HIDDEN MUSIC: The Life of Fanny Mendelssohn by Gloria Kamen

HIDDEN MUSIC: The Life of Fanny Mendelssohn

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Felix Mendelssohn's music ushers in most marriages; his sister Fanny's music remains mostly unpublished and unperformed. Yet evidence suggests that she was as talented a composer as he was. Kamen (Edward Lear, 1990, etc.) relies heavily on family letters, whose immediacy offsets the intractable problem of writing about the relative of a famous personage. While her brother toured throughout Europe, Fanny stayed home, longing for letters and continuing to play and compose. Kamen describes in broad strokes the musical, intellectual Mendelssohns, the anti-Semitism that led them to add the name ""Bartholdy"" to their own, and the deep societal pressures that kept Fanny from a professional life in music. Even Felix, who in his early years was a devoted and supportive brother, resisted crediting her work, publishing some of her lieder under his name. While Kamen clearly has An Agenda, it is hard not to ache for the suppression of a clearly radiant talent. The book's epilogue lists biographical information about other women composers/musicians. Dishearteningly, it lacks a discography that could bring the book's audience even closer to Felix and Fanny's music.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 82pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster