The much less well-known, equally gifted Mendelssohn? – The Forward

Saturday is the a hundred and seventy fifth anniversary of Fanny Hensel’s dying. In honor of the event, we’re republishing this text, initially printed in 2009.

Placing my very own and others’ honest bicentenary panegyrics apart, Felix Mendelssohn wrote not simply admittedly splendid works, but in addition sugary Victorian church schmaltz. Greater than merely belonging to an assimilated German Jewish household which baptized its youngsters, Felix composed pieces which seem to stodgily embrace his newfound Christian identification, though some scholars proceed to disagree to what extent this happens.

Happily, “Fanny Hensel: The Other Mendelssohn” an authoritative new biography from Oxford College Press presents Felix’s sister as a welcome aid from at present’s ongoing squabbles about Felix’s troublesome seek for institution (or goyish) approval. Like the opposite Victorian girls creators Jane Welsh Carlyle, Dorothy Wordsworth and Christina Rossetti, Fanny Hensel expressed herself in intriguingly individualistic effusions supposed for comparatively personal consumption. Intimate particularly when in comparison with the general public artworks produced by their extra acclaimed male counterparts.

A superb new CD of Hensel’s pensive, affectionately nostalgic 13-movement piano suite “The Year” from Sony Classical characterizes every month in psychological depth, with a poetic postlude, a masterwork by any criterion. “Fanny Hensel: The Other Mendelssohn” by the eminent Mendelssohn professional R. Larry Todd deftly particulars how Fanny’s son Sebastian, in a household memoir, famous that whereas his father got here from a “Christian-Teutonic” household, his mom was of “pure Jewish descent.” Fanny’s mom initially opposed her daughter’s marriage to a Catholic, feeling that “Catholicism always led to fanaticism and hypocrisy.”

Felix, who Todd factors out merely lifted a few of Fanny’s creations for his personal use, might have been essentially the most satisfied Christian within the household, however as Sebastian Hensel identified, not essentially the most convincing musician: Fanny was “equal in gifts and talent” to Felix. Small marvel that the famed Jewish portraitist Moritz Daniel Oppenheim included a 1842 portray of Hensel, now on view at New York’s Jewish Museum, amongst his collection of Jewish notables and heroes.

May it’s that at present’s listeners, by mechanically accepting Felix Mendelssohn as a Jewish composer, could also be swayed extra by his posthumous banning by Nazis than by the inherent, typically Christian, content material of his apostate life and works? Would possibly Fanny’s son have been proper, and was Fanny as gifted, in addition to fairly a bit extra Jewish, than her extra celebrated brother? No matter our responses to such questions, fortunate music lovers can fortunately now relish the output of each Mendelssohn siblings.


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