Fanny Mendelssohn: Das Jahr
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
THU 4 FEB
PIANO ∙ AMY CHANG
PIANO ∙ MATTHEW GIBSON
PIANO ∙ JOSE JAVIER UCENDO MALO
PIANO ∙ MARK SANDON
Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847) struggled her entire life with her inate creativity versus social expectations. She composed over 460 pieces of music – most of which were unpublished. Her younger brother Felix Mendelssohn, shared with her the same education and talents but the reservations of her high-class family restricted her path. Her father in 1820, he wrote to her, “Music will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix’s] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament”.
Contemporaries observed that, had she been a poor man’s daughter, she must have become known to the world by the side of Madame Schumann and Madame Pleyel as a female pianist of the highest class.
In 1841 she composed Das Jahr (The Year) a cycle of pieces depicting the months of the year. She wrote on tinted paper and her husband, painter Wilhelm Hensel, provided illustrations. It could be that the format aimed to express different stages of life – even her own life.
In a letter from Rome, Fanny described the compositional process: “I have been composing a good deal lately, and have called my piano pieces after the names of my favourite haunts, partly because they really came into my mind at these spots, partly because our pleasant excursions were in my mind while I was writing them. They will form a delightful souvenir, a kind of second diary. But do not imagine that I give these names when playing them in society, they are for home use entirely.”
She died in her forties of a stroke and her famous brother died a few months later.