
Ludwig Tieck, Rahel Varnhagen and Heinrich Heine;
the philosopher Hegel--and so the list continues.
Musician friends of the family included such lumi-
naries as violinist Eduard Rietz, and composers Fer-
dinand Hiller, Carl Maria von Weber, Ludwig Spohr,
Gasparo Spontini and Zelter.15
Sometime around 1822, Abraham and Lea be-
gan to hold bi-weekly Sunday concerts in their home,
the purpose being to provide their children with an
appreciative audience for their musical endeav-
ours. All four children participated in these musi-
cales: Fanny and Felix played the piano; Rebecca
sang and Paul played the cello. For each recital Lea
issued personal invitations to local musicians and
other prominent people.16 Since, for the first few
years, space was limited in the Mendelssohn resi-
dence, the audiences were small. However, in 1825,
Abraham purchased an enormous estate at Leipziger
Strasse 3, on the outskirts of Berlin. This property,
which in later years became the Upper Chamber of
the Prussian Parliament, included the family man-
sion, a smaller garden-house, and about seven acres
of beautifully landscaped parks and gardens.17 This
became the new locale of the Sunday musicales,
which, under Fanny’s direction in the 1830s and
1840s, were destined to assume a major role in the
musical life of Berlin.
Even before the move to Leipziger Strasse 3,
invitations to the Sunday musicales were much
sought after by visiting musicians. It was at one of
these concerts in 1824 that Fanny and Felix met pian-
ist Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870), the most important
touring virtuoso of the time. On first hearing them
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Page 2 The Kapralova Society Journal
set it.26 She did, however, continue to set other po-
ems of Goethe to music; in fact, she set more of his
texts than those of any other poet.27
Fanny herself met Goethe in the autumn of
1822, when she and her parents accompanied Felix
on his second visit to the poet. Recounting the
events of this visit, Lea wrote: “[Goethe]
was . . . very friendly and condescending to Fanny;
she had to play a good deal of Bach to him, and he
was extremely pleased with those of his songs which
she had composed.”28 Thereafter, Goethe maintained
a keen interest in both Felix and Fanny, and was kept
informed of their musical progress through Zel-
ter. In one of his letters to Felix, Goethe referred to
Fanny as "your equally gifted sister,"29 high praise
indeed from a man who once said that "the very best
thing that a woman ever did can only be compared to
the second-rate performance of a man."30
Because of their common musical pursuits,
Fanny and Felix became very close as children, and
remained so throughout their entire lives. From the
moment they began to compose, each sought and
valued the other's criticisms; their letters bear wit-
ness to the fact that this practice continued into their
adulthood. When they were children, their mother
was once heard to say: "They are really vain and
proud of one another."31
Fanny seems to have enjoyed the role of mu-
sical consultant to her younger brother. In 1822,
when she was seventeen and Felix thirteen, she
wrote: “I have watched the progress of his talent step
by step, and may say that I have contributed to his
development. I have always been his only musical
adviser, and he never writes down a thought before
submitting it to my judgement.”32 But she also read-
ily acknowledged her own dependence on Felix, her
most astute and reliable critic. In what is probably
the first letter she ever wrote to him, Fanny declar-
ed: "You're my right hand and my eyesight, and
without you, therefore, I can't proceed with my mu-
Felix admired his sister's compositions
greatly, and used affectionately to call her "the Can-
tor"34--a reference to J. S. Bach, their musical
A Life of Music within Domestic Limits
Page 3 Volume 5, Issue 2
play, Moscheles recorded the following in his diary:
This is a family, the like of which I have
never known. . . . Felix Mendelssohn is
already a mature artist, and he is still only
fifteen! . . . His elder sister Fanny, also
immensely talented, played some of
Bach’s fugues and passacaglias by heart
and with admirable precision. I believe
she can justifiably be called ‘a good mu-
Zelter, who began to teach Fanny and Felix in
1819, exerted a profound influence on their musical
development. Following his method, they worked
first from models, later progressing to exercises in
counterpoint and figured bass.19 From Zelter, Fanny
received a thorough grounding in harmony, counter-
point, and composition;20 in short, she was given
much the same musical education as her brother. On
October 1, 1820, both Fanny and Felix joined the Ber-
lin Singakademie, where they sang alto in the cho-
Fanny's first known composition was a song,
written as a birthday gift for her father on December
11, 1819.22 Many other songs followed in rapid suc-
cession. Although primarily a lieder composer (she
wrote nearly 300 songs in the course of her lifetime),23
Fanny did not, even in her early years, confine her
creative efforts entirely to the realm of vocal mu-
sic. By 1824 she had also written thirty-two fugues,24
a piano sonata, numerous character pieces for piano, a
cadenza to Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C major, pi-
ano duets, chorales and choruses for mixed voices and
soloists, a piano quartet and an Adagio for violin and
Goethe was an early admirer of Fanny's mu-
sic. Felix, who had been taken by Zelter to Goethe's
home in Weimar in 1821, introduced the poet to one
of Fanny's songs--a setting of his "Ach wer bringt die
schönen Tage."25 Goethe liked the song so much that
he wrote a poem entitled "An die Entfernte" especially
for Fanny. Although the manuscript became one of
her most prized possessions, she never attempted to
idol. Felix's letters abound in tributes to her creative
ability. The following brief excerpt from a letter of
June 11, 1830, is typical: "I tell you, Fanny, that I have
only to think of some of your pieces to become quite
tender and sincere. You really know what God was
thinking when he invented music."35
As previously mentioned, Abraham had definite
ideas about the proper role of women in society, and be-
ing a published composer did not fit his definition of
that role. While he was carefully grooming Felix for a
musical career, he made it plain that because of her sex,
it would be inappropriate for Fanny to aspire to a simi-
lar goal. She was indoctrinated by her father to believe
that for a woman, music could be no more than a seri-
ous hobby.
It is evident from his letters that Abraham seized
every opportunity to remind Fanny of the attitudes and
activities that he deemed suitable for women. On July
16, 1820, while on a business trip to Paris, he wrote:
What you write to me about your musical
occupations with reference to and in com-
parison with Felix was rightly thought and
expressed. Music will perhaps become his
profession, whilst for you it can and must
only be an ornament, never the root of your
being and doing. We may therefore par-
don him some ambition and desire to be
acknowledged in a pursuit which appears
very important to him, because he feels a
vocation for it, whilst it does you credit
that you have always shown yourself good
and sensible in these matters; and your
very joy at the praise he earns proves that
you might, in his place, have merited
equal approval. Remain true to these sen-
timents and to this line of conduct; they are
feminine, and only what is truly feminine
is an ornament to your sex.36
And on her twenty-third birthday, her father penned
these stern words:
You must become more steady and col-
lected, and prepare earnestly and eagerly
for your real calling, the only calling
of a young woman--I mean that of a
housewife. Women have a difficult
task; the unremitting attention to
every detail, the appreciation of every
moment for some benefit or other--all
these and more are the weighty duties
of a woman.37
That Abraham spared no expense in devel-
oping his daughter's talent, that he encouraged her
musical pursuits, only to forbid her the fulfilment
of a professional career, seems unreasonable and
cruel. However, in light of the deep-seated preju-
dice against women composers at the time, his atti-
tude, while no less reprehensible, is hardly surpri-
Even without her father's preachings, it is
clear that Fanny was well aware of society's nega-
tive view of female creativity, for she wrote the
following to her future husband, shortly before
their marriage in October, 1829:
I am composing no more songs, at
least not by modern poets I know per-
sonally. . . . I now comprehend what
I've always heard and what the
truth-speaking Jean Paul has also
said: Art is not for women, only for
girls; on the threshold of my new life I
take leave of this plaything.38
Fortunately--for her and for us--she found it impos-
sible to carry out this resolution.
