Notes on the Music

About „Das Jahr”
About the „Prelude F -Major“
About the Ouverture
About her songs

Fanny Hensel was a first-rate pianist and composer of some 450 works. As it was considered unseemly for women of her station to offer their artistic work to the public, few of Fanny Hensel’s compositions were published during her lifetime. She composed:
1. Instrumental ensemble music, including 1 orchestral overture (1830), 1 string quartet (1834), and 1 piano quartet (1846), 2. Piano music (over 125 works): sonatas, preludes, and fugues, songs without words, bagatelles, and character pieces, including Das Jahr (The Year, 1841); organ music, 3. Choral music, including 4 cantatas, Oratorium nach den Bildern der Bibel (Oratorio after Pictures from the Bible, 1831), a part songs, including Gartenlieder (Garden Songs, 1846), 4. Lieder (over 250)

The manuscripts of Fanny Hensel compositions are available in the archive of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz
This list of Works contains all compositions of Fanny Hensel which have been published by Furore. In 1987, the Furore Verlag began publishing those of her works which had remained unprinted.

The complete works of Fanny Hensel are listed at: Renate Hellwig-Unruh: Fanny Hensel: Thematisches Verzeichnis der Kompositionen, Adliswil, 2000
The compositions of Fanny Hensel of the Mendelssohn Archive of the Berlin Staatsbibliothek are listed at: Hans-Günter Klein (Hg.): Die Kompositionen Fanny Hensels in Autographen und Abschriften aus dem Besitz der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Tutzing 1995

About „Das Jahr”
„Like her brother, Felix, Fanny Hensel was as talented pianist and musician, as is evident in these fluid, facile and often technically brilliant pieces. There is a piece for every month –apparently the first example of such a musical calendar (according to the editors whose painstaking editorial comments leave not a stone unturned). Included in the musical material are old Protestant hymn tunes for Easter and Christmas, found in „March” and, of course, „December” respectively. A few of the pieces are in typical Mendelssohnian capriccioso style, requiring nimble fingers to make thorn come oft. They are pretty and charming, and don‘t contain a lot of surprises, unpleasant or otherwise.” Piano-Journal, 1991

About the „Prelude F -Major“
„This is Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn‘s only extant work for organ, a wedding march composed on the occasion of her rnarriage. (Felix Mendelssohn was supposed to have composed a march for the wedding, but was prevented from doing so because of an accident.) While the significance of the occasion obviously lends great interest to the piece its functional value is probably limited since it lacks the essential characteristic of most wedding marches nowadays, that is the ability to be either extended indefinitely or cut at will. But the piece is quite solid harmonically, and well written for the hands and feet. ... The interesting harmony strokes – opening periods beginning with tonic sevenths, and bold sequences of inverted chords – unfortunately lack any great melodic ingredient, and the rhythm, in one section, plods along in breves and semibreves.
The piece is one in an ambitious series by Furore-Verlag devoted to the complete unpublished works of Hensel.”
(The American Organist 1998)

About the Ouverture
“The work boasts bold modulations, a finely controlled rise and fall of tension, and scoring of a resourcefulness bordering on the quirky - some very low pedal notes for the horn, and a trumpet fanfare appearing from out of the blue.” (THE TIMES, March 10, 1994)

About her songs:
„In 1828, Felix had 12 lieder published as his op. 8. Suleika und Hatem, Das Heimweh, and Italien were actually composed by his sister, a fact which he freely admitted. Of the three Italien achieved the greatest success, and Felix wrote twice of having to admit Fanny was the author of this song when he was praised for it. He wrote to Fanny on June 11, 1830: Yesterday a gracious countess praised me with regard to my songs and expressed her opinion interrogatively, asking whether the one by Grillparzer was not completely charming? Yes, I said, and she already thought I was arrogant, when I explained all, named you as composer and promised to perform immediately the other compositions which you will send to me shortly. If I do that, I am a peppercorn, a brewer‘s horse: but perhaps you won‘t send any.“ (Sirota, p. 25-26)

“It is doubtful that Felix meant to take credit for his sister’s works. It is more likely that since Abraham would not have allowed Fanny to publish under her name, this was Feliy way of encouraging Fanny as a composer. His letter to his mother on June 19, 1842, concerning the song which Queen Victoria chose to sing to him, is even more interesting:
...and what did she choose? „Schöner und schöner“, sang it quite purely, strict in rhythm and genuinely pleasant in execution; only when it goes down to D after „Der Prosa Last und Müh” and comes up chromatically, did she hit D-sharp both times, the last time she hit D correctly, where it should be D-sharp, of course. But except to this mistake, it was really lovely, and I have never heard the last long G better and purer and morc natural from any amateur. Now I had to confess that Fanny had written the song (in reality it was hard for me, but pride must suffer a fall) and requested that she sing one that was really mine as well.” (Victoria Sirota (1981), p. 25f.)