Songs Without Words | Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn, 1805-47


Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-47) A number of her songs were originally published under her brother, Felix Mendelssohn’s, name in his opus 8 and 9 collections. Her piano works are often in the manner of songs, and many carry the name Lied ohne Worte (Song without Words). However, Fanny was limited by prevailing attitudes of the time toward women, attitudes apparently shared by her father, who was tolerant, rather than supportive, of her activities as a composer. Her father wrote to her in 1820   

Dearest Fanny

Perhaps music will be Felix’s profession, whereas for you it can and must be an ornament, and never the fundamental bass line of your existence and activity. That is why ambition, and the desire to make the most of himself in circumstances he deems important, are forgivable, for he experiences it as a vocation. It is, however, no less to your credit that you have always shown your good heart and good sense at such moments, and the joy you manifest when Felix wins applause proves that you would have deserved it equally, had you been in his place. Persevere in these feelings and this attitude, for they are feminine and femininity alone is becoming in a woman.

Although Felix was privately broadly supportive of her as a composer and a performer, he was cautious (professedly for family reasons) of her publishing her works under her own name. 

Aubrey Beardsley – Caricature of  Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Fanny Mendelssohn, sketch by Wilhelm Hensel

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