Felix shared his father's belief that Fanny
should not publish her music. For a "lady" of her
family background and social position, it would
not have been considered respectable. He did,
however, publish six of her songs under his own
name: "Heimweh," "Italien," and the duet "Suleika
und Hatem" in his Op. 8 (1827); and "Sehnsucht,"
"Verlust," and "Die Nonne" in Op. 9 (1830).39 This
gesture appears to have been Felix's way of encour-
aging Fanny without going against Abraham's
wishes. In any case, he was always ready to admit
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Page 4 The Kapralova Society Journal
to anyone who complimented him on these songs that
they had come from the pen of his sister.
The songs were greeted with critical acclaim,
one of Fanny's contributions to Op. 8 being singled
out by a critic for the Allgemeine musikalische Zei-
tung as among the finest of her brother's works:
The last Duet ["Suleika und Ha-
tem"] . . . appears to us to be the most
beautiful of the collection. Moreover, we
know the composer of these songs from
his larger compositions as a man, who
we believe shows great promise, whose
fulfilment is not far off.40
The ensuing confusion over the authorship of
"Italien," another of Fanny's songs included in Felix's
Op. 8, led to two amusing incidents, the details of
which are recounted in his letters to his family. The
first occurred at Munich in 1830. Felix wrote:
Yesterday, a noble countess graciously
praised my songs, and remarked, interro-
gatively, wasn't the one by Grillparzer
[author of the text of "Italien"] al-
together delightful. Yes, I said, and she
thought I was conceited until I gave a
full explanation by telling her that you
were the composer.41
The second of these incidents took place dur-
ing Felix's visit to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
at Buckingham Palace in 1842. Knowing that the
Queen was an accomplished singer, Felix asked her
to perform one of his songs for him. Here is his ac-
count of the event:
She very kindly consented; and what did
she choose? "Schöner und
schöner" ["Italien"]; sang it beautifully
in tune, in strict time, and with very nice
expression. . . . Then I was obliged to
confess that Fanny had written the song
(which I found very hard, but pride must
have a fall), and to beg her to sing one of
A Life of Music within Domestic Limits
Page 5 Volume 5, Issue 2
Ce livre est le premier à offrir un panorama
de la création musicale féminine en France de la
Révolution à la Première Guerre mondiale. Il
s’appuie sur quelques travaux pionniers, mais ex-
ploite surtout un grand nombre de sources qui
n’avaient pas été jusqu’à présent explorées sous
cet angle.
Il se penche en détail sur les productions
musicales féminines, examine également les con-
ditions d’accession des femmes à un enseigne-
ment musical de qualité, malgré les résistances de
la société d’alors, et explore ce que pouvait
représenter au XIXe siècle un statut de composi-
trice professionnelle.
my own as well.42
On January 1, 1829, Fanny began a diary,
which she kept until her death. Her first entry
reads: "This year will form an important segment in
our family life. Felix, our soul, is going away, the be-
ginning of the second half of my life stands before
me."43 Indeed, 1829 was a milestone year in the his-
tory of the Mendelssohn family: on January 22,
Fanny became engaged to Wilhelm Hensel, a gifted
court painter from Berlin; and on April 10, Felix,
with Abraham's blessing, left for England to establish
his reputation there as a performer, conductor and
Felix's first trip to England, which lasted six
months, was a sort of dress rehearsal for the "great
journey" that would occupy him from 1830-32. This
grand tour, consisting of a visit to Italy, Switzerland,
France, and a second trip to England, was carefully
planned by Abraham to launch his son on an interna-
tional career.44 Fanny was not given a similar oppor-
Following a strenuous round of performances
and social commitments in London, Felix went to
Scotland and Wales for a brief vacation. While in
Edinburgh, he met John Thomson, a composer and
critic for the Harmonicon. When Thomson men-
tioned his forthcoming trip to Berlin, Felix insisted
that he visit the Mendelssohn family.45 According to
Fanny's diary, Thomson visited Berlin in August of
On learning that Fanny was the real composer
of three of Felix's Op. 8 lieder, Thomson wrote a
glowing appreciation of her work. His critique,
probably the first published acknowledgement of her
creative achievements, appeared in the March 1830
issue of the Harmonicon. Thomson wrote:
I possess twelve published songs under
Mr. Mendelssohn's name, which he
wrote when a boy of fifteen. . . . But the
whole of the twelve are not by him;
three of the best are by his sister, a
young lady of great talents and accom-
plishments. I cannot refrain from men-
tioning Miss Mendelssohn's name in
connexion with these songs, more par-
ticularly when I see so many ladies with-
out one atom of genius, coming forward
to the public with their musical crudi-
ties, and, because these are printed,
holding up their heads as if they were
finished musicians. . . . [Miss Men-
delssohn] is no superficial musician; she
has studied the science deeply, and
writes with the freedom of a mas-
ter. Her songs are distinguished by ten-
derness, warmth, and originality: some
which I heard were exquisite.47
On October 3, 1829, Fanny and Wilhelm
Hensel were married in Berlin. Fanny's joy on this
important occasion was somewhat diminished by the
absence of Felix, who, after returning to London from
his holiday in Scotland and Wales, had injured his
knee in a carriage accident. Confined to bed for the
greater part of two months, he was unable to travel
home for the wedding.48 Fanny's letter to Felix on the
day of her wedding attests to the unusual closeness of
their relationship:
Your picture is next to me, but as I write
your name again and again and almost
see you in person before my very eyes, I
cry, as you do deep inside, but I cry.
