Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Mendelssohn By Any Other Name

More great women in history for Women's History Month - Fanny Mendelssohn was the sister of well-known composer Felix Mendelssohn, and a musical genius herself. It turns out, in fact, that a piece believed to have been composed by Felix was actually by Fanny:
“Easter Sonata” — a complex four-movement piano composition from 19th century Germany — could only have been written by Felix Mendelssohn.

Or so thought many of the archivists, scholars and musicians who encountered it. The sonata was “masculine,” “violent” and “ambitious,” all the hallmarks of the celebrated Romantic era composer.

It took yet another four decades and a lot of clever musicological sleuthing, but in 2010 a Duke University graduate student revealed what some had suspected all along: “Easter Sonata” was not written by Felix Mendelssohn, but by his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn, herself a musical prodigy.

On Wednesday, in honor of International Women’s Day, “Easter Sonata” was performed under Fanny Mendelssohn’s name for the first time in a public concert hall, bringing Fanny and her widely recognized masterpiece out of her brother’s shadow after 188 years.

Pianist Sofya Gulyak performed the roughly 20-minute composition at the Royal College of Music in London. Among those in the audience was Fanny’s great-great-great granddaughter, Sheila Hayman, a filmmaker and novelist who discussed the story behind “Easter Sonata” with the BBC and wrote about it for the Guardian.

Here's a podcast about the performance, which includes a snippet of the work.

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