arts
Brother took credit for her music. Now Fanny Mendelssohn's getting her due
Published 8th March 2017
A portrait of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel made from an engraving after a drawing by Hensel's husband, the painter Wilhelm Hensel.
Brother took credit for her music. Now Fanny Mendelssohn's getting her due
Fanny Mendelssohn may be long dead, but she's finally getting her moment in the spotlight. A sonata penned by Mendelssohn will finally be performed under her name on International Women's Day after it had been mistakenly attributed to her brother since 1970.
The "Easter Sonata" was lost for 140 years, until a store worker in a French bookshop stumbled upon it 46 years ago. When the sonata was found, the music community assumed it had been composed by Fanny's younger, more famous brother, Felix.
US scholar Dr. Angela Mace Christian didn't agree. She recognized Fanny Mendelssohn's "musical voice" and set about to make sure the piece was attributed to its rightful author.
During her lifetime, Mendelssohn's father and brother tried to prevent her from writing music, and completely forbade publishing and playing of her music.
Sheila Hayman, Mendelssohn's great-great-great granddaughter, wrote in a personal reflection for The Guardian that the brother "published some of her songs under his own name, which led to red faces in front of Queen Victoria when he asked her which of his songs she liked best and it turned out to be one of Fanny's."
Mendelssohn was brilliant and prolific despite the men around her, writing around 500 works, including her own wedding music, before she died from a stroke at 41.
"Easter Sonata" will be played at the Royal College of Music by Sofya Gulyak, the first female winner of the Leeds Piano Competition, on Wednesday.
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