Actually, I've always known that I could
never experience anything that would re-
move you from my memory for even
one-tenth of a moment. . . . [I] will be
able to repeat the same thing to you to-
morrow and in every moment of my
life. And I don't believe that I am doing
Hensel an injustice through it. Your
love has provided me with a great inner
worth, and I will never stop holding my-
self in high esteem as long as you love
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Page 6 The Kapralova Society Journal
It has long been known that Fanny composed
the organ processional for her wedding,50 but her
letters reveal that she composed her own organ re-
cessional as well. A few months prior to his sister's
wedding, Felix had agreed to write an organ work
for the occasion.51 He began to compose it during
his holiday in Wales, and continued to work on it af-
ter he returned to London, but because of his acci-
dent he was unable to finish it in time. This work
was intended to be the recessional, for in a letter of
September 29, Fanny scolds Felix for not having
sent her an organ piece to accompany the bridal
party out of the church: “My organ piece is fin-
ished . . . . If I only had yours! . . . Your letter just
arrived and is nice, but the absence of an organ
piece is not nice. For who is supposed to accom-
pany me out of the church? The old Bach or I my-
self? Where shall I find the time to write one?”52
By the eve of her wedding day Fanny had
still not found a suitable work. Although their
pre-nuptial party was already in progress, Wilhelm
suggested that she write her own recessional mu-
sic. Thus, in the midst of the assembled well-wish-
ers, Fanny began to compose her second and only
other known organ piece. Here is her account of the
incident, and a brief description of this work:
Father had suggested the Pastorelle for
the recessional, but I couldn't find
it . . . . Then, around 9 o'clock, Hensel
suggested that I compose a piece, and I
had the audacity to start to compose in
the presence of all the guests. I fin-
ished at 12:30 and don't think it's
bad. . . . It's in G major; I already knew
the [key] because I had already devised
one before you promised to send me
one. But the style is conservative.53
The Hensels made their home in the gar-
den-house at Leipziger Strasse 3. Their only child,
Sebastian, was born in the summer of 1830.54
Fanny could not have wished for a finer husband
than Wilhelm, for he was a constant source of en-
couragement to her in her creative endeavours. She
spoke often, both in her letters and in her diary, of the
happiness her marriage and child had brought her.
However, her time and energy for composing were se-
verely limited by housewifely duties. As the eldest
daughter of the family, much of the responsibility of
caring for her aging parents also fell on her shoulders.
Not long after her marriage, she wrote: "My husband
has given me the duty of going to the piano every
morning immediately after breakfast, because inter-
ruption upon interruption occurs later on."55 And a
passage from one of her letters a few years later reads:
"I haven't composed anything in a long time.
In a letter to Madame Kiené, the mother of
Marie Bigot, Felix expressed regret over the fact that
Fanny had become less prolific as a composer since
her marriage, but added that it was both appropriate
and good that she now devoted most of her time to do-
mestic matters. He wrote:
It makes me sad, that since her marriage
she can no longer compose as diligently
as earlier, for she has composed several
things, especially German lieder, which
belong to the very best which we pos-
sess . . . ; still it is good on the other
hand, that she finds much joy in domestic
concerns, for a woman who neglects
them, be it for oil colors, or for rhyme, or
for double counterpoint always calls to
mind instinctively . . . the femmes savan-
tes,57 and I am afraid of that. That is
then, thank God, . . . not the case with my
To create a musical outlet for herself, some-
thing that would not conflict with her role as wife and
mother, Fanny reinstated the Sunday musicales around
the beginning of 1831.59 She arranged the pro-
grammes, composed much of the repertoire, played
the piano, and organized a small choir which she re-
hearsed on Friday afternoons.60 Some of her most am-
bitious works were composed for these occa-
A Life of Music within Domestic Limits
Page 7 Volume 5, Issue 2
sions. Among them were the cantatas Lobgesang
(1831) and Hiob (1831), for soloists, chorus and or-
chestra; an oratorio based on passages from the Bible,
for soloists, eight-part choir and orchestra (1831);
Hero und Leander, a dramatic scene for soprano and
orchestra (1832); and a string quartet (1834). But de-
spite the favourable reception accorded these
works,61 Fanny had little confidence in her ability to
compose in the larger forms. She wrote:
My lengthy things die in their youth of
decrepitude; I lack the ability to sustain
ideas properly and give them the needed
consistency. Therefore lieder suit me
best, in which, if need be, merely a
pretty idea without much potential for
development can suffice.62
Her low sense of self-confidence was further
eroded by Felix's criticism of her cantatas. He ex-
pressed strong reservations about the orchestration of
certain passages, as well as about the choice of
texts.63 He also told her that her creative talent did
not lie in the direction of sacred music.64 In view of
his contempt for learned women, Felix may have
considered it inappropriate for women to compose
large-scale works.
While Fanny's Sunday musicales were con-
ceived as entertainments for gatherings of family and
friends, her account of two especially successful pro-
grammes given in 1834 shows that they were any-
thing but modest affairs:
Last month (June) I gave a delightful
fête: [Gluck's] 'Iphegenia in Taurus',
sung by Mme. Decker, Mme. Bader, and
Mandius: anything so perfect will not
soon be heard again. . . . [It was] even
more beautiful than 'Orpheus' last
year. On the Sunday following I had a
full orchestra from the Königstadt thea-
tre, and had my overture performed,
which sounded very well.65
In November of 1835, at the conclusion of
one of these programmes, Abraham declared that
Fanny had guided the musicales to such a degree of
perfection that they could hardly go on.66 He died un-
expectedly only a few days later, peacefully, in his
sleep. The musicales were discontinued for the pe-
riod of mourning, and it would appear from Fanny's
letters that they were not resumed for some time.
The next few years were very difficult for
Fanny. Felix, to whom she had always looked for en-
couragement and musical advice, was now well es-
tablished in a brilliant career as conductor and com-
poser in Leipzig, and was so busy that he seldom had
time to visit her. With the exception of her husband,
no one in Berlin seemed to show any interest in her
music,67 and she began to lose confidence in her crea-
tive ability.
Fanny's letters from this period betray her de-
pendence on Felix's active interest in her work, and
her growing sense of isolation. Among the most
poignant is a letter to her friend Karl Klingemann, a
young German diplomat attached to the Hanovarian
legation in London:
Once a year, perhaps, some one will
copy a piece of mine, or ask me to play
something special--certainly no oftener;
and now that Rebecca has left off sing-
ing, my songs lie unheeded and un-
known. If nobody ever offers an opin-
ion, or takes the slightest interest in
one's productions, one loses in time not
only all pleasure in them, but all power
of judging their value. Felix, who is
alone sufficient public for me, is so sel-
dom here that he cannot help me much,
and thus I am thrown back entirely on
myself. But my own delight in music
and Hensel's sympathy keep me awake
still, and I cannot help considering it a
sign of talent that I do not give it up,
though I can get nobody to take an inter-
est in my efforts.68
She later wrote to Felix in a similar vein: “I scarcely
remember what it feels like to be writing a
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Page 8 The Kapralova Society Journal
song. Will it ever come back? . . . But what does it
signify? I am not a hen to cackle over my own eggs,
and not a soul dances to my piping.”69
In the summer and fall of 1836, after several
months of musical inactivity, Fanny composed some
piano pieces, and sent them to Felix for his critical
appraisal. In that it demonstrates the importance she
attached to her brother's approval, Fanny's response to
his encouraging remarks about these pieces is of con-
siderable interest. She wrote: "You can . . . imagine
how happy I am that you're pleased with my piano
pieces, for it leads me to believe that I haven't gone
totally downhill in music."70
In Wilhelm's opinion, the solution to Fanny's
problem was simple: if she could find no audience for
her compositions locally, she must publish them for
the general public, something he had always wanted
her to do.71 Hoping that Felix might have altered his
stand, Fanny first broached the subject to him in a let-
ter of October 28, 1836: "I've frequently been asked,
once again, about publishing something; should I do
it?"72 But Felix held fast to his former opinion; like
their late father, he did not think it proper for a
woman to allow her music to appear in print.
