Books by Françoise Tillard

FANNY MENDELSSOHN by Françoise Tillard
NON-FICTION
Released: March 1, 1996

An important first stab at the life and works of an underappreciated musical talent. Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel (180547) was four years older than her brother Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the so-called ``gentle genius'' of German musical Romanticism. As we are learning from the proliferation of her music on CD, she was his peer in natural musical ability. Since they were direct descendants of a seminal figure of the German Enlightenment, the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, you might have expected that such a pair of sibling prodigies would be equally nurtured. You would be wrong. While the family, particularly their father, could see that Felix was destined to be a famous composer and conductor, they only envisioned Fanny as a good housewife. Felix himself, apparently motivated by some competitive jealousy, arguably aided and abetted this parochial view. Fortunately for posterity, Fanny refused to play a neat role in this misogynist fable as either victim or escapee. She kept on composing and staging important private musical salons, supported and encouraged by her husband, the portrait painter Wilhelm Hensel. By the end of her too-short life she was starting to receive some belated public recognition. How much did her unique family situation make, retard, or actually unmake her gifts? Did her marriage to Hensel ironically act as the agent whereby Fanny acquired a ``room of her own''? This book provides basic material to set about considering those questions. If there were already two or three standard lives of Fanny Mendelssohn, it would be easy to carp about certain aspects of the present volume, including the less than scintillating prose style; but in the circumstances, it would be simply unfair. (But a second edition should add a CD discography to the work list.) It will take still further scholarship and extended reflection by additional biographers to give us Fanny Mendelssohn in depth, but this is a worthy start. (33 illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >