Fanny Mendelssohn

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  • Topic: Johann Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny Mendelssohn
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  • Published : May 22, 2011
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Fanny Mendelssohn

Fanny Mendelssohn was one of the greatest female composers to have ever lived. She was born on November 14th, 1805 in Hamburg, Germany. Fanny was a romantic composer and, though only few were published in her life, she composed over 500 works including lieder and piano pieces (Stanton, 1984). Fanny was the oldest of four children and the sister of the well-known composer Felix Mendelssohn, with whom she was very close to (Estrella, 2011). Her grandfather was Moses Mendelssohn, a very popular philosopher of the time (Estrella, 2011). Fanny was extremely talented from childhood, but unfortunately was limited due to the negative attitudes toward women in musical professions of the time (Estrella, 2011).

As a child, Fanny was trained on the piano by her mother. She once performed twenty four preludes from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Well-tempered Clavier” from memory (Stanton, 1984). She was also influenced when she began to study under other composers. In 1816, Fanny began to compose with Marie Bigot in Paris. Later, in 1818, she went on to study composition under Carl Friedrich Zelter (Estrella, 2011). She wrote over 200 lieders, including the famous “Swan Song” (Estrella, 2011). She also wrote over 200 fugues, preludes, and sonatas. Later in her life, she began to write choral music, including the famous cantata “Oratorium nach den Bildern der Bibel” (Estrella, 2011).

There are many interesting facts to be learned about Fanny as well. It is rumored that when Felix, her brother, played for Queen Victoria, the queen was very impressed. The Queen went on to say that her favorite was “Italien,” which Felix admitted was the work of Fanny (“Essentials of Music Composers”, 2011). Fanny was also extremely close to her brother, Felix. Felix idolized Fanny and would seek her out for musical advice and approval on his own compositions (FMH, 2009). In fact, when Fanny passed away in 1847, it is said that Felix later became depressed and passed away...
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