Fanny wrote to him again a month later:
With regard to my publishing I stand
like a donkey between two bales of
hay. I have to admit honestly that I'm
rather neutral about it, and Hensel, on
the one hand, is for it, and you on the
other, are against it. I would of course
comply totally with the wishes of my
husband in any other matter, yet on this
issue alone it's crucial to have your con-
sent, for without it I might not undertake
anything of the kind.73
Although Felix stood his ground, Fanny did
submit a song entitled "Die Schiffende" to the music
publisher Schlesinger. It was accepted, and appeared
in a lieder anthology early the next year. Felix was at
first annoyed that his sister had acted against his
wish, but when the song met with critical approval,
he thanked her for not listening to him. He wrote:
“Do you know, Fance, that your song in A major in
Schlesinger's album is a grand success here? The
new Musical Gazett (I mean the editor, who dines at
the same hotel with me) is quite enthusiastic about
you. They all say it is the best thing in the album.”74
The music journal mentioned in this letter was the
Neue Zeitschrift für Musik; its editor, Robert Schu-
Six weeks later, Felix included Fanny's song
in one of his Leipzig concerts, accompanying the
singer himself. The following day he wrote: “I must
write you about your song yesterday. How beautiful
it was! . . . I thank you in the name of the public in
Leipzig and elsewhere for publishing it against my
Elated at Fanny's success, Wilhelm and Lea
urged her to publish more of her works. In a letter
dated June 7, 1837, Lea pleaded with Felix to encour-
age and assist his sister in such a venture:
Permit me a question and a re-
quest. Shouldn't she publish a selection
of lieder and piano pieces? . . . That you
haven't requested and encouraged her to
do it--this alone holds her back. Would-
n't it therefore be appropriate for you to
encourage her and help her find a pub-
But Felix stubbornly resisted. His reply ech-
oes the views expressed by Abraham in his letter to
Fanny on her twenty-third birthday:
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 nei-
ther thinks of the public nor of the musi-
cal 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. . . . If
she resolves to publish, either from her
own impulse or to please Hensel, I
A Life of Music within Domestic Limits
Page 9 Volume 5, Issue 2
am . . . quite ready to assist her so far
as I can; but to encourage her in what I
do not consider right, is what I cannot
Felix's resistance to overcoming his prejudice
about women's place must have been devastating to
Fanny, all the more so because of her own reluctance
to invest him with any blame for standing in her way.
With the exception of "Schloss Liebeneck," another
lied which appeared in an anthology in 1837, she
published no further works until 1846. Instead, she
once again made the Sunday musicales her chief fo-
cus of attention. These concerts, which had begun a
few years earlier as musical entertainments for gath-
erings of friends and relatives, changed dramatically
at this time. According to Sebastian Hensel,
[they] assumed larger and larger propor-
tions, both as regards the performers,
the audience, and the character of the
music. . . . Many of the visitors were to-
tal strangers brought by persons them-
selves only recently introduced, and the
singers could scarcely find standing
room, to say nothing of seats, so over-
crowded did the rooms become.79
The Sunday musicales, which Fanny contin-
ued to hold until her death, became very prestigious
events, and it was not uncommon for royalty or visit-
ing musical celebrities to be seen in the audi-
ence. For example, Franz Liszt and eight princesses
attended one of these concerts in 1844.80 But more
importantly, the musicales were also a valuable addi-
tion to the cultural life of the city. Berlin had not yet
become the important musical centre it is today; its
only concert organization was the Singakademie,
whose repertoire consisted almost entirely of ac-
knowledged masterpieces from the past. Fanny's re-
citals at Leipziger Strasse 3 did much to redress this
imbalance. Assisted by some of Berlin's finest in-
strumentalists and singers, and occasionally by visit-
ing foreign artists, such as English soprano Clara
Novello and Belgian violinist Henri Vieuxtemps, she
presented regular programmes of works both old and
new which were then little known.81 It is no exaggera-
tion to say that she introduced her audiences to many
works now in the standard repertoire.82
A high point in Fanny's life was the winter of
1840, which the Hensels spent in Rome. There she
made friends with Charles Gounod, a recent winner of
the Prix de Rome. Gounod had not previously been
exposed to German music, and Fanny introduced him
to many works of Bach, Beethoven, her brother, and
some of her own as well.83 In his memoirs, Gounod
wrote the following tribute to Fanny: “Madame Hen-
zel [sic] was a musician beyond comparison, a re-
markable pianist, ans a woman of superior mind . . . .
