Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel


How many male classical music composers can you name? Now how many female classical music composers can you name, particularly from before the 20th century? You’ve probably heard of Felix Mendelssohn, but have you heard of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel?  

Fanny was Felix’s sister and apparently by the age of thirteen, she had memorised Bach’s entire Well-Tempered Clavier, which goes to show not only how musically gifted she was, but how few distractions there were for children back in the early 1800s, at least for those who didn’t have to sweep chimneys.  

Born in 1805, Fanny was four years older than Felix. She was his confidante and adviser and the closeness of their relationship may go some way to explaining why after Fanny died in May 1847, Felix followed just six months later.  

But while Felix was gaining recognitions as a composer and touring Europe conducting, Fanny was quietly composing some 500 pieces of music while managing the family household. And it is one of those compositions, her dramatic “Oratorio on Scenes from the Bible” that will feature in the Brisbane Chorale’s upcoming concert along with one of Felix Mendelssohn’s most beautiful works “Psalm 42—When the Deer Longs for Water”.  

Added to these will be two much-loved works by Handel and Bach, both of whom were idolised by the Mendelssohn siblings.  

It promises to be an afternoon of true musical celebration!