She was gifted with rare ability as a composer.”84
Fanny respected Gounod both as a friend and
as a musician, and his interest and encouragement
meant a great deal to her. She wrote:
I compose a good deal now, for nothing
inspires me like praise, whilst censure
discourages and depresses me. Gounod
is such an enthusiast in music as I have
seldom seen. He likes my little Venetian
piece very much, as well as one in B mi-
nor that I have composed here; also
Felix's duet and Capriccio in A minor,
but above all Bach's concerto, which I
have had to play for him at least ten
In 1846, the friendship of another fine musi-
cian, Robert von Keudell, provided Fanny with the
same encouragement and support as had her earlier re-
lationship with Gounod. Of von Keudell, she
wrote:”[He] keeps my music alive and in constant ac-
tivity, as Gounod once did. He takes an intense inter-
est in everything that I write, and calls my attention to
any shortcomings; being generally in the right too.”86
Sebastian Hensel speculates that it may have
been partially due to von Keudell's persuasion that his
mother decided to publish around this time. She had
been approached by two rival Berlin publishers with a
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Page 10 The Kapralova Society Journal
view to bringing out more of her works, and Fanny ac-
cepted their offers.87 In July of 1846, she recorded in her
Bote & Bock have made offers to me the
likes of which have perhaps never before
been given to a dilettante composer of my
sex, whereupon Schlesinger even outdid
them. I do not in the least imagine that this
will continue, but am pleased at the mo-
ment, having decided to embark on this
course, to see my best works appear in
Reluctantly, she informed Felix of her decision:
I'm afraid of my brothers at age forty, as I
was of Father at age fourteen--or, more
aptly expressed, desirous of pleasing you
and everyone I've loved throughout my
life. And when I know in advance that it
won't be the case, I thus feel rather uncom-
fortable. In a word, I'm beginning to pub-
lish. . . . I hope I won't disgrace all of you
through my publishing, as I'm no femme
libre . . . I trust you will in no way be both-
ered by it, since, as you can see, I've pro-
ceeded completely on my own in order to
spare you any possible unpleasant moment,
and I hope you won't think badly of me. If
it succeeds--that is, if the pieces are well
liked and I receive additional offers--I
know it will be a great stimulus to me,
something I've always needed in order to
create. If not, I'll be as indifferent as I've
always been and not be upset, and then if I
work less or stop completely, nothing will
have been lost by that either.89
Felix, whose views on professional women com-
posers had not changed, was displeased that his sister
had relinquished her amateur status without his con-
sent.90 A full month passed before he finally extended
his congratulations to her. He wrote:
[I] send you my professional blessing
on becoming a member of the
craft. This I do now in full, Fance,
and may you have much happiness in
giving pleasure to others; may you
taste only the sweets and none of the
bitterness of authorship; may the pub-
lic pelt you with roses, and never with
sand; and may the printer's ink never
draw black lines on your soul--all of
which I devoutly believe will be the
case. 91
On the day she received Felix's letter,
Fanny confided the following to her diary: “At last
Felix has written, and given me his professional
blessing in the kindest manner. I know that he is
not quite satisfied in his heart of hearts, but I am
glad he has said a kind word to me about it.” 92
With the exception of the previously men-
tioned six early songs published in Felix's Opp. 8
and 9, Fanny's compositions were brought out un-
der her married name. Her Op. 1 lieder and Op. 2
character pieces for piano were issued in 1846; the
Gartenlieder (six part songs for a-cappella choir),
Op. 3, and three further volumes of character
pieces for piano, Opp. 4-6, were issued in 1847.
All of these works were reviewed in the musical
press. Overall, the response of critics was favour-
able. The Op. 1 lieder were praised for their clean
harmony, the elegance of the accompanying fig-
ures, and "the whole outer appearance," but the re-
viewer found them lacking in "inner emotion" 93
Another critique, an assessment of the Op. 2 piano
pieces, mentions that they were written by a
woman, "whose outward composition betrays no
trace of a female hand, but allows rather the suppo-
sition of a masculine, serious study of the art" 94
The most laudatory of these reviews is an unusual-
ly long and detailed critique of all four piano col-
lections, which concludes as follows: "We express
our sincere thanks to the artist for the publication
of these works. They will be welcomed by every-
A Life of Music within Domestic Limits
Page 11 Volume 5, Issue 2
one who cherishes beauty within art." 95
Fanny was greatly encouraged by the suc-
cess of her publishing venture. Her diary entry of
February 1847 reads: "It is enticing to have this
manner of success at an age when such pleasures,
for women who experience them at all, are usually
at an end."96 Inspired by these pleasures, she began
to compose a piece of larger scale--the Trio in D
minor for piano, violin and cello. It was first per-
formed at a musical evening in Rebecca's home on
April 11, 1847, where it "received a generally warm
One month later, on Friday afternoon, May
14, while conducting a rehearsal by her choir of
Felix's Walpurgisnacht for the following Sunday
musicale, Fanny suffered a stroke. She died at 11
o'clock the same night at the age of forty-one.98 Still
on her desk was her last song, "Bergeslust," which
she had completed the previous day. A setting of a
poem by Eichendorff, its final line reads, "Thoughts
and songs ascend to the kingdom of heaven." This
was engraved on her tombstone. 99
Two men were totally devastated by Fanny's
death: her husband and Felix. Wilhelm, who sur-
vived his wife by some fifteen years, went com-
pletely to pieces when she died. He lost all interest
in his painting and soon gave it up. Fanny had
managed the house, looked after the property, and
supervised the education of their son; Wilhelm
found himself incapable of dealing with any of
these responsibilities. Rebecca and her husband
took over the care of Sebastian, then a young man
of sixteen, and Wilhelm wandered aimlessly during
his remaining years, dabbling in politics.100
Already exhausted from overwork, and
showing signs of failing health, Felix suffered a
death-blow at the news of his sister's demise. He
became seriously depressed, and could not even
bring himself to attend the funeral.101 He wrote
about Fanny on May 24: “With her kindness and
love she was part of myself every moment of my
life. . . . I make myself believe that the tragic news
will suddenly prove false; yet I know very well that
it is all true. I will never, never be able to get used
to it.”102 On November 4, less than six months af-
ter his sister, he also died of a series of strokes.103 One
of his final acts was to arrange with Breitkopf &
Härtel, Leipzig's most prestigious music publishing
house, to bring out more of Fanny's works.104
The fact that Schumann and Gounod held
Fanny Hensel in high esteem as a composer speaks
volumes about the calibre of her music. From the lim-
ited number of her compositions available in print and
on recordings, it is readily apparent that she was one of
the supreme melodists of her age. Many of her lieder
bear comparison to the finest of those of Schubert,
Schumann and Brahms. Equally impressive are the
Gartenlieder, Op. 3, composed in 1846 for her own
choir.105 Schumann was much taken with these part
songs. Shortly after their publication, he performed
them with his choir in Dresden.106 Hensel's numerous
character pieces for piano are similar in style and qual-
ity to Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte. An interest-
ing work from the perspective of innovation is Das
Jahr, a cycle of twelve piano pieces representing the
months of the year, composed in 1841. The concept
for this work was unique in the history of piano litera-
ture, predating Tchaikovsky's The Seasons by thirty-
four years.
Since all of Hensel’s works were created for
presentation at her Sunday musicales, it is important to
remember that her choice of genres was largely dic-
tated by the performing forces at her disposal. It was
also probably determined to some extent by the fact
that her brother discouraged her from writing large-
scale works. However, on the evidence of such beauti-
fully crafted, extended compositions as the Op. 11 Pi-
ano Trio, the E flat major String Quartet, and the G
minor Piano Sonata, one is led to speculate that, given
the same encouragement and professional opportun-
ities as her brother, she might well have become his ri-
val as a symphonist.
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel was both a victim
and a survivor. In light of her upbringing, it must have
taken enormous courage for her to defy convention by
making the leap from the private sphere of the salon–
her allotted place as a female creator–to the public
sphere of the published composer. To borrow the
words of a recent critic, "Although no one may have
danced to her 'piping' during her lifetime, to ignore her
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel
Page 12 The Kapralova Society Journal
now would be a very large loss indeed."107
1. For a list of Fanny Hensel's published works, see Françoise
Tillard, Fanny Mendelssohn, trans. Camille Naish (Portland,
Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1996), pp. 384-87. The largest col-
lection of Hensel's autograph scores is housed in the Staats-
bibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Mendelssohn-Archiv,
Berlin. Other autographs are held by the Bodleian Library in
Oxford, Goethe-Museum and Heinrich Heine-Institut in
Düsseldorf, Sammlung Rudolf Nydahl in Stockholm, Musik-
abteilung of the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, Library
of Congress in Washington, D.C., and by private collectors in
Germany and England. For catalogues of these manuscripts,
see the following: Rudolf Elvers, "Verzeichnis der Musik-
-Autographen von Fanny Hensel im Mendelssohn-Archiv zu
Berlin," Mendelssohn Studien 1 (1972):169-74; idem,
"Weitere Quellen zu den Werken von Fanny Hensel," Men-
delssohn Studien 2 (1975):215-20; pp. 300-29.; Victoria Ress-
meyer Sirota, "The Life and Works of Fanny Mendelssohn
Hensel," Mus.A.D. dissertation, Boston University School for
the Arts, 1981, pp. 300-29.
2.Herbert Kupferberg, The Mendelssohns: Three Generations
of Genius (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972), p. 94.
3.Quoted in Sebastian Hensel, The Mendelssohn Family
(1729-1847), from Letters and Journals, 2nd ed., trans. Carl
Klingemann and an American collaborator, 2 vols. (New
York: Harper & Bros., 1881), 1:73.
4.Kupferberg, p. 95.
5.Ibid., pp. 99-101.
6.George R. Marek, Gentle Genius: The Story of Felix Men-
delssohn (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1972), p. 88.
7.Ibid., pp. 82-83.
8.Hensel, 1:88
9.Sirota, p. 3.
10.Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1910 ed., s.
v. "Mendelssohn, Felix," by Sir George Grove.
11.Founded in 1791 by Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch, the
Singakademie was Berlin's leading organization for the study
and performance of choral music, and one of the most impor-
tant art institutions in Germany.
12.Marek, pp. 107-08.
13.Ibid., p. 82.
14.Hensel, 1:88.
15.Marek, pp. 80-81.
16.Kupferberg, pp. 113-14.
17.Hensel, 1:121.
18.Quoted in Emil F. Smidak, Isaak-Ignaz Moscheles : The
Life of the Composer and his Encounters with Beethoven,
Liszt, Chopin and Mendelssohn (Aldershot, England: Scolar
Press, 1989), p. 34.
19.Susanna Grossmann-Vendrey, Felix Mendelssohn Barthol-
dy und die Musik der Vergangenheit (Regensburg: Bosse Ver-
lag, 1969), p. 15.
20.Some of Fanny's composition exercises and contrapuntal stud-
ies dating from the years 1820-21, with corrections in Zelter's
hand, are known to exist in a private collection in Germany. Si-
rota, p. 8.
21.Georg Schünemann, "Die Bachpflege der Berliner Singa-
kademie," Bach-Jahrbuch 25 (1928):151.
22.Rudolf Elvers, Fanny Hensel: Dokumente ihres Lebens
(Berlin: Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 1972), n.
p. [p. 7].
23.Sirota, p. 186.
24.See Zelter to Goethe, 10 December 1824, quoted in Marek,
p. 124.
25.Karl Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Goethe and Mendelssohn, 2nd
ed., trans. M. E. von Glehn (London: Macmillan, 1874), p. 24
(hereafter cited by its title).
26.Ibid., pp. 24-25.
27.Fanny's Goethe songs are discussed in Marcia J. Citron, "The
Lieder of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel," Musical Quarterly 49
(1983): 577-78.
28.Quoted in Goethe and Mendelssohn, p. 35.
29.Quoted in ibid., p. 50.
30.Goethe's assessment of woman's creative ability is quoted by
Ferdinand Praeger, in response to the reading of Stephen
S. Stratton's paper "Woman in Relation to Musical Art," Proceed-
ings of the Musical Association (7 May 1883), p. 134.
31.Quoted in Hensel, 1:117.
32.Quoted in ibid.
33.Fanny to Felix, 28 October 1821, The Letters of Fanny Hensel
to Felix Mendelssohn, ed. and trans., with introductory essays and
notes by Marcia J. Citron (New York: Pendragon Press, 1987),
34.Kupferberg, p. 157
35.Felix Mendelssohn: Letters, ed. G. Selden-Goth (New
York: Pantheon Books, 1945), p. 76.
36.Quoted in Hensel, 1:82.
37.Quoted in ibid., 1:84.
38.Quoted in Citron, "The Lieder of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel,"
p. 571 . Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) was one of Fanny's fa-
vourite writers.
39.Hensel, 2:30-31. Although past and present writers have
speculated that her share in Felix's publications may have been
more extensive, composer/conductor Julius Rietz, an intimate
friend of Fanny and Felix, stated emphatically in 1864 that these
six songs are the sum total of Fanny's works published under her
brother's name. See Julius Rietz, Preface to his "Catalogue of All
the Musical Compositions of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy," in
Letters of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, from 1833 to 1847,
ed. Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Carl Mendelssohn Barthol-
dy, trans. Lady Wallace (Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries
Press, 1970; a reprint of the 1864 ed.), p. 399. See also Hensel,
40.Kurze Anzeigen: Zwlf Gesnge mit Begleitung des Pianoforte,
componiert von Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy," Allgemeine musi-
kalische Zeitung 29 (28 November 1827), col. 813-15, quoted in
A Life of Music within Domestic Limits
Page 13 The Kapralova Society Journal
Sirota, p. 27.
41.Felix to Fanny, 11 June 1830, Felix Mendelssohn: Letters,
p. 77.
42.Felix to Lea, 19 July 1842, ibid., pp. 307-08. For Queen
Victoria's account of this event, see her diary entry of 9 July
1842, quoted in Marek, p. 293.
43.Quoted in Sirota, p. 33.
44.See Felix to Abraham, Felix Mendelssohn: Letters, p. 193.
45.Hensel, 1:197.
46.See Fanny's diary entry of 31 August 1829, quoted in The
Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 82. See also
Fanny to Felix, 2 September 1829, ibid., pp. 80-81.
47.John Thomson [J. T.], "Notes of a Musical Tourist," Har-
monicon 8 (1830): 99; reprint ed. (London: Gregg Interna-
tional, 1971).
48.Hensel, 1:229.
49.Fanny to Felix, 3 October 1829, The Letters of Fanny
Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 90.
50.See Hensel, 1:241. The autograph of this work, a Prae-
ludium in F major, dated September 28, 1829, and inscribed in
German with the words “for the third of October 1829,” is
housed in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
51.See Felix to his family, 11 August 1829, quoted in The Let-
ters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 78. For Fanny's
reply, see her letter of 25 August 1829, ibid., p. 77.
52.Ibid., pp. 88-89.
53.Ibid., p. 91. The undated autograph of a Präludium in G ma-
jor for organ by Fanny is in a private collection. I have been un-
able to find a contemporary source stating whether this piece
was actually performed at the wedding ceremony.
54.Hensel, 1:248.
55.Fanny to Felix, n.d. [c. early November 1829], The Letters
of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 96.
56.Fanny to Felix, 27 April 1834, ibid., p. 138.
57.A reference to Molière's play Les Femmes savantes, in
which he pokes fun at "bluestockings."
58.Felix to Madame Kiené, 1 June 1835, Library of Congress,
Washington, D.C., quoted in Sirota, p. 85.
59.Based on Felix's letter of 22 February 1831, in which he
congratulates Fanny for having revived this family tradition, the
musicales were probably reinstated in January of 1831. See
Letters of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy from Italy and Switzer-
land, trans. Lady Wallace (Boston: Ditson, 1861), pp. 10-11.
60.Hensel, 1:251-52.
61.See, for example, Fanny's diary entry of 19 July 1831, as de-
scribed in Sirota., p. 66.
62.Fanny to Felix, 17 February 1835, The Letters of Fanny
Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 174.
63.See Felix to Fanny, 28 December 1831, Letters of Felix
Mendelssohn Bartholdy from Italy and Switzerland, pp. 317-
64.See Fanny to Felix, 4 February 1836, The Letters of Fanny
Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 201.
65.Quoted in Hensel, 1:252. The overture mentioned in this pas-
sage is probably Fanny's unpublished Overture in C major. The
undated autograph of this work is in the Mendelssohn Archive.
66.Hensel, 1:335.
67.Ibid., 2:31.
68.Fanny to Klingemann, 15 July 1835, quoted in ibid., 2:31.
69.Quoted in ibid., 2:38.
70.Fanny to Felix, 16 November 1836, The Letters of Fanny
Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 217.
71.Hensel, 2:33.
72.The Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 214.
73.Fanny to Felix, 22 November 1836, ibid., p. 222.
74.Felix to Fanny, 24 January 1837, quoted in Hensel, 2:31.
75.See Leon B. Plantinga, Schumann as Critic (London and New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1967; reprint ed., New York: Da
Capo, 1976), p. x.
76.Felix to Fanny, 7 March 1837, quoted in Hensel, 2:30.
77.Quoted in Marcia J. Citron, "Felix Mendelssohn's Influence on
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel as Professional Composer," Current
Musicology 37/38 (1983):15.
78.Felix to Lea, 24 June 1837, Letters of Felix Mendelssohn-
Bartholdy, from 1833-1847, pp. 113-14. The published version
of this letter is incorrectly dated 2 June 1837. The date on the
New York Public Library autograph is 24 June 1837.
79.Hensel, 2:36.
80.See Fanny to Rebecca, 18 March 1844, quoted in ibid., 2:260.
81.Ibid., 2:36.
82.Ibid., 1:252.
83.Charles Gounod, Memoirs of an Artist: An Autobiography,
trans. E. Crocker (Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Co.,
1895), pp. 125-26. See also Hensel, 2:106.
84.Gounod, p.125.
85.Fanny's diary, 23 April 1840, quoted in Hensel, 2:101.
86.Quoted in ibid., 2:325.
88.Quoted in Rudolf Elvers, Preface to the score, Fanny Hensel,
Ausgewählte Klavierwerke (Munich: Henle, 1986), p. vii.
89.Fanny to Felix, 9 July 1846, The Letters of Fanny Hensel to
Felix Mendelssohn, pp. 349-51.
90.Hensel, 2:325.
91.Felix to Fanny, 12 August 1846, quoted in ibid., 2:326.
92.Fanny's diary, 14 August 1846, quoted in ibid.
93."Liederschau: Fanny Hensel, Op.1," Neue Zeitschrift für Mu-
sik 26 (1 February 1847):38, as described in Sirota, p. 124. Also
quoted in Tillard, p. 330.
94."Liederschau: Fanny Hensel, Op.1," Neue Zeitschrift für Mu-
sik 26 (1 February 1847):38, as described in Sirota, p. 124. Also
quoted in Tillard, p. 330.
95."Über die Clavier-Kompositionen von Fanny Hensel," Allge-
meine musikalische Zeitung 49 (1847):381-83, as described and
quoted in Citron, "Felix Mendelssohn's Influence on Fanny Men-
delssohn Hensel as a Professional Composer," pp. 16-17.
96.Quoted in Elvers, Preface to Fanny Hensel, Ausgewählte Kla-
Page 14 The Kapralova Society Journal
Partita for piano and strings, op. 20
artita for piano and strings, op. 20artita for piano and strings, op. 20
artita for piano and strings, op. 20
Czech Radio Publishing House | Prague 2006
The neo-classical Partita for piano and string orchestra, op.
20, the main achievement of Kaprálová's Paris studies
with Bohuslav Martinů, occupies a rather unique
place in the context of the composer's creative out-
put. Kaprálová worked on this remarkable composi-
tion for more than a year: she began sketching it in
March 1938 and finished it in June 1939. The work
was premiered by Jan Erml with the Czech Radio
Orchestra, under the baton of Břetislav Bakala, on 20
November 1941 in Brno. The composition was also
much admired by the legendary Czech conductor
Rafael Kubelík who performed it on several occa-
sions with the Czech Philharmonic. It was first pub-
lished by Svoboda, a publishing house based in Pra-
gue, under the title Partita per pianoforte ed orchestra d'ar-
chi, op. 20. This is its 2nd edition.
To order, write to
vierwerke, p. vii.
97.Fanny's diary entry of April 1847, quoted in ibid. The piano
trio was published posthumously as Op. 11.
98.Kupferberg, p. 225.
99.Sirota, p. 126. "Bergeslust" was later published as op. 10,
no. 5.
100.Kupferberg, p. 225.
101.Ibid., p. 226.
102.Felix to General von Webern, 24 May 1847, quoted in
Marek, p. 312.
103.Kupferberg, p. 230.
104.See Felix to Paul Mendelssohn, 24 August 1847, Felix
Mendelssohn: A Life in Letters, ed. Rudolf Elvers, trans. Craig
Tomlinson (New York: Fromm International, 1986), p. 282.
Four volumes of Fanny's works (Opp. 8-11) were eventually is-
sued by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1850. Her family also supervised
the publication of several isolated piano pieces and the op. 7 lie-
der, issued by Bote & Bock in 1848. Elvers, Preface to Fanny
Hensel, Ausgewählte Klavierwerke, p. vii.
105.Fanny herself was especially fond of the Gartenlieder. She
wrote, "I spent some very pleasant time on these pieces and
therefore they mean more to me than other of my goodies."
Fanny to Felix, 1 February 1847, The Letters of Fanny Hensel
to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 363.
106.Elke Mascha Blankenburg, CD booklet notes for Fanny
Mendelssohn-Hensel, Gartenlieder, trans. G. Thalmann, Leo-
narda Ensemble Köln/Blankenburg (Classic Produktion Os-
nabrück Digital Stereo 999 012-2, 1988), n.p. [p. 4.].
107.James Parsons, “Emerging from the Shadows: Fanny Men-
delssohn and Clara Schumann,” Opus 2 (February 1986): 31.
About the author:
Eugene Gates holds a B.A. in music (Acadia Univer-
sity), an M.A. in music criticism (McMaster Univer-
sity), and an Ed.D. in aesthetics of music (University
of Toronto). He teaches piano, organ, music history
and music appreciation at the Royal Conservatory of
Music, Toronto. He is also organist and choirmaster
of St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Toronto. His re-
search interests include women in music, historical
performance practice, and history of opera. His doc-
toral dissertation was on nineteenth-century women
composers. His articles on women composers and
other musical subjects have appeared in the Journal
of Aesthetic Education, Canadian Music Educator,
Journal of the American Liszt Society, Music Educa-
tors Journal, Tempo, VivaVoce, Czech Music, and
this journal.
Page 15 The Kapralova Society Journal
The Kapralova Society Journal
Editors: Karla Hartl, Editor-in-Chief, and Eugene Gates
Mailing address:
34 Beacham Crescent
Toronto, Ontario Fax: 416.496.6181
M1T 1N1 Canada © 2007 The Kapralova Society, all rights reserved. ISSN 1715 4146
First, critical edition.
This project was initiated and financially supported by the Kapralova Society.
... Este artículo busca recuperar la historia de estas dos mujeres que han sido prácticamente ignoradas no solamente por el canon musical, sino también por las discusiones académicas sobre compositoras mexicanas. Como es el caso de los hermanos Mozart (Neumayr, 2019;Rieger, 2006;Rieger, 2019) y Mendelssohn (Chibici-Revneanu 2013;Chibici-Revneanu, 2016;Gates, 2007), se trata, además, de las hermanas de dos reconocidos "genios" mexicanos de la música clásica y popular, Manuel M. Ponce y Agustín Lara. Uno de los objetivos principales de este trabajo es presentar datos sobre la vida y obra de estas dos creadoras. ...
Full-text available
p> Objetivo: recuperar datos sobre las vidas y obras de María Teresa Lara y María del Refugio Ponce –hermanas de los reconocidos “genios” musicales Agustín Lara y Manuel M. Ponce– , dos creadoras prácticamente ignoradas por el canon musical eurocéntrico y por discusiones académicas sobre compositoras mexicanas. Aplicar teorías acerca de la noción de genio como cómplice ideológico de estructuras patriarcales en el campo musical para investigar de qué forma el culto a sus hermanos podría haber provocado la casi desaparición de estas creadoras. Diseño metodológico: el artículo se basa en una investigación interdisciplinaria que reúne musicología, estudios de género y creatividad. Se realizó también un trabajo de campo en Tlatlauquitepec (Puebla) para rescatar datos sobre María Teresa Lara. En el caso de María del Refugio Ponce, se llevó a cabo un estudio de documentos relevantes y partituras en el Archivo General del Instituto Cultural de Aguascalientes. Resultados: se obtuvieron datos biográficos importantes sobre ambas mujeres, así como indicios de que la ideología del genio y el culto a sus hermanos ha sido parcialmente beneficioso, pero sobre todo una limitante en el desarrollo artístico de las creadoras. Limitaciones de la investigación: la historia de María Teresa Lara todavía se encuentra envuelta en contradicciones y aún hace falta un trabajo muy detallado para determinar el catálogo completo de la obra de María del Refugio Ponce. Hallazgos: el artículo revela la prolífica labor musical de María del Refugio Ponce y la probabilidad de una compleja colaboración artística entre los hermanos Lara que anteriormente ha sido soslayada.</p
This paper argues that notions of artistic vocation – the idea that artists receive a metaphysical calling to follow their path – can be understood as implicit cultural policies, among other functions deepening the connection between art and spirituality, as well as regulating gender access to creative production. The matter is addressed generally and with reference to two specific case-studies: the musical era of German Romanticism and contemporary Mexican indigenous groups of the Huasteca, both of which display reliance on narratives of vocation. Also, both cases – one historically remote, and the other removed from Western main-stream musical practices – are to act as mirrors to invite future discussions concerning the continuing cultural currency of ideas of vocation and their complex and subtle complicity in the perpetuation of arguably desirable (such as the promotion of creativity) and oppressive practices within the art world.
  • Fanny Felix To
Felix to Fanny, 11 June 1830, Felix Mendelssohn: Letters, p. 77.
For Queen Victoria's account of this event, see her diary entry of 9
  • Lea Felix To
Felix to Lea, 19 July 1842, ibid., pp. 307-08. For Queen Victoria's account of this event, see her diary entry of 9 July 1842, quoted in Marek, p. 293. 43.Quoted in Sirota, p. 33.
Notes of a Musical Tourist
  • John Thomson
John Thomson [J. T.], "Notes of a Musical Tourist," Harmonicon 8 (1830): 99; reprint ed. (London: Gregg International, 1971).
The undated autograph of a Präludium in G major for organ by Fanny is in a private collection. I have been unable to find a contemporary source stating whether this piece was actually performed at the wedding ceremony
  • Ibid
Ibid., p. 91. The undated autograph of a Präludium in G major for organ by Fanny is in a private collection. I have been unable to find a contemporary source stating whether this piece was actually performed at the wedding ceremony.
  • Madame Felix To
  • Kiené
Felix to Madame Kiené, 1 June 1835, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., quoted in Sirota, p. 85.
in which he congratulates Fanny for having revived this family tradition, the musicales were probably reinstated in January of 1831. See Letters of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy from Italy and Switzerland
Based on Felix's letter of 22 February 1831, in which he congratulates Fanny for having revived this family tradition, the musicales were probably reinstated in January of 1831. See Letters of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy from Italy and Switzerland, trans. Lady Wallace (Boston: Ditson, 1861), pp. 10-11.
Fanny's diary entry of 19 July 1831, as described in Sirota
  • See
See, for example, Fanny's diary entry of 19 July 1831, as described in Sirota., p. 66.
The Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 201. 65.Quoted in Hensel, 1:252. The overture mentioned in this passage is probably Fanny's unpublished Overture in C major. The undated autograph of this work is in the Mendelssohn Archive
  • See Fanny
  • Felix
See Fanny to Felix, 4 February 1836, The Letters of Fanny Hensel to Felix Mendelssohn, p. 201. 65.Quoted in Hensel, 1:252. The overture mentioned in this passage is probably Fanny's unpublished Overture in C major. The undated autograph of this work is in the Mendelssohn Archive. 66.Hensel, 1:335. 67.Ibid., 2:31.
Felix Mendelssohn's Influence on Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel as Professional Composer
  • See Leon
  • B Plantinga
See Leon B. Plantinga, Schumann as Critic (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967; reprint ed., New York: Da Capo, 1976), p. x. 76.Felix to Fanny, 7 March 1837, quoted in Hensel, 2:30. 77.Quoted in Marcia J. Citron, "Felix Mendelssohn's Influence on Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel as Professional Composer," Current Musicology 37/38 (1